Picture the scene, if you will:
Your correspondent finds himself in Las Vegas, attending a wedding and white water rafting through The Grand Canyon, not at the same time, with The Dancing Queen.
If that wasn’t surreal enough I then received a phone call….
They were phoning on behalf of a production company who were filming an itv walking show with Julia Bradbury, and would I like to appear…. I left a polite pause of approximately 1 second and asked how much I would have to pay for this privilege.
I have to admit, I have “history” when meeting people in the public eye:
I was lucky enough to get tickets for the midnight book signing of the last Harry Potter book. The Dancing Queen and I took our children to meet J K Rowling. As they were going to meet a “famous person”, I laid down the rules – be polite, look her in the eye, don’t say anything controversial, don’t say anything scary. Needless to say, they carried it off perfectly. Only for me to become a gibbering wreck when I shook her hand and told her that “I love you, and you are one of my favourite human beings ever.” She said what lovely children we had. As we left, I said to The Dancing Queen “I think that went very well, don’t you.” she gave me a quizzical look and muttered something about being scary.
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I bore this in mind when I met Caitlin Moran and asked her if she would like to be my imaginary sister. As we left, I said to The Dancing Queen “I think that went very well, don’t you.” she gave me a quizzical look and muttered something about being scary.
Don’t be scary is my mantra now, so when I met the Rev. Richard Coles and told him I would look after his dachshunds whenever needed, I was just trying to be kind. He wished me well.
So, on the day of filming I left the house to The Dancing Queen’s wise words, take Sprout, he’ll give you something to think about, AND. DON’T. BE. SCARY.
I got to the local pub in good time and introduced myself to the team, including Gina and Holly from The Outdoor Guide. Julia then arrived, greeted me with a big smile, a firm handshake and the words: “It’s lovely to meet you, I’m looking forward to today, I’m just going for a pee”. That basically sums Julia up, really down to earth and good fun.
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We discussed how I got into gardening, what I used to do, the Smuggling history of East Dean and how the filming would go. We walked to where the filming was going to be done and a small crowd had formed and some of the locals were being particularly fabulous. When I said to Julia she would be better interviewing them she said “There are hundreds of people like them in London, I like speaking to real people”.
Then, right then, was when Ms Bradbury became one of my favourite people.
When filming was over, I took my leave and wandered back to the garden, I hadn’t been scary, I would be cut from the show and it would all be a happy memory. But I did feel a bit big headed.
At least I will stay grounded, as I got back to the Walled Garden, Sprout The Gardener’s dog, gave his views on the matter and “left a message” on the path for me to pick up.
And later on, when I got home, regaling my story to anyone who would listen, our friend’s daughter aged 7, when told I was going to be on the telly said. “I don’t know why, you are very boring.”
And I am, and I delight in that, I don’t crave attention, quite the opposite, but it doesn’t mean exciting things don’t happen.
Fast forward 9 months:
I received another phone call, this time I was in a customer’s garden:
“Hi Mark, it’s Julia, I’m just popping down to East Dean to do a walk with a group from Ramblers Walking Holidays and I thought it would be a really nice idea if we had a chat in front of them about filming and what you used to do”.
Obviously, I don’t crave attention, and the thought of standing up in front of a load of people to talk about myself scares me just a bit. So I gave it a good, long think, I think it might even have been 2 seconds and said of course, see you there in 20 minutes.
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We did the chat thing, Julia read an extract from her book of the TV series in which she had quoted one of my blogs (and the bit where she likens me to a rather camp Alan Carr lookalike) and then I took the group to the walled garden I have developed from bare bones and showed them all the glorious fruit and veg. And I got a photo taken with Julia.
After they had all left, I was just about to leave to go back to work when Kirsty, who runs the Estate, came to ask how it had gone. I was telling her how basically marvellous I was when I felt a warm sensation on my leg. There he was, Dear Sprout, bringing me down to earth again by peeing on my leg….
12 months later, another phone call:
“Hi Mark, Julia here, same again today??”
Obviously, after 3 seconds thought I said of course, and where.
This time, it all went really well, and my confidence has grown, so, when Gina asked if I would like to join them all for dinner at The Grand in Eastbourne that evening, I played hard to get and made them wait a whole nano-second before saying yes please. I didn’t take Sprout, although he is my comfort blanket, I can’t pass him off as a guide dog in hotels, what with him being basically untrainable.
Gina and Julia have the ability few people have, certainly in my experience!! of appearing interested in everything one says, they also love a double entendre, so if you want to break the ice with them if you are lucky enough to meet them, ask them how to harvest rhubarb.
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It is through meeting the team at The Outdoor Guide that I have gained the confidence to write and put my words out there, and occasionally even edit them before I do.
I now write a blog, I’m hoping to write a book or two and I try not to be too scary.
Having said that, I did film something for an upcoming walking show Julia is presenting, and I think I look really scary.