Yesterday it was Henry’s (our thug of a middle son) birthday and we went for a family day out in London. After ‘doing’ the Natural History Museum (where we saw the dinosaurs for the millionth time but at least this time there was no hysterical crying and screaming when we saw the animatronic T-Rex) we went to my least favourite shop in the world; Hamley’s. The shop was hot, stuffed to the gunwales with people and full of plastic toys I could have easily bought elsewhere but this was for Hen and he seemed to enjoy it. We left with a sonic screwdriver and playmobil set and got a taxi back to the train station. Half of Regent’s Street was half shut to make room for a classic car show and the traffic was slow and looking around I saw a lady with orangey hair on a bike.
Our taxi slowed, and then came to a stop just as the lady got off her bike and as she turned I noticed it was Vivienne Westwood the well-known designer. I was astonished. I said to Hubbie, rather too loudly! ‘That’s Vivienne Westwood!!!!’ He turned and also said ‘Oh my life that is Vivienne Westwood!!’
Our taxi slowly started to pull away and I was left looking at this wonderfully eccentric old lady until she was out of sight. Tobes was trying to push Hen and Hen was protesting so my thoughts immediately came right back to them.
On the train later I said to Hubbie that I couldn’t believe that we had seen Vivienne Westwood and that I also couldn’t believe she was riding a bike. I then stopped in my tracks and said how daft that sounded; why wouldn’t she be riding the most efficient way to get round London? (Especially in the midst of a classic car rally and shut road) Was I finding it strange that a well-known person was riding a bike? I then thought, well, what did I expect her to be doing? Should she have been surrounded by 14 minders? Should she have been chauffer driven in a beautiful car? Did I expect her to be followed by a 10 foot flashing sign stating to the world ‘I AM VIVIENNE WESTWOOD!!!’ No. She’s the same as you or I. She needs to get from A to B in the most efficient and quickest way possible and that was her bike.
It got me thinking about the pedestal that we (I) put celebrities and ‘well off’ people on. The idea I have of them in my head and how that alters my view of their lives. I was watching a celebrity ‘Come Dine With Me’ (don’t knock it I love it) and found myself saying to Hubbie that I was surprised at the size of Vic Reeves and Nancy Sorrel’s house. I was thinking it would be much bigger than it was. But why did I think that all celebrities would be living in mansions with a fleet of fast cars in the garage?
I confess to a love of trashy magazines (this is turning into a bit of a confessional blog this week) and I used to love visiting a friend of mine’s parents farmhouse in Gloucester as in their bathroom upstairs they had the most enormous pile of these trashy mags. Hours could be spent on the toilet leafing through the wedding photos of that girl from Emmerdale, reading the denials of rumoured boob jobs and Botox treatments by that well know glamour model and seeing the new born pictures of a new son or daughter to an over tanned member of a boy band. My friend’s mum knew I loved these mags and would also leave them in the room I slept in along with a single lily. It smelled wonderful as I read late into the night.
I’m not a gossipy person, I couldn’t give two hoots about what other people have but I was drawn to these magazines. I’m not an aspirational person and I’m certainly not a social climber; I’m secure in myself and are growing old gently so I really can’t understand or explain why I read them. Hubbie is confused but doesn’t fight it and even brought me a couple to read after each of our boys had been born.
Is it escapism? Do I like reading about people who have totally different lives to me? Not really. I like who I am and how I live my life. Am I nosey? Not really. Do I like to keep up with the gossip? Hmmm… no. I don’t chat with my girlfriends about the latest fashions or how to have my hair cut so I can look like someone from a blockbuster film.
I don’t know I’ll ever figure out the reason but I do think it has something to do with my surprise at Vivienne Westwood riding a bike. Celebrities are normal people with normal lives who also need to get to work on time even amidst a busy road half closed. Most will look a little awful first thing in the morning (like me) some will have proper mortgages to pay (like me) but all will still cry real tears. I feel the same about seeing Vivienne Westwood riding a bike as I did when I was part of a team that served the Queen and Prince Phillip. He was smaller than I had imagined and she astounded us all by getting her mirror out of her bag and doing her lipstick at the table. I totally understand that she doesn’t wear her crown around her castle (at least I think she doesn’t) but I didn’t think that she would do her make up at the table in fount of a room full of guests.
Maybe that’s it.
Maybe I’m the one with the problem. Maybe both Vivienne and the Queen have the confidence to live their lives exactly how they want and maybe, just maybe, that’s how those in the trashy magazines use the money from celebrity gossip magazine spreads. Maybe it’s nothing to do with the expected way to live life as a well-known person but more a, ‘well, if I am well-known I’m not going to let it stop me being who I am.’
I’m not going to be famous. I’m not sure I really want to be anyway so there’s no sour grapes about it. Seeing Vivienne Westood on a bike has made me want to be just a little bit more like her; not in a monetary way but in a ‘I will be confident in what I want to do’ kind of way. I am going to put my preconceptions of how others with money live their lives (and stop being a little bit in awe of them), I’m going to stop buying magazines filled with things that actually don’t really interest me and I’m going to save the money each week for some as yet unknown prize. The next time I am round someone with an amazing bank account or cavernous house I am going to hold my head up high take a deep breath and know that I am every bit as good as they are. I do realise though that this aim may need a bit of practice so when I’m next in a swanky restaurant and feeling under pressure I’m going to dare myself to get my lippy out at the table and put a little bit on. Well, if it’s good enough for the Queen…