I suppose it's not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility that there may be a reader out there somewhere who has been wondering what my secret was, on account of Lady Bracknell having made a veiled allusion to it in a recent blog entry.
So, despite my (very) mixed feelings about the event in question, I feel duty bound to spill the beans.
It all started terribly well two weeks ago when I found out that I'd won Disabled Person of the Year in the Positive Action North West Awards 2005
. It's fair to say that I was quite excited. In fact, I was temporarily rendered speechless, and that's something which doesn't happen very often. I even ordered a new stick to match my green silk suit. (Bespoke suit fashioned from the finest silk taffeta puchased at ridiculously low price from ebay a couple of years ago. Bespoke for someone considerably broader across the beam than me, as it turned out. A good friend of mine approached it with a needle and thread and removed quite a lot of the excess fabric in the hips. But I digress.)
Anyway, it turned out I'd been nominated for this award by Messrs Marmite and Dude, and my very dear friend and ex-line manager, Aunty J. (She's not really
my aunty, you understand. And I can't remember when or why we gave her that nickname.) All three of them, bless them, believed that I deserved recognition for the work that I've done over the last seven years with the staff disability network. As far as I'm concerned, I've just been doing my job. I mean, ok, I've been very dedicated to it, and I've spent a lot of my own time on it and everything, but this is disability equality we're talking about. It matters. You can't approach it in a, "Well, I'd like to help you, obviously. But I'm afraid I've just clocked off for the day", kind of way. Maybe someone else
could. I can't. But I'm not knocking the recognition, particularly given that it's come from an external organisation. And the three conspirators have my undying gratitude for nominating me.
Boogaloo Dude had said all along that he didn't want to come to the ceremony. Which was just as well, given that I was only permitted to take two guests. Marmite and Aunty J were both happy to travel vast distances from the mysterious South. Marmite bagsied my futon first, so Aunty J was forced to slum it in a posh hotel at our employer's expense.
All was going tolerably well until Tuesday morning, when I suddenly realised that I didn't want to go. At all. This was a badly-timed realisation, as Marmite and Aunty J had already set off. Sent panicky email to the Goldfish and B W-F, and phoned the Dude for reassurances. An hour and a half later, panic had receded to manageable levels. Much helped by receipt of heartening replies to my email. Thanks, guys.
Marmite arrived later than planned as there had been an accident on the M1. We got suited up, and headed into town to pick up Aunty J from the hotel steps. This was an excellent opportunity for Aunty J to exercise her passion for the sort of supremely elegant shoes which make my own toes flinch at the mere thought of being trapped in them. Attempted to hide own extra-extra-wide-fitting clodhoppers under hem of skirt.
The first thing that happened when we arrived at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington was that I walked straight into a television crew who had sneakily set themselves up between the front door and the lift. I muttered something wholly inarticulate and we made good our esape. When we reached the second floor, our names were taken, and we were ushered through an horrendously over-full and enormous room to Table 4. Which was circular. Just like all the others. (I had, in good time, sent a detailed email explaining that it is impossible for me to eat if I have to sit at a circular table. An email to which I had not had a response.) In total, about five of the organisers explained to me that they knew I couldn't cope at a circular table, but that there were no straight-edged tables in the venue. Would I be alright? Well, it seemed exceptionally churlish to kick off at that point, given that these people were presenting me with an award and everything, so I agreed to try. Aunty J was beginning to get that steely look in her eyes which bodes no good to anyone who dares to fail to make reasonable adjustment for one of her staff. Even an ex member of her staff.
Once my soup had arrived, and had been exchanged for a vegetarian one, I gave it my best shot. I took one spoonful of soup and spilled half of it down my snowy linen napkin. Two minutes later, I was standing in the rain, smoking a cigarette in an enraged fashion. Aunty J soon turned up in support. We went back up to the second floor and were met by the organiser who asked whether everything was alright. We explained. He responded that he has organised countless disability conferences across the country, and that he has never come across my particular problem before. Aunty J stood firm. Strong men quailed before her. We were given a straight-edged table.
This left poor old Marmite making small talk with some posh people from Knutsford who, it would appear, were very keen to tell him about their big houses. Poor lamb.
Aunty J and I went back to Table 4 once we had eaten. Rarely has Marmite looked so pleased to see either of us. The awards ceremony started. I won't go into detail. It'll no doubt be written up here
before long. It was all a bit of a blur to me anyway as I spent the time either being nervous about going on stage to collect my own award, or being relieved that I'd done it. There were nineteen awards in total, and I remember very few of them. I know that the Oldham Colisseum theatre, Norton Priory and Merseytravel were among the winners, so many congratulations to them. (And to the others, whose details I can't recall. I should have taken a pen and written them all down.)
After the ceremony, those who had won awards had to go down to the first floor and be interviewed to camera. This is my worst nightmare, and I'm quietly confident that I said nothing worth hearing. I have no idea when or on what station the results were to be broadcast, and am sedulously avoiding local TV news until such time as the immediate danger of seeing myself is over. I did overhear something to the effect that an article about the awards will appear in the Guardian some time next week.
And that's about it, really. I'm completely exhausted from the whole thing, and haven't even taken my award out of its box yet, let alone cleared a space for it on the mantlepiece. I've hung the framed certificate in the loo which, if the Sunday supplements are anything to go by, is the traditional resting place for such things.
It only remains for me to thank once again Marmite, Aunty J, Dude, the Goldfish, B W-F, Mr C, Melbamae and everyone else who had a hand in keeping me relatively sane throughout the rather gruelling process. I am clearly not cut out to be a celebrity, even of the most minor status. Without such good friends, I wouldn't have survived even this tiny brush with fame unscathed. (Note green stick, by the way. Funky, or what?)