MY WELCOME TO THE URBANE FAMILY
“Johnny, Johnny…..I’ve got an invitation…..” my dulcet squeals, meant only for my hubby who was nonchalantly stirring his tea in the kitchen but in reality could be heard by the neighbours at numbers 9, 11, 13, 17 and 21 respectively, echoed around our three bed semi.
“Look, it says a ‘bit of a shindig’ and it’s in London. LONDON Johnny, L-O-N-D-O-N…!” I pushed my iPad open at my emails along the breakfast bar towards him and waited with an expectant grin, twirling an errant bit of hair around my finger.
A trip to London to meet my lovely Publisher at Urbane and a party too. How incredibly exciting.
My index finger stopped mid twirl as my heart thumped somewhere near my belly button….oh jeez, a party! I looked at John, checked the email, and looked at John again, who by now wore a world weary expression of resignation.
“Liverpool for a shopping trip is it?” he groaned.
I nodded enthusiastically.
That old chestnut of ‘I haven’t got a thing to wear’ had reared its ugly head in 0.23 seconds, a world record even for me.
The following weeks were spent in an excited blur that went from having my roots done to trying to master the art of pencilling in age-related lost eyebrows so that I could at least show an animated expression of interest/surprise/happiness/alarm or distress when socialising at the Urbane 2016 Shindig. I so desperately wanted to make a good impression that if anyone had suggested teeth whitening I would have…..oh my goodness, what a fab idea!
A week later I was sitting in bed wearing what felt like a plastic set of my granddads upper and lower dentures as I patiently waited for 58 years of abuse to be miraculously bleached from my gnashers, whilst the FreshSkin Age Rejuvination face pack I’d plastered on earlier had scarily set like concrete giving me the appearance of a stroke victim as I dribbled and drooled through the gum shields.
Removing the face pack twenty minutes later I found it hard to see any difference in my wrinkles, but could reliably report that it had completely stripped all my facial hair and what was left of my poor eyebrows.
After frantically messaging my new-found Urbanite friend, Anne Coates, to see what the dress code would be for the venue, I settled on a smart but casual outfit. All that was needed to compliment the ensemble was a pair of black suede boots.
Cue a very busy Debenhams in Liverpool 1….
As I casually browsed the stands in the shoe department, I raised my newly pencilled in eyebrows every few seconds to give them a pre-London try out. Nothing much caught my eye as I picked my way through the numerous shoes scattered on the floor by my fellow shoppers.
Suddenly, there they were, lying crumpled to one side. The most amazingly gorgeous pair of boots, my size and exactly what I’ve been looking for. I tried them on, slowly sliding the zip from my ankle to above my knee to my lower thigh. With very little effort I’d found a beautiful pair of FMB’s and they fitted perfectly.
Parading up and down whilst checking them out in the mirror, I impulsively decide that they would be my ‘London Boots’.
“Excuse me, those boots…..” A rather flustered looking woman wearing fluffy pink socks stood directly in front of me in quite a menacing manner.
“Mmm yes, they are lovely aren’t they?” I preened whilst flicking an ankle to show them at their best angle.
“That’s exactly what I thought when I bought them last week…” fluffy pink sock woman snarled “…they’re actually mine!”
My pencilled in eyebrows shot up to somewhere near my hairline then just as quickly dropped to knit together as I hastily removed, then quickly mourned, my beautiful, but fleeting FMB’s, as fluffy pink sock woman snatched them from me and stormed off.
As I stumbled down the stairs into The Pheonix Artists Club, London, I struggled to let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting. Sporting the tiniest handbag in the entire world, I’d only been able to pack in a lipstick, two twenty pounds notes and my phone before the zip jammed. The upshot was my glasses had remained in the hotel room stuffed between my Primark pyjamas (in case of an unexpected overnight fire or earthquake evacuation) and hubby’s pale blue Y-fronts – the clean ones I hasten to add, not the ones he’d been wearing on the journey down.
Excitement, tinged with nervous trepidation swept over me as I scanned the room. I was early, so there was no sign of Anne yet, but I spotted what I thought was a familiar face at the bar. Having never met any of the authors with Urbane in person, my brain began to quickly run through all their small profile photographs from Twitter. I was having a sort of mental Rollerdex moment as they spun around in flashes of colour, until….bingo….!!
That’s it. I was sure it was him. Well, almost sure…as sure as I could be without my glasses and being enveloped in ambient lighting. I was so looking forward to meeting him that my enthusiasm took control.
I flung my arms out in a warm, welcoming gesture to the hunched figure at the bar as I honed in on his personal space, whilst my trying-to-be-posh Ooop-North accent edged its way in.
“Simon, how lovely to meet you!” I gushed.
Now, have you ever seen a hunted animal on David Attenborough’s TV programme, Planet Earth? You know, where the whites of their eyes glare out, haunted and afraid and you just know they are frantically deciding which way to run as they desperately try to find an escape route?
Yep, that was ‘Simon’….
I squinted again, bringing his face into a vague focus as he nervously edged away from me.
“Do I know you?” he squealed in a voice more befitting of a 13 year-old girl at a One Direction concert.
Being a bit on the vertically challenged side, l was almost nose to Adam’s apple at this point before he came into focus. Even putting a makeshift frame around his face with my fingers to replicate a Twitter meme, I could see this definitely wasn’t who I thought it was.
“Shit, you’re not Simon are you? In fact your name probably isn’t Simon at all – or even Michael is it?” I cringed. “…and I don’t suppose you write books for a living either do you?”
As he fled into the Gents toilet, I watched his pint, abandoned in panic, slopping beer gently over the sides onto the bar whilst I mentally kicked myself for an entrance that didn’t quite go as planned.
The evening was everything and more, once I’d recovered from my initial embarrassment of portraying myself as an aged participant of Naked Attraction, but thankfully for the sanity of those in attendance, still with my clothes on.
I’ve yet to meet a more friendlier, funnier bunch of people and had the added pleasure of getting to meet the REAL Simon Michael and the most lovely Anne Coates (here’s to a great friendship Anne) along with satisfying a youthful crush by having a chat with the delightful Hugh Fraser, who as Captain Hastings in Poirot made me want to practice my vowels at every opportunity and dream that a man in a snap-brim Fedora driving a Lagonda would whisk me off my feet.
Matthew Smith, Mr Urbane himself, was everything I thought he would be, charming, delightful and enthusiastic, he accepted my Northern Hug (we’re very tactile in my family) warmly welcomed me to the Urbane family, and then taught me to kiss on each cheek in greeting. I was so chuffed at this new form of welcome, I tried it on the next person I happily met from the gathering. Unfortunately he must have been Northern too, as he went to hug me instead and I promptly head butted him on the nose!
As I climbed the stairs at the end of the evening, pausing only to discreetly extricate my now famous Primark thong which had become firmly wedged from the last toilet trip pull-up, I felt happy and content in the belief that maybe one day I too would be able to call myself an Author, whilst at the same time wondering if I could replicate the double kiss once I returned home……
……although with my distinct lack of coordination and no glasses, I would probably succeed with the first cheek kiss but end up vacuuming the left ear of the unsuspecting recipient with the second smacker!