Friday, September 25, 2009

The original 'SrAlan'

A favourite quote from my success literature-reading days is "if someone gives you a million dollars, best you become a millionaire so you get to keep the money". It goes to the core of the nature of wealth, being about the mindset rather than the actual dollars and cents. I imagine it's much the same with celebrity and fame. Whether it happens overnight, or over the long-term - you need to have the right mental attitude to handle it when it arrives. This quote came to mind last week as I was reading Alan Titchmarsh's memoir "Knave of Spades" in the run up to our wonderful book event last Friday with the man himself. As I've already fessed up to the fact that I'm a fan, I think we'll take it as read that he was a wonderful guest, and I felt very privileged to be able to welcome him to Abingdon on the night. Courteous, genuine, with a rare sort of humility - Alan is someone who handles fame very well indeed. In an era of 'instant fame' it is interesting to discover just how long Alan's apprenticeship was, not just in terms of becoming a world-renowned gardener, but also in achieving the fame and regard large swathes of this country hold him in. He left school at 15, with one O-level in Art, and started at the very bottom: apprentice gardener for the Ilkley Urban District Council. The quintessential elements of success were all there at the start though: a combination of 'doing what you love', hard work, a hunger to learn, and some key mentors who helped guide him on a trajectory that was to take him to college, then Kew Gardens and eventually on to the BBC. We had a lot of fun on the evening. After an hour regaling us with stories and anecdotes, we then ushered him out to the signing table to meet and sign books. Cue lots of banter, the odd saucy comment - and a few well-meant harangues to 'get back on the telly doing gardening programmes'... As usual, Gaskella has done a much better (and more timely) job of reporting on the event itself - but one of the undoubted highlights of the evening was when ur-fan Edna presented Alan with two 2-foot high knitted dolls to coincide with his 60th birthday. We'd been a bit worried when she'd called the shop a few days before, warning us that she would be presenting them to him on the night. Her use of the phrase "and one of them is fully clothed" did cause some alarm bells to ring. But she was a delight:
Thanks to St Helen & St Katharine for making their wonderful Yolande Patterson Hall available to us at short notice, for the Mostly Booklovers who turned out to help 'marshal' the event, to everyone who turned up to make it a special evening - and of course to Alan himself for coming down to Abingdon after a gruelling week on the road.
(P.S. About the title. I know he's an MBE, but it's surely just a matter of time...)

1 comment:

  1. Good Pictures. I think you should have your own award. The MBL (mostly Book Lovers) award for all the celebrities who pass through your door. Sir Alan would then be MBE *MBL.

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