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Sunday, May 8, 2011

I danced with a man, who danced with a girl, who danced with the Prince of Wales

I am not obsessed with the rich and famous, but I do enjoy seeing, or speaking with, someone who is well known.  Just as I can look at pictures of Mount Rushmore, and say, 'I have been there', I can say, 'I've met them!'  From what I can gather, it was Milgram who said that there are six degrees of separation between one person and everyone else in the world.  I do not have any reason to agree, nor disagree, although I am pretty sure that between my mother, her hairdresser, and her friend Ruth, there are only three degrees, one way or another, between them, and the rest of the planet!
Strangely enough, I feel there have been more degrees between me, and the rest of the world, since I moved to Texas. When I return home, the degrees become less. There was a time that I could not go anywhere without seeing someone I knew.  Samantha would just roll her eyes when I went up to someone, in an obscure place, and said 'hi'.  Coming back from London one day, I was on the train with my daughter, when I saw an old school friend.  'We were ALMOST home!', Samantha exclaimed; 'I thought it was too good to be true, to go through a whole day and NOT see someone you know!'  She was more flabbergasted when waiting in the queue at Houston Airport, ready to board our flight home, I turned and espied a Hertfordshire School Advisor, with whom I had been working closely during the recent government inspection of the school.  'We come half way round the world, and I thought I was safe!',  Samantha sighed!

There are a few people, here, who still think that I must know everyone in England, as it is, after all, very small.  It is true that you can drive in Texas in a straight line for nine hours, and still be in Texas, but gone are the days in England when you knew everyone in your neighbourhood.  It is also true, that I very rarely go into Sainsbury's (an English supermarket) and do not see someone I know.  However, I have seen a neighbour or two in the supermarket here, so things are getting better (or worse, according to Samantha).

As usual, I digress.  If there are six degrees of separation between the entire population of the world, then how many degrees are there between me, and a famous person, and what constitutes fame?

I was very excited on Friday.  I went to have my nails done, and as we chatted about anything and everything, my manicurist told me that she had once been called to paint the nails of a group of girls, who were appearing in a movie, with Tommy Lee Jones.  My next few blackberry messages were, 'My nail lady is manicurist to the stars!'  Okay, so she didn't actually do Tommy Lee Jones' nails, and I don't know that I would recognise the girls immediately, should they appear in anything else I watch.  However, all my acquaintances immediately became a third degree.  I can hear choruses of, 'When will I see you again', and you will all have to 'suffer, suffer', with my vicariously living through the lady who beautifies my nails.  
I could claim that I am, indeed, only three degrees away from The Three Degrees.  I am, perhaps, stretching the limits somewhat, but I did once meet Princess Michael of Kent.  A wonderfully elegant and gracious lady.  She was the guest of honour at the annual 'Regent Street Vendors Party', and switched on the festive lights, which traditionally hang above the London thoroughfare, indicating there are only six weeks until Christmas.  She, together with the Duchess of Kent, who my dad met on a few occasions, were at the wedding of Prince Charles to the late Diana.  The Three Degrees were also at that wedding; therefore, I have a claim to fame.  Of course, by the same token, I am only two degrees away from the Prince himself, and indeed, the rest of the Royal family.  It would appear that my invitation to last weeks big event was conveniently 'lost in the post', but I do not hold it against the Royal Mail!  It would have been very difficult for me to get away from work!

There are some people, in my new home town, who are not particularly 'up' on the Royals, despite the fascination. I was once asked, on the death of the Queen Mother; 'Will Tony Blair now be King?'  It is true that, whilst the former Prime Minister may have become rather an important political figure, King material he is not.  After all, at least they didn't announce that I wasn't invited to the wedding.  The jury is still out on that one! 

I do have an autograph book.  This is a hobby rather than for proof, but it never hurts to have confirmation.  When I was six or seven years old, I went to see Father Christmas with my mum, and grandma (my late, lovely Nana Cissie).  We went to a large department store, which was, at the time, named Sopers.  Sopers sold out to the large chain, Debenhams, but when I was young, Sopers was the department store in Harrow.  It was always very exciting. Although I did not think Santa Claus was real, it was a couple of weeks before the big day, and receiving a present in advance was, to me, a bit of a coup.  The oversized man in the red coat, and sporting a rather unkempt white beard, handed me a present.  My mother intervened.  'She is too old for that', she said.  Although, as I said, I was not a particular 'believer', I did have a thought that he was the one who decided whether you were to have presents, and which presents you were to have.  My mum had just told him, 'No!'.  There was no authority like my mother.  Father Christmas, the man who rules Christmas, had just taken an order from my mother!  I longed to be like my mother, for no other reason than she was the boss!  She would chastise my grandmother for doing something wrong, then turn right around and do the same to me!  I longed to be at the age where I could scold my mum, and my kids.  Of course, the disciplining of my grandmother was always done out of consideration.  'Mum, don't do that, let me', was usually the form of reprimand, but to a youngster, a telling off was a telling off!  Anyway, my mother told Father Christmas, 'No', and the big man listened. He signalled to his female, skinhead elf, who did not seem particularly happy at having swapped her 'tonic' suit, and Ben Sherman shirt, for a green tunic, that did nothing for her 'hard' image, and the said elf, handed me a small packet.  Once back at my grandma's flat, I ripped off the paper, and was absolutely devastated. It was a very small note book with different colour pages.  'It's an autograph book', my mother announced, with a modicum of excitement.  My mum and grandma proceeded to write rhymes in the book, and signed their names.  My disappointment was no less.  To add insult to injury, my dad suggested he take the book with him, and if anyone famous was to enter his taxi, he would get their autograph.  So now, not only did I not have a cutesy present, I had no present at all.  The third degree of disenchantment was when he obtained a signature.  It was from the actress Lee Remick.  Proudly, I went to school and announced, 'I have Lee Remick's autograph'.  This event preceded the film, 'The Omen', and the name meant nothing to my infant friends.  I decided to keep quiet when my dad said that the actress Ann Todd had been his passenger.  Who?  Exactly!

However, despite having met Cassias Clay, a few years earlier, and giving his autograph to a couple of lads, who lived a few doors down, my dad continued to 'find' famous people.  My book became fuller and fuller, and it appeared the more minor the celebrity, the more popular I became, as my friends knew television personalities rather than big screen names. 

I had a couple of occasions to add names myself.  Roger Moore's daughter attended the same school as one of my neighbours, and she invited the child back 'for tea'.  Roger, himself, came to collect her and he was surrounded by pre-teen boys and girls, thrusting pen and paper under his nose.  He dealt with the onslaught with smiles and such patience, we all felt incredibly special.  He was a true gentleman.  As a teenager, I queued for hours to see Dennis Waterman at the opening of 'Top Shop', in Harrow, and the ticket upon which he wrote his name, fell from the book and is now in my kitchen note box. 

Several years ago, I spent more time than necessary working out the relationship between my mother, and the actress Joan Collins (and her author sister, Jackie).  I managed to assess that they 'shared' third cousins.  My mother disowns this relationship, vigorously! 

My degree of separation from the Royals is not particularly advantageous.  In fact, I didn't even mention it to the 'manicurist to the stars', although I am sure I can sway the conversation around if I feel the need.  Austin has its own celebrities.  However, Sandra Bullock has yet to appear in Coronation Street (my favourite English Soap), although the Duchess of Cornwall has been in the Archers!  So it would appear, at least from my perspective, that the Royals are 'one up'.  Perhaps, one day, if I ever publish my blog in book form, someone might say, 'I knew her when she was just a blogger!'  Oh well, who knows, it may be....another story!

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