“I've got two tickets to a screening at the London Film Festival,” Country Girl said on the phone as I balanced it on my shoulder, hands plunged into a bowl of soapy washing up with barely a thought for the manicure. “The BFI will put us up in a hotel and give us dinner too. Fancy it?”
“Ooh, yes please,” I said, scrabbling round for the inevitable missed teaspoon in the bottom of the bowl.
“Great," she said, “I'll email details over.”
In the middle of a hectic week, I didn't think too much about it until I was racing around the house the evening beforehand trying frantically to find my glasses so I could actually see the film.
Is there a dress code for this thing? I texted, hoping that I wouldn't have to think about getting changed into posh frocks in the very small office loos.
Hope not! She texted back. Jacket and jeans for me.
A little more frantic hunting, and I found the glasses under a pile of the weekend's newspapers on top of a rather forlorn and pathetic half-completed crossword, and threw them into a ratty gym bag with some semi- presentable pyjamas and a clean top.
Scurrying out of the office the following evening, I hopped into the car that the BFI had sent and that CG had waiting (I say that like it was effortless. There was much phone contact and frantic scrabbling round the back streets of Bloomsbury until I found her and the car. Smooth and dignified it wasn't).
“Hi Blonde, I’ve er… got a bit of a surprise for you. It's... well, I've just been told by John the Lovely Driver that tonight’s a red carpet thing.”
“Hmm?” I said, not really concentrating as I clambered into the car, trying not to shut the door on the new tweed coat. "Hang on, there we… What, sorry?! It's a WHAT thing?!”
“Red carpet, apparently. It’s, er, the European premiere.”
“But we don't have to walk up the carpet, surely?!” I squeaked, my heart sinking as I considered my hair, whooshing down through my stomach as I thought about the jeans I had on, and falling to my feet as I contemplated the decidedly unglamorous, suspiciously comfortable ancient knee boots I was sporting.
“John, are you SURE there's no other entrance?” CG pleaded.
“‘Fraid not, my love,” said John the Driver, sounding suspiciously un-sorry about the whole affair.
“Right, well there’s only one thing for it, then,” I said, deciding that the situation wasn’t going to right itself. I reached to the floor and dug around in the also deeply unglamorous, large, leather bag I haul around on a daily basis, big enough to contain lunch, a large novel, a notebook, my purse, an umbrella, specs, make-up, several spare pairs of earrings, some loose change, the world’s supply of Kirby grips, a box of business cards, an elderly copy of Shortlist, hand cream, Ischian bus tickets and the Large Hadron Collider. I looked at the bag for a moment, and was struck by the total lack of desire to drag it, and a ratty Reebok gym bag, up a red carpet on which Helena Bonham Carter would be looking glorious in Vivienne Westwood. “John, can I leave these in the car?”
“‘Course you can, love.”
“Great, thank you.” I turned back to the matter in hand. “There is no trouble so great or grave that cannot be much diminished by the application of more eyeliner.” I upped the kohl on the eyes, slipped my glasses into my coat pocket and scrunched up my hair in a desperate bid to make it do something other than ‘meh’ as we pulled into Leicester Square, men pulling aside the barriers as the car came to a halt.
“I cannot believe we’re going to do this,” CG said to me, as we opened the doors to a salvo of camera flashes that quickly came to a halt as the photographers realised we absolutely weren’t who they wanted.
“Me neither,” I replied, holding my knees together as I swung my legs out of the car (Granny would have been proud).
I still can’t quite believe it – that it happened at all; that I didn’t fall over; and that I might just have been the first person on the planet to wear Gap on the red carpet.
*The King’s Speech is out in the UK in January. It’s an utterly glorious piece of film-making, and deserves to have all Oscars, ever, thrown at it. You heard it here.