My guide dog Uffa and I decided to hang up his dirty harness and my old riding boots and dress up in his Sunday best High Visability Outfit and me in my cutest kitten heels for this years London Fashion week. Paul Costello had invited us to come to the showing of his new collection which was to be hosted in a deliciously pink gallery in Simpsons on the Strand So, armed with tickets, lip gloss, an Uffa who had been brushed within an inch of his life and friend Tanya ,who had also been brushed within an inch of hers, we set off for London in a flurry of curls and fur.
As we sat on the train, Tanya desperately trying to paint my nails through the shuddering of the carriage, I wondered if I had chosen the right outfit to wear? I simply had too much choice and too much disorganisation in my wardrobe to be sure and after Tanya's revelation a few months previously, that my favourite purple dress was, in fact, a disappointingly 'slate grey' I questioned if I had actually put on the colour scheme I had intended. Fashion for me has always been about how clothes make me feel, I am like a vampire when I look in the mirror with no reflection, so choose my clothes solely on how the fabric and fit feels as opposed to looks. Admittedly I love bright colours as they allow the fading pallet of my sight to catch a glimpse of vibrance as well as making myself and others smile when I wear them. I only hoped that this day's selection wouldn't make them howl with laughter! Thankfully Ufffa only had one outfit to wear and as long as fur was still 'in', at least one of us would be 'a la mode'.
As well as being a 'dog with a job', I have to say that defying convention as a big black boisterous labradoodle, Uffa is quite simply the 'must have accessory' - no Vera Wang or Jimmy Choo handbag could outshine him, let alone guide you home after a cocktail party. He is a photographer's magnet who loves having his picture taken, which generally leaves any delight of an outfit that I have painstakingly chosen to wear chopped off at the knee. There have been countless events, weddings and stage shows, after which the resultant photos have been of Uffa looking very debonair in his guide dog uniform and my knees looking very anonymous and nobbly.
Like every man in uniform Uffa just loves to be on the frontline in the thick of the action, be it by my side on stage at the Purcell room in London when I am giving a concert, trotting alongside Szekit after a dressage test or performing on stage in France in the musical theatre trapeze show that we toured. He simply loves the applause and has even fashioned a bow that he gives at the end of the evening. I think it was for this reason that when we finally arrived at the Strand, on seeing all the cameras, Uffa grew by about two inches in height and began swaggering towards the door of Simpsons. Tanya also grew by a good few inches but I think she changed her shoes in the taxi!
The venue was amazing, filled with elegant, slim giants who waved like a forest of exquisitely clothed bamboo in a breeze against a back drop of pink, between whose slender race horse legs, Uffa wove with panache and charm amidst a chorus of admiring 'aahs', like a four- legged James Bond on a mission in search of Pussy Galore. I teetered along behind, with less of an elegant swagger and more of an elephant stagger, wishing I had worn higher heels, trying not to spill over anyones beautiful Versace the glass of Champagne that Paul's wife had pressed into my hand.
Paul and his family treated me like a little princess. They seated Tanya and I on the front row next to the runway at the point where the models stop for the photos. They had even thought to leave a big space for Uffa to be by my side and to curl up and enjoy the show. The show was incredible, vibrant, bright and magical to my colour hungry eyes. It was as if we had stepped out of the grey Kansas of London into the technicolour Wizard of Oz of Paul's imagination. Bursts of blossoming colour kept exploding into my one remaining little window of vision as model after model passed us on the runway. I knew I wouldn't be able to see the dresses and their forms so had asked Tanya if she could give me a brief over view as the models glided past.. Little did we know that we were seated right opposite all the TV cameras and photographers which unfortunately left Tanya, live on air, looking like she was giving a deaf interpretation of the collection, chattering excitedly, arms waving wildly in the air describing enthusiastically puff ball sleeves and mini skirts. The models kept coming thick and fast so poor Tanya, breathless but determined, tried to keep up with the ever quickening conveyor belt of beauty, much like a contestant in a memory game on a quiz show, determined to win but getting more and more flustered as she went.
Uffa at this point had gone to sleep obviously uninterested by the shoes worn by the models that were passing by his nose and unimpressed by the fact that the cameras were not pointed at him. However when the show finished and the applause began, certain that such adulation must be for him, Uffa sprang to his feet to thank his public and shot out on to the catwalk to take a bow . It seems that you can teach a guide dog not to chase cats but not to stay off the catwalk