Years ago, a woman on the plane asked my son then about 8
“Do you know your mother’s famous ?” I’m happy to tell you this meant nothing till he was a teenager and his mother was known for talking about sex, by which time he was very much a person in his own right (indeed, he always has been). I remarked to my fellow passenger that I was not Michael Jackson, for which I was very grateful for all sorts of reasons, we smiled and chatted a bit and left it there.
I have had a really good time with my small fame. It has crossed boundaries for me, eased first meetings, provided something to start talking about (I am very interested in the nature of fame) which could be put painlessly aside as other more interesting things occurred.
I went through a brief stage of never putting out the rubbish without full makeup on and got over it. This is life, not a performance. Big fame is a lot more limiting (see page 520 of American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld). And this is all long before the days of “a million likes on Facebook” which makes my blood run cold.
Thirty years ago, I was asked about some sort of title or medal and the caller got my then husband who said that he very rarely spoke for me (true) and he was pretty sure that the answer would be no. It was.
There was a stage when people suggested “I’m a Celebrity …” or “Strictly” and I said sweet of you to think of me but no thank you. As I got older I got used to being examined “to see if I had had work done.” I can assure you that if I had, it would be so good you wouldn’t see it – but I haven’t. There was a man on a train who remarked “You’d look quite pretty if you coloured your hair.” Sticking to my smile, I replied that my friends thought I looked all right the way I was. (He was directly counteracted by the Frenchman and his wife in Florence who said “I love your ‘air – you ‘ave a good coiffeur !” I nodded, smiling and said “God.” I bless heaven for the way it went agreeably grey.)
It must be plain to anybody who reads annalog that there are things that worry, concern and outrage me but that I like my life.
It engages me, I am still enthusiastic about it a lot of the time (you have to allow some slowing over the years– it is neither failure nor affectation – you slow at the wheel of the car or the wheel of life.)
The great British public has been gracious to me. And I pass it on. As I grew older and our world changed, it seemed to be more important than ever to recognise effort, to acknowledge and say hello or thank you, and not because of what would come back. It’s an investment. My father used to say “If you don’t put in, you can’t take out” and social responsibility is not like accounting – you don’t put in this to get out that and hope to balance the books. You invest. You speak agreeably to people because if they stay as nice in their transactions with the rest of the world as they were with you – as they must have been, for you to notice them (always providing you weren’t on the screen at the time) – the world is a better place. This not me playing Lady Bountiful:
this is how I was brought up. I have carried recognition lightly, used it to “put in” and what comes back is past my wildest imaginings.
Every so often I look at the birthdays in the two papers I have taken for years and I occasionally wonder how I’d feel if I were there – grateful ? intruded upon ? Don’t know. And yesterday I sat with a very welcome cup of coffee after a sleepless night, face the colour of mushroom soup (oh hell, that beige…) and looked at the crossword where I found a clue which read “Agony aunt Anna …….. worked for LBC and Cosmopolitan”. My favourite neighbours rang, tickled and my son took a picture of it.