One of the things I have secretly been enjoying PB (post breakup) is the age old “I-don’t-have-to-answer-to-anyone” routine. It’s been refreshing to not have to worry about someone else for a while, to not have to let someone know where I am and how long I’m going to be there for. I obviously let Housemate know my general plans but there isn’t the need to detail every aspect of my plans anymore.
I took full advantage of this yesterday when a spur of the moment opportunity arose. Roy Hattersley was speaking at Hull Truck Theatre and Housemate was going with a friend who pulled out at the last minute, she asked me if I wanted to go. Why the hell not? The ticket was already paid for and sometimes it’s fun to do things spur of the moment.
I know. Me. The Ultimate Planner. Doing something spur of the moment. I’m not going to lie, it gave me quite a thrill.
It’s also fun to do something new and this would most definitely be uncharted waters for me. Roy Hattersley? Who? I vaguely knew something about him, I was pretty sure he was a Labour politician way back when and I was pretty sure he had white hair and I knew he used to have a dog. That was pretty much the extent of my knowledge. (If you did want to know a little more about him than these frankly unhelpful facts then Wikipedia can help you out.)
He was in Hull to talk at the Humber Mouth Festival (are there too many links in this post already? I fear so). We Hull people are a proud lot and anyone who has a link with Hull automatically becomes adopted by us, we bravely take ownership of them and will tell anyone who listens that this famous person has a link with Hull. More often than not it’s that they went to the University. But that’s close enough. Roy Hattersley went to Hull University and was friends with Philip Larkin – that’s a done deal as far as we’re concerned, you belong to us now. (And he did Economics at University which most definitely makes him my best friend. Us geeks have to stick together you know.)
He was there to talk about a book he has out called In Search of England which is a collection of some of his essays and columns that he was produced for various publications over the years. I was a little apprehensive to be honest, I tend to avoid anything overly political with a bargepole, I have my preferences and my opinions and I tend to prefer to keep them to myself rather than be tagged with a label.
I needn’t have worried. Politics were not on the agenda. Little wonder given that the zenith of his career, his election as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, happened the same year that I was born. He is now firmly an author and, I guess, journalist. I discovered that he’s produced a phenomenal number of books over the years on a whole range of topics, from biographies of William Booth and David Lloyd George, to the publication of his dog Buster’s secret diaries.
This talk however focused on England. And his love of England. A whimsical and romantical (yeah it’s a word) notion of England, all stiff upper lip and rolling dales and cricket on the green. He talked about some of the stories that are in the book and I found it really quite remarkable. What a talent to be able to just stand and tell some stories to a crowded theatre full of people and fully engage with them and make them laugh. I think I fell a little bit in love with him. (In a “I want you to be my grandfather way” not a “I want you to be my sugar Daddy” weird kind of way.)
And he reminded me of something. That’s it ok to be proud to be English. I dislike that the notion of patriotism has been hijacked and has become synonymous with racism, it seems a shame, America has got it down to a fine art. But listening to Roy talk I felt the stirrings of pride in me, you know what? England is rather marvellous, I like that I’m English, I like our stiff upper lip and rolling dales (but unfortunately don’t care much for the cricket) and I think I should make more of an effort to celebrate it.
But most of all I liked Roy Hattersley.
At the end of the talk his book was on sale and he was there signing copies. I bought a copy of the book that I really can’t afford because I just didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get a signed copy. (I’m all about meeting the famous people, one day I’ll tell you about the time I met Henry Winkler and interviewed Mark Owen from Take That.) As I drew closer to him I felt the familiar nerves and shakiness set in, I would love to say that I am cool and calm in the face of fame but I’m absolutely not, I get completely over-awed by it and usually make a fool out of myself.
I wanted to say something to him but I wasn’t sure what.
This might be my only opportunity.
“I’m really glad you came!” I blurted out in my most nerdiest style.
“Well thank you for coming” came the stock reply.
I felt like I needed to get over just how much I enjoyed the talk but didn’t want to sound like a crazy stalker lady.
“No I’m really glad I came because to be honest I didn’t really know who you were...”
Good one lady. Insult the nice man. I needed to make a recovery...
“...But now I do know who you are and I would really like to get to know you better.”
FAIL. I meant “get to know him” through his books not in the creepy way but I was mortified with my delivery and waited for the tap on my shoulder and the inevitable escorting off the premises.
Luckily for me he is a true gentleman and I think he managed to understand what I was trying to say and he smiled at me, handed back his book and said “Well that’s lovely, there’s no better testimonial than that.”
He’ll probably never come to Hull again for fear of bumping into me.
I need to work on my style when dealing with famous people in the future.
PS There was a little talk of politics at the end of the evening when he opened up the floor to questions. It was inevitable that people would ask him about the decision to go to war in Iraq (he opposes it now but was all for it back then because he had been told there were WMD) and the state of the Labour Party now and who he thinks the next Labour Party leader should be (Ed Milliband is the answer if you were wondering).
PPS And if you're like me and can never quite remember which Milliband brother is which (there should be a law against 2 brothers running for Party leader, it's most confusing), I can tell you that Ed Milliband is what I refer to as The Other Milliband. David I call the Man Child because of his creepily boyish looks, Ed is the, lets face it, less good-looking one. Don't feel bad about it Ed.