It was great to be present at the launch of my old friend Miles Kington’s canal-side memorial bench the other day. Being a Z-list celebrity, I was invited to the post-unveiling lunch with Joanna Lumley. I can report that La Lumley is as charming and self-effacing as one could imagine. She was very taken with my Hawaiian shirt (I wore the brightest one possible in honour of Miles’ ever-sunny disposition) and was happy to pose endlessly for scores of enthusiastic of amateur photographers. It is easy to imagine her life being one long photo opportunity.
Indeed, I last came across her on Press Day at the Chelsea Flower show, an event I was able to gate-crash for many years, courtesy of my weekly column (R.I.P.), in the guise of ace reporter for the local rag. One year they had named a new rose after Ms Lumley, and after its inauguration, there she was, marching down the main avenue followed by a baying crowd of press photographers and adoring public.
As the cavalcade swept buy, two elderly lady fans in sensible anoraks broke away from the group and eyed up a grand lady dressed all in white and sporting an enormous matching wide-brimmed hat who was standing with her back to the crowds, admiring the view over one of the show gardens.
‘Oo is it?’ enquired one of the old dears, camera at the ready. The other crept right up to the unsuspecting woman, and at a distance of no more than six inches, peered under the hat brim. ‘Oh, it’s just Joan Collins’ she sneered. The camera was immediately put away and tutting disparagingly the pair hurried to re-join the Lumley parade.
Thus stars rise and then plummet. I was sorry for Joanie and felt obliged to take a quick snap. After all, that’s why the celebs attend the flower show, not to look at the flowers. Ms Collins posed obligingly, but I couldn’t help noticing a flicker of disappointment in her face as she read my Bath Chronicle lapel badge.
At that point an eager clip-board waving PR woman made a beeline for me. She was representing the Big Brother winner from about two years before, a vaguely familiar face who was tagging along dispiritedly behind her. ‘Bath Chronicle?’ she beamed desperately, ‘I didn’t know you guys covered the show!’ Blimey mate, I thought, I’m more famous than you, and made a rapid escape to the tea tent, where I shared a table with ex-newsreader Moira Stewart, who had recently been sacked by the BBC for being too old. Yes, everyone who used to be anyone drags themselves along to Chelsea!
The photo of Joan didn’t come out well. My bottom of the range digital camera couldn’t cope with that depth of spray tan.