Thanks so much for all your birthday messages on last week’s blog, on Facebook and on Instagram, and also to those of you who sent in cards to QVC – all much appreciated. For the past few years we have celebrated my birthday in Javea, Spain, but we had our holiday earlier this year, so when the family asked me what I would like to do, I decided on a day out in Brighton, weather permitting. The weather was bright and sunny and it turned out to be a great choice.
My day started with cards, flowers and presents (including a CD of the original Motown album I had owned back in the 1960s as a memento of the theatre trip to see Motown The Musical) and then we headed to the south coast with the aforementioned CD blasting from the CD player in the car! The scary thing is, I could remember all of the words – shows how many times I must have played it back in the day.
We used to go to Brighton a lot for day trips when the children were young and we lived near Croydon and, although it has changed a lot (haven’t we all in the past twenty-five years), it is still a fun day out. We all met up around 11.30, Sophie and her boyfriend’s family, my friend, Nat, and the three of us and immediately went on to the pier for hot doughnuts and churros – this was not going to be a day of healthy eating!
Next stop, Crazy Golf, where we divided into two teams; Amber, Sophie, Dan and me on one team and Taylor, Reece, Chris and Nat on the other. The first ‘hole in one’ went to the birthday girl, and our team won but I can’t take credit for it, as I think I scored 8 on one of the holes. While we were playing, people were whizzing by overhead on the zipwire and I foolishly commented that I had always wanted to do it. Rooky error! Next thing I knew, I was being buckled into a safety harness and a singularly unattractive blue helmet!
It was quite a climb up for my sixty-two year old legs but I must confess that when I got up there I was nowhere near as nervous as I thought I would be. I really enjoyed racing through the air admiring the view despite all the screaming you can hear on the video. I would highly recommend it and that’s another life experience ticked off my first-time list.
Following a seriously unhealthy lunch of Peroni and chips, we went back to the pier to bump around on the dodgems and play arcade games. The monkey I am holding in the group picture was won for me on Tin Can Alley by Amber after Sophie had won her the tiger toy she wanted. We finished our day in Brighton with an ice cream before heading back to our house for yet more calories. Chris had told me not to bother making myself the traditional chocolate birthday cake and as I was tight for time I didn’t argue, assuming they would have bought one instead. I was wrong – Sophie had decided to make one for me and very tasty it was too, although I’m not sure about the candles.
It was a lovely day spent with family and friends, and speaking of family, this picture arrived a few days late but was well worth the wait. Once our ‘family room’ extension is built, it will have pride of place on the wall. Don’t mention the building work – there is still nothing to show above ground level although that is set to change this week when the ‘steels’ arrive.
I’m not the only one celebrating this week. It was the QVC 10 and 15 years of service dinner last night which was attended by Catherine Huntley, who officially started with us in September 2003. I was very honoured to be asked to be involved with the selection process for the newest member of our Presenter team. There was a shortlist of six or seven candidates and we spent several hours with them discovering why they wanted to present on QVC and what they thought they would bring to the channel. One of the other candidates was Sarah Chapman before she launched her own beauty range. After Catherine had been selected, I spent some time with her making her feel welcome and showing her the ropes – it’s hard to believe that was fifteen years ago.
September 2003 was also an exciting and busy time for me. I had travelled to Vicenza in Italy for the jewellery fair with Kathy Taylor and Anne Dawson, and had only been home for ten days before flying out to Hong Kong with Alison Keenan and our jewellery buyers on a buying trip to get a better idea of how they select pieces for QVC. The trip didn’t start too well as British Airways had overbooked the flight and we almost didn’t travel. We were downgraded from business class to economy and initially weren’t going to be sitting together for the long flight until a Chinese gentleman kindly offered to change seats so that we could. Our seats were on the row backing on to the toilets and didn’t recline so, as you can imagine, we arrived tired and jet-lagged, having booked dinner that evening with Ros Kwan, whose range of jade and pearl jewellery was hugely popular at the time.
I have to hand it to our buying team, they have tremendous stamina. There were back to back meetings with suppliers in Hong Kong where endless rolls of jewellery were laid out for them to select pieces from and ask for minor alterations. Then, there were the trips in to China to the factories that produce a lot of our jewellery. It was fascinating to see the different types of factories from the very traditional to the ultra modern, but they all had a couple of things in common. They were very proud of the way the workforce was looked after and they were all dedicated to producing the best end product.
In amongst all the hard work were lots of lunches and dinners (at times tricky for me as a vegetarian) and a wonderful evening out at Happy Valley racecourse which brought back memories of a previous time in Hong Kong when I had stayed for three months working in a cabaret show as a singer and dancer in 1979. As did the trip to Stanley Market and Repulse Bay on a rare afternoon off.
It was a wonderful insight into how hard our buyers work and what a great job they do, and also an opportunity to get to know Ali Keenan better, because until that trip, our paths hadn’t really crossed much. The funny thing is, it was meant to be Charlie Brooke, but he had been ill earlier in the year and it was around the time of the Bird Flu scare, so he pulled out at the last minute. Even our flight back was an experience. Apparently harsh emails had been flying about while we were away which saw us upgraded to First Class – the only time I’ve ever flown it on a long haul trip!
I’m afraid I haven’t time to put a recipe on here this week or I will be very late for my Marla Wynne and Tova shows this afternoon, but I’ll do one next week, I promise.
Happy Father’s Day on Sunday to all the Dads out there,
P.S. As someone so keen on football, how could I forget to say good luck to my friend Gareth Southgate and his England squad in the World Cup – I have a feeling they will make the finals… I hope so at least xx