Urban Parsley & A Falling Star

Much as I hate going to most supermarkets, I’ll admit to liking Waitrose. On the handful of occasions I’ve been there, I enjoyed the clean shiny floors, the high quality of the fresh fruit, chuckling at the “Essential” selection (because who can live without perfumed ironing water and brioche?), taking home a box of yuzu-flavoured coconut water ice lollies (seriously, you HAVE to try them)… it’s exactly the kind of gently rarefied establishment at which you might expect someone like Joanna Lumley to shop, right? Well, in a showbiz exclusive of absolute Heat proportions, I can confirm that indeed she does shop there. During our last visit to our local branch, my partner and I did a double take as we noticed Ms Lumley, with jewel-coloured lipstick and not a hair out of place, gliding through the frozen section. We spent a good five minutes furtively following her at a distance. Creepy behaviour? Possibly… OK, definitely… but what else do you do in the presence of a national treasure and the woman who brought Patsy Stone into the world? The only alternative would be to doff one’s cap and bow and scrape and say “ma’am” a lot. And I wasn’t wearing a cap. In any case, she didn’t (or seemed not to) notice us.

I’ve developed a bit of a reputation among friends and family as a star-spotter. Among others, I’ve happened upon Ellie Goulding, Renee Zellweger, and Bill Nighy. Nighy was one of my favourites. He noticed me recognising him as he walked by, and as if in reply he gave me a nod and an effortlessly cool look, doubtless practised already a thousand times, that said “Yes, that’s right. I’m Bill Nighy. But let’s stay cool about that fact and keep it to ourselves, shall we?”. Lumley, too, was up there among my favourite stars that I happened to have spotted. I just thought, She seems so fantastic. Posh yet down-to-Earth and willing to take the piss out of herself. Always gracious and elegant. A terrific sense of humour. The woman who gave us the grotesque and glamorous Patsy. On a personal level, I felt a bit of an affinity with her because I knew she was a lover of cats and giraffes, and completely hopeless at maths (this is true. Like my mother, she was told not to even bother sitting a Maths O-level. This was back in the days when presumably it was OK for teachers to slap a child on the back and say “Well, never mind about maths, Jenkins; no one was really expecting you to amount to anything anyway”). Then there was her work on behalf of the ghurkas, and her passion for conservation and environment. So yes. I thought Lumley was – how can I resist it? – absolutely fabulous.

Since then, however, things have changed. Lumley is no longer a figure of particular admiration for me. I am now one of many, in fact, who are fighting her tooth and nail over the future of the city we share, and I am left wondering: How did it all come to this? Read More