Lights, Camera, No Action
In my short time on Planet Grief, I’ve discovered that it’s not only the best laid plans of mice and men that go awry; a widow’s plans are subject to change, or at least, they do for this particular widow.
This is what I am wearing right now as I hammer my keyboard: red and grey tartan pyjama bottoms; grey t-shirt; grey zipped hoodie; lip balm, and a vitamin A serum which promises to make my skin glow. (Still waiting…)
This is what I intended to wear this evening: Black knife-pleat v-necked vintage dress; wide black suede belt with diamante round buckle; high strappy black patent-leather sandals; selection of suitably sparkly jewellery and subtle yet feature enhancing make-up.
The former outfit would never feature in a Vogue double-spread as to what the woman about Highgate should wear, but it’s appropriate for typing my blog at ten o’clock at night.
The thing is, I wasn’t supposed to be at my desk tonight. I was supposed to be sipping cocktails at The Grosvenor House Hotel in Mayfair, before attending a reception in the ballroom along with 1300 representatives of the industry JS and I worked in. I was supposed to eat dinner; laugh at comedian Greg Davies performing his stand-up routine; clap enthusiastically at the winner of the Best use of a cartoon character on a lunchbox award; and then, at the end of the evening, listen to a touching speech about my late husband against a photo backdrop. To applause, I intended to glide up onto the stage in my spiked trotters, graciously accept the award on behalf of JS from amazingly tall Greg; give a short yet witty speech (opening line: There must be easier ways to meet one of your comedy heroes than your husband dying…) before having my photo taken with Big Greg. I imagined posting said photo on my blog alongside a breathless commentary about how difficult the evening had been, but how glad I was that I did it, yadda yadda yadda.
The dogsitter was booked, as was the hair appointment and the Addison Lee cab. My pedicure (Jessica’s ‘Some Like It Hot’ red) was immaculate, the outfit on the hanger ready to go, and my speech polished to perfection courtesy of walking over the Heath for the last few days telling The Hound, “My husband was a quietly understated man, nevertheless, I know that he would have been thrilled…”
There was even a cunning plan in place should I faint on stage with the horror of it all. My friend, Big Bird, has the serious hots for Mr D and wanted to meet him, but not being the recipient of a prize for Hello Kitty three-pack knickers, or the widow of an industry grande fromage, it was arranged that as I crumpled to the floor in a heap of black pleats and bling, she would race on to the stage on the pretext of helping me, whilst actually stepping over me to push her phone number into Greg’s undoubtedly large mitt.
On The Hound’s life, I really and truly intended to go.
And then I woke up this morning and thought: I don’t want to go.
Not, I can’t face it or I can’t do it – but, I don’t want to go.
I texted Big Bird who suggested that I had a weep, walk the dog, (my morning routine) and see how I felt. It was good advice, because Big Bird knows that even if I am nervous before giving a major speech or presentation, once I’m made-up and dressed-up and stand up with a microphone, on a good day I can make Joan Rivers look shy and boring.
So I had a sob and walked the dog and spoke to a couple of people, and still I didn’t want to go.
Sitting quietly on a bench on the Heath overlooking a pond, I realised it wasn’t accepting the award or speaking in front of well over a thousand people that worried me; most of them would be so plastered by the time JS’s award came around, they wouldn’t notice if SpongeBob SquarePants was given a lifetime achievement gong. I dreaded going out on my own with no one to tell me that I’d scrubbed up well; it saddened me that there would be no looks across a crowded room which signalled with just a small eye movement: Let’s get the hell out of here and go home, and the thought of slumping into a cab, alone, at the end of the evening was dire. But I’m going to have to get used to those things if I’m to live any sort of reasonable life, and none of those things were the real reason I didn’t want to go.
What I couldn’t bear, was the thought of being amongst so many people who would be (understandably) hell bent on having a good time in their black ties and ball gowns, people who still live the sort of professional life I once relished. We used to have a bustling three-story office with a showroom and lots of staff, but now there is just me stuffed into a tiny one-woman room, winding-down the company, organising boxes to go in to storage, sifting through decades of material collected over the working lifetime of my husband: ET clocks; Miami Vice cars; Thundercats action figurenes; Snoopy toys; Rugrats activity sets; Nintendo comics; Garfield socks. It’s heartbreaking on so many levels, and going to the dinner tonight felt as if I was peeping back into a life I once had, and just as with photos, I’m not yet at the stage of remembering those times with a smile, only searing pain.
So this afternoon, I rang a friend in the business and asked her to put the contingency plan in place: a friend of JS’s would accept the award on his behalf. I cancelled the dogsitter and the hairdresser and the cab, and told Big Bird that she’d have to chat up Greg without me. She said she’d gone off him anyway, and that if they were meant to be together, they’d meet again. The two of us are seeing him on tour in November, so perhaps she will.
Tonight, instead of cocktails and speeches, I fired up the little Fiat and spent the evening eating pizza with friends who loved JS too. It wasn’t the evening I planned, but I felt it was the evening I wanted, and it felt right. But there is no denying that typing my blog in my PJ’s wasn’t what I intended.
This was supposed to be how the day ended:
Beautifully dressed and sparkling under the lights of the Grand Ballroom, JS’s elegant widow fights back emotion as she brandishes his award in the air and says:
John, wherever you are my darling, this is for you.
It’s well deserved.