Thursday, November 23, 2006

One's Top Five Gaffes

Tagged by Lesley Cookman to reveal five interesting things about myself, it comes as something of an unpleasant shock to realise that the only things about me that are even vaguely interesting come under the general heading of embarrassing.

1. I should have been used to being confronted by royal personages as I had met both Princess Anne and the Duke of Edinburgh (twice – you wouldn’t think anyone could be that unlucky). Having lived on a rough council estate for eleven years, one got used to seeing members of the aristocracy crowding around paladins over-spilling with raw excrement and speculating on how emergency vehicles such as the Harrods van might negotiate their way through all these burnt out cars.

There is virtually no excuse for the howler that the photograph above represents but I will say in my defence that a) I was not expecting to be introduced to Prince Charles and b) I was doing a lot of aikido at the time. I had no intention whatever of curtseying but there was something about the moment when HRH unexpectedly thrust his hand in my direction that made me want to do something. The result was this absurd bow. I may even have mumbled ‘Onne gai shimasu’, I don’t recall. It’s all a horrible fuzz. In response to his question ‘And what do you do on this project?’ I was unable to recall that I was in fact communications manager. The photo could come in handy if I ever wanted to conduct one of those hilarious caption competitions but I fear the responses would be rather narrow and not entirely savoury.

2) I nearly drowned on the very same day as Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared at sea. At a very tender age and skippering a boat which I believe had once been a saucepan in a stately home, I was in a collision with a much larger vessel, possibly a cauldron, resulting in a severe sinking situation. The boat went to the bottom of Sydney Harbour. I, thankfully, stayed on top.

3) Working as a housemaid in a top Australian hotel, I was presented with an interesting housekeeping problem. A visiting musical ensemble known as The Bay City Rollers took an unwise decision to give their only pairs of tartan duds a shower about three hours before they were all due on stage. An iron was found and, suffice to say, I have seen what is inside The Bay City Rollers’ pants. As a supplementary pants story – I got into a lift in the same hotel to find Frank Zappa retying the rope holding his trousers up. I thought it better not to ask.

4) I once sent a tape of me crooning My Funny Valentine to an actor who was in a coma after I read his tragic story in The Australian Women’s Weekly. He came out of the coma but was left with terrible brain damage. I do not know to what extent my gesture contributed to his present situation.

5) I left a tape of some of the songs from my two unstaged musicals at the box office of the Almeida Theatre for Mandy Patinkin who was performing his fabulous one man show there. Mandy was not in a coma at the time and, as far as I know, did not suffer any permanent ill effects.

I also have a cringey Phil Collins story and one about Howard Goodall too but I ought to stop really as it’s not doing a lot for my state of mind.

Someone whose self-esteem seems to be made of plutonium and cast in lead is the man with whom I shared the first mentioned embarrassing moment. Prince Charles has started a video diary. Witnessing the strangely stilted communications between the increasingly odd royal one and the general public makes me feel very blessed that I got off lightly with my encounter. Since I couldn’t answer even the most basic question about what I did, I would not like to have been in the camouflage Converses of the young people in Birmingham to whom he directed the question,

‘And how are your new uniforms? Do they fit properly? Are they comfortable?’

Where does one put oneself when he starts up with the ‘when I was serving in the navy out in the colonies…’ For someone in whose hands international etiquette is entrusted, he has a surprising resistance to the language of diplomacy. As the day progresses the fire in the hole starts to look more and more unstable. A group of young dancers is informed,

‘I don’t think I’d like to have been Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, perhaps indicating some kind of volcanic inner turmoil brewing.

The suspense is almost unbearable as he hosts a dinner at Highgrove for people from a local hospice. Oh My God – he is going to be talking to people who are going to die - soon! Happily he played it safe and talked about the oldest person he could think of,

‘What amazed me when we attended the ceremony marking the Battle of the Somme was there was this incredible old boy of 110 and he was perfectly compos mentis, even insisted on standing up for God Save the Queen.’

Thank you very much sir. Spending a few minutes tracking your day has gone a long way to restoring my self-esteem. I trust little Charlie is keeping well…

Photo by John Sturrock - although he may not want to be reminded.


clerk from kent said...


Anonymous said...

I love your idea of a caption competition... But seriously, how much is it worth to you if I keep a lid on the whole sorry Phil Collins episode?

That's so pants said...

Dear 'anon'. I was thinking maybe I could just eliminate all family members from my will. We clear?