Thursday, 15 October 2009

Grassy day out: The Women of the Year Awards 2009

Abigail and Fleur enter a parallel universe...

My first ever brush with the world of celebrity was when at the age of 5 I was invited on stage at The King’s Theatre, Southsea to sing with Brian Cant from ‘Play-a-way’ during the Christmas Panto. I remember the bright lights, the confectionary thrust into my hand by a member of the chorus that my mother relieved me of as soon as I got back to my seat and more than anything I remember the applause. My dreams of being a child star were ignited at Miss Brown’s school of ballet where I made friends with a girl named Rachelle who had a rabbit fur coat and ginger ringlets. Her mum used to ferry her between dance classes and auditions smoking extra long cigarettes while simultaneously fixing Rachelle’s hair with Elnette (hairspray plus fag equals flame-thrower). I envied her slip-on shoes, her make up and her part as orphan 4 in the local production of Annie (‘YER NEVER FULLY DRESSED WITHOUT A SMIIIIIIIIILE’) She was to me, in her tee shirt made from man-made fibres with a transfer of kittens on the front; pure glamour.

In the 5th form Louise Burgess told me she that she’d seen Lionel Blair in WHSmiths and once when I went shopping in London with Mum we walked past Adam Faith and her arm brushed against his leather jacket. That was the extent of my experience with fame and celebrity before Grasshopper and the last bit doesn’t count, as I’m not really sure who Adam Faith is.

I have long since suspected that famous people all know each other and live in the same road where they can relax away from the rest of us. The name of the road is kept a secret and there is a special estate agent (the actor who played Max Farnham in Brookside) who contacts you and invites you to move in once you have been on the telly. Yesterday Abi and I attended the Women of The Year awards. The awards recognise achievement and I am not being modest when I say I have no idea how we got nominated to attend.

When we arrived Abi went to find our table and I went in search of the cloakroom. As soon as I got there I found myself SURROUNDED by famous people and felt like I’d opened the door onto a parallel universe. Fern Britten chatted to Joan Armatrading, Maureen Lipman to Floella Benjamin. Dame Vera Lynn waited in line for a wee while Prue Leith stood at the hand-dryer. Simultaneously thrilled and over-whelmed I rushed off to find Abi to tell her that my theory that all the famous people know each other was right and that they were all in the toilet right now and to come and see. I rushed through the doors into the ballroom at the Intercontinental Hotel and saw our table number 19 right in front of me.

I called out, interrupting her conversation and all heads turned to look at me. I was about to blurt out my news when I saw that the scene I had interrupted was Abi, sitting to the right of Dame Esther Rantzen, with the Prime Minister’s wife pushing past her, being introduced by one ITN newsreader to another. Much as I tried to act natural and adjust my expression from ‘stunned mullet’ to ‘friend to the stars’ I almost certainly failed and revealed myself as in interloper. Abi however, enjoying her starter, took to fame like a duck to water and is now on first name terms with Dame Esther.

[AE: Fleur has of course neglected to mention that the whole point of the lunch was not to meet famous people but to celebrate the achievement of inspiring women. Thank you, Women of The Year for having us to lunch, Grasshopper salutes you.]