I once had a glamorous job as a showbiz reporter-cum-girl about town, trawling the hottest haunts of London and writing about vacuous celebrities. I met them all – from the dregs of lollygagger Dean Gaffney and omnipresent Calum Best, to the A-list highs of pearly-toothed Tom Cruise and scowling Madonna.
My champagne lifestyle was the envy of many; the reality quite different. Most evenings would be spent shivering on the edge of the red carpet at one of the twice-weekly film premieres – cheek to jowl with pushy journos – or standing awkwardly in a darkened night club, deciding how best to broach the subject of Alan Partridge’s penchant for lapdancers. Many a night I cut a forlorn figure – scampering home across Waterloo Bridge, picking up a reduced sandwich from Tesco to supplement my canape diet, and then riding the No. 77 bus home. It was the best and worst of times.
So, when I received a phonecall to tell me that I had ‘won’ two tickets to the VIP opening of the new beauty salon down the road, I think it’s fair to say I was a little underwhelmed – grateful, of course but let’s just say, it wasn’t the highlight of my yearly calendar.
But the organiser of the tickets had other ideas. First, he explained in the phonecall that this really was a VIP event – so VIP that even the beauty salon owner’s friends and family hadn’t made it onto the guestlist. Really? I felt like one of the golden ticket winners at Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.
Next, I received a text checking that I was definitely coming. Of course. What else could be more important at 6.30pm on a Wednesday evening?
The next text wanted to know which of my friends I was going to bring with me. I consulted my ever-depleting ‘friends who might be free on a Wed evening’ list. Friend 1 – baby to look after; Friend 2 – ditto; Friend 3 – temporarily absconded down South; Friend 4 – packing to move house. This left Friend 5 – recently acquired new puppy but willing to abandon dog duty to accompany me to this ultra-exclusive opening.
But when I texted the organiser with the name of my friend, this was his reply:
‘Oh, *insert name of friend*, okay… Can I just remind you that you are both representing *insert name of local residents’ association* so you will need to be on your best behaviour. The dress code is smart/casual by the way’.
Best behaviour? Smart/casual? Seriously? What kind of tomfoolery was he expecting from a 30-something teacher and a respected homeware designer? Turning up in matching Vicky Pollard tracksuits, bad-mouthing the beauty products, and hustling the guests?
Wednesday came and when I finally swept through the hallowed doors of this much-vaunted event, I had an insane urge to really do something bad. Should I open up my large tote and sweep a whole shelf of nail polishes straight into it, when no-one was looking? Should I drink all the champagne, start emptying the goody bags out of the back door, and make off with all the freebies into the night (actually, I have done that before – the goody bags, that is. Maybe he had a point!)?
Instead, I plumped for stealing an extra cupcake on exit (one for me, one for the husband) and attempting to balance them on my knee as I drove home – yet still managing to get fresh cream all over the steering wheel.
So much for VIP. But it beats catching the bus with my Tesco reduced sandwich any night.