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June 3, 2011 10:12 pm

My life as a celebrity

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After millions of viewers followed her short television presenting career on Channel 4, she puts to the test how far her stardom will take her

My television presenting career has just come to an end, when the final episode of the eight-part series I co-hosted aired on Channel 4 last month. Millions of people (two million viewers a week, I’m told – surely they can’t all be the same ones?) now know that I need to give up eating chocolate. Has it changed my life? Am I now a celebrity?

I put this to the test when I went to the opening night of the fairly racy ballet Cleopatra, a Northern Ballet production that has arrived at Sadler’s Wells. There was a red carpet and dozens of paparazzi. I was escorted by Cost Centre #1, as even the thought of asking his father to attend the ballet was stressful. Just as I was about to sail down the red carpet on the arm of my son, I was blinded by the flash of a hundred cameras photographing the actress Natalie Dormer who had got there first. The helpful lady on duty showed CC#1 and me to the gap that took mere mortals like us to the other side of the rope. I knew my place.

I must have been seen as at least a sort of VIP, though, as I was one of a small group invited to attend a talk by David Nixon before the curtain went up. Nixon is the artistic director of the Northern Ballet and spoke compellingly about how and why he had staged the ballet. Unfortunately, Nixon also heard me comment on how unenthusiastic about ballet I was; I tried to make up for this by assuring him that I had attended Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella at the Oxford Playhouse the Friday before. This didn’t wash. Nixon clearly doesn’t consider Bourne’s production “real ballet”.

I was in the same row for Cleopatra as Chloë Moretz, but she had a far more desirable seat. Why? Who is Chloë Moretz anyway? Has she garnered two million viewers on a Wednesday night for Channel 4? Fortunately CC#1 was on hand to explain that she has starred in a film called Kick-Ass, which doesn’t sound like family viewing.

Mind you, Cleopatra had its moments, what with two murders, a group sex scene and the suicide-by-asp bit at the end. For the record, Martha Leebolt is a principal dancer whom I would urge everyone to see dance once in their life. And Tobias Batley, who plays Mark Anthony, would give Pippa Middleton a run for her money in any rear-of-the-year competition. And his wasn’t swathed in white silk, or indeed anything at all at one point.

My non-red carpet experience at Cleopatra made me realise that I needed to step up my game at the Chelsea Flower Show Gala Preview, an annual event where corporate Britain descends on a few tents with flowers in them for two hours one Monday evening in May. I upgraded my escort from CC#1 to Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick. This was a brilliantly successful move. Not only is he clever, interesting and very attractive but he serves on so many boards and trusts that he knows even more people than I do. Just being with him made me a celebrity by association. We must have set the record for the slowest progress through the flower tent. Lord Hastings was a CFSGP virgin, and on arrival actually started to admire the flowers. I had to explain that we were not there to admire flowers, and took him to admire some canapés instead. It was so chilly and windy that I was quite happy that we only made it back out to the displays five minutes before everyone was chucked out at 9pm.

It may be that I will only ever be a “celebrity” back in the micro-climate of South Oxfordshire. This weekend I have been asked to cut the ribbon of a new gym – actually more an extension of our local boxing club in South Moreton.

It has realised that there might be people who would appreciate other forms of exercise, and so the club has adapted the next-door building for those who prefer not to wrap up their wrists. I might not look like the ideal person to champion a fitness centre (as two million people now know), but hey! I can pretend to be a celebrity for the day.

mrsmoneypenny@ft.com

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