I am delighted and completely surprised to have been nominated for 'The inspirational Guide dog owner of the year Award'.
A very sleepy Monday morning, after having tripped over Uffa who was fast asleep by the side of my bed, then having stumbled downstairs and scooped (much to Uffa's dismay) his breakfast of dried biscuits into his water bowl, the phone rang. As I absent- mindedly fumbled about the living room for the rogue phone I completely forgot to tell a very obedient Uffa that he could 'Go Get' his breakfast. So the poor little guy was left sitting staring down at his water bowl and ever inflating biscuits as I answered the call..
The voice on the other end of the phone excitedly informed me that I had been nominated and had gone through to the last four finalists of the 'Inspirational Guide dog owner of the year Award for 2014'. I woke up with a bang. 'Seriously!?' I said with disbelief, then hearing Uffa's indignant whimpered reminder that I hadn't yet told him he could eat his breakfast, I followed up with a more questioning 'Are you sure?'
I was absolutely thrilled and overwhelmed at even having been nominated. I was doubly thrilled to learn that the winner would be announced at a Black Tie affair on the 10th of December at the Hilton,Park Lane London which Uffa and I were to be invited to. The winner was to be decided through a public vote run by a British National newspaper. In the meantime Guide Dogs would send a photographer to take some photos of Uffa and I for the newspaper and later on a film crew to do a VT to be shown on the Award night.
It was arranged for the photographer to come and take some pictures during my soundcheck at a concert I was giving at the Jazz Club Dean Street, Soho, London so as to give a sense of what Uffa and I get up to in our wonderfully varied lives. A lovely gentleman arrived, cameras swinging from his neck, who suggested that it might be a good idea to take some photos in the park up the road- Soho Square- as opposed to just taking them in the club. There were some concerns that a Jazz club wasn't an appropriate environment for a guide dog! I giggled as the venue was a prestigious London venue that, although intimate and beautiful, completely shattered the stereotype of a smoke filled debauched den of decadence that Jazz clubs had once held. John Williams was playing the following night! Nevertheless Uffa and I obliged and went into Soho Square where, on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, we found two transvestites having a handbag fight, a drunk swigging whisky and a homeless person tucked up under a blanket who Uffa took a great shine to....the photo finally used was from the Jazz club.
When the film crew were booked to come and film, I thought it best that they came on a day when I was doing something less 'left of field'. I organised for them to come and film me giving one of my school talks. I am a real believer in taking the fear out of disability for children and talking to them about the ability in disability and I always feel what better way to do this than to introduce them to Uffa and all the wonderful things he enables me to do.
The school was about an hour's drive from me so we left two hours to get there to ensure we were on time to prepare with microphones etc . Well, the M4 was closed and the traffic jams were hideous, (in fact I think I could have got there quicker on horse back,) so Uffa and I fell out of the car, in a flurry, only to have a microphone stuck down my top before being led hurtling into a room, breathless and slightly jumbled in my thoughts, only to discover, unbeknown to me, that it was a room filled with 300 patiently waiting children. It was only when the teacher let go of my arm and left me standing in the silence that I worked out from the slight shuffling of chairs that I was centre stage in front of what must have been a sea of inquiring little faces. I didn't have chance to compose myself or pop to the loo as the cameras were rolling so tail a-wagging and hands a-waving Uffa and I launched into a lovely half an hour of enchanting questions and, hopefully , eye opening anecdotes.
The interview that afternoon was similarly chaotic as, in my wisdom, I had suggested we film at my friend's house which was up the road from the school. Her house is deliciously disorganised and filled with all sorts of creatures from dwarf goats to Indian runner ducks not to mention the horses, dogs and chickens. The film crew decided to film outside, positioning Uffa and I on a pretty stone staircase. So seated on a plastic bag, as the step was rather soggy, we began the interview only to find out, three questions in, that the stairs we had chosen were in fact a thoroughfare for an assortment of creatures including a speeding whippet. There was also an eclectic variety of sounds that kept leaking through the microphone most of which were unidentifiable animal noises that I only hope will not be boomed out on Awards Night and thought to be my indigestion...
Fingers and Paws crossed that it'll be alright on the night.,