Monday, 11 November 2013

A tale of two black ties

About a month ago, this last weekend was designated as two early nights, a whole heap of gardening and some Strictly-watching, fire-hugging inaction. What it turned out to be was rather different...

It's not often that I find myself at two black tie events in the same weekend. It is much more likely to be two black tie events a year now that we have grown up (or at least grown more sedate) from our madly social thirties and forties. However, the truth is that twice this weekend, I put on my posh frock (not the same one, obviously) and killer heels for charity. But the two events were so hugely contrasting that I thought I should share. You never know, you might have been at one of them, but I think I can confidently say that I was the only person at both!

Friday night's formal event was held by, not for, Dementia Forward, the charity which I, as part of Acorn, am proud to support. The guest list was made up of Dementia Forward staff, volunteers and supporters - put me in the latter category - and clients and their husbands, wives and carers. It was a glorious celebration of two things. The first was the incredible achievement of winning the National Nursing Times award for Mental Health Care. This had been presented at Grosvenor House in London earlier in the week and is a great achievement for the team. They had rebelled against the one-size-fits-all approach to dementia, set up in their own right, taken a huge risk and made their service more client-centric that anything else on offer. And the Nursing Times rightly gave them the plaudits they so greatly deserve and held it up as an example to others. Brilliant!

The second excitement of the evening was in the guise of a premiere for a short film made by Dementia Forward and starring not just the workers and volunteers but also those lovely individuals and couples who are so easily written off and written out of the script of life. The film was incredibly moving and featured a screen kiss from the lovely Mack and Freda who are such keen participants in all that Dementia Forward offers. Their love and their life together are a testament to all of those affected by dementia. This was followed by an Oscars ceremony presented by my dear friend Patrick Dunlop of Strayfm who has magnificently helped us raise the profile of dementia in the area and did a stirling job of presenting the awards and kissing just about everybody who won!

All I can say is that every time I attend an event with Dementia Forward, whether it's Singing for Fun, one of the regular luncheons or last Friday's dinner, the room is so full of good feeling that I can float home on the memory of the courage, determination and selfless love of the people involved. If ever you're feeling sorry for yourself, go along and sing at Christ Church on a Thursday morning with the Dementia Forward group and I guarantee you'll feel better.

A mere twenty four hours later and I'm in the other dress and killer heels to attend the Firecracker Ball with my beloved. I suspect we may have been late replacements but we were happy to go and party on down. The Firecracker is the biggest fundraiser of the year for Barnardo's and they aim to raise over £100,000 so it was a seriously all-singing, all-dancing event from Bangla drummers and dancers, the biggest, sparkliest marquee I've ever been in and a really top band - Ali Campbell from UB40 no less. For me, however, the two highlights of the night were meeting the South Yorkshire Police Inspector who spoke bravely about child sexual exploitation in his area and was the main speaker at the Ball. He has an incredibly tough job to do and the press have rightly lambasted the Police for not tackling child grooming in the past. But it sounds like real progress is being made at last.

The second highlight was having my photograph taken with Bradley Wiggins - just before his minders put a stop to people coming up with exactly the same ridiculous request as me. Apparently he was there as a private guest. Top tip, Sir Bradders: if you don't want people to spot you at these events (and I was very polite when I asked for a photograph as you can imagine), then don't wear a grey pinstripe suit to a black tie dinner. My beloved pointed out that I was much braver about going up to Wiggo than I was when we were at a similar event a few years ago when Jonny Wilkinson was there. Simple explanation coming up: Wiggo is a man who wears lycra and cycles very, very fast. Jonny Wilkinson is a god. That is all.

So I'm posh-frocked out at the moment and looking forward to a quiet weekend where my most glamorous function is going to see my son play his trumpet in a concert in Harrogate. And that's enough for me.
Sir Bradley Wiggins with the only woman in the room without a spray tan or botox!

Postscript: Talking of trumpet-playing, number 3 played The Last Post at our village Remembrance Sunday service yet again. And I never cease to be moved to tears by it all. I now know there were just 52 villages in Great Britain where no lives were lost in World War 1. Ours was not amongst those 'Thankful Villages' as they are known and the death toll in our little village ran to double figures in that war. We rightly and respectfully remember them.

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