When you’ve followed someone’s career – and to be frank, their every move – for 20 years and suddenly you’re told you’re going to meet them. In the flesh. In person. Face to face. You might find yourself on the floor.
That was me and this was Gary Barlow.
I am without a doubt, one of his earliest, most faithful followers. Through the chubbier stage, the blond stage, the chiselled ‘How Deep is Your Love’ stage, the ‘I’m going it alone’ stage, the rejected stage, the ‘Heartbeat’ stage and now the comeback king / knighthood stage.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happily married woman. But Gary and me, we’re part of the package that my husband accepted many years ago.
Knowing I’d recently been on an emotional rollercoaster, Emma, a very good journalist friend of mine, asked if I’d like to accompany her to interview Gary at a press conference for the launch of ‘The Girls’ musical he has written based on the infamous Calendar Girls story.
In and amongst screams, hyperventilating and peeling myself down from the ceiling, I said yes. I’m meeting Gary Barlow. After 20 years. I’m meeting Gary Barlow.
I’ve worked in PR for 23 years, so have organised the odd press conference or two. To be on the other side, accompanying a journalist and taking photos to ‘support her news gathering role’ should have been a real novelty.
But I couldn’t appreciate anything other than the fact that Gary Barlow was standing less than six feet away from me. I lost feeling in my legs, my arms turned to jelly and I felt a hot flush climbing up my neck and cheeks.
After almost an hour, it was Emma’s time to step up and put her questions to Gary. What to do with myself? Do I stay pinned to her side looking like the crazy friend who came along for the ride (true) or step back, let the professionals do their thing and look all relaxed in this electrically charged situation?
Throwing myself into the role of photographer I snapped away, capturing the shot of Gary Barlow which I could have on my wall for ever. But four minutes in, I could feel that common decency meant I should stop clicking and just stand.
As Emma closed the conversation, I saw my chance. Heart racing, hands shaking, I threw my camera at an unsuspecting chap as I asked – while already moving in – if I could possibly be on just one photo with Gary.
“Of course you can – come on in!” he enthused as he pulled me into his side where I snugly moulded myself into his expensive jumper for the photo I never, ever thought I’d see after the moment I never, ever thought I’d experience.
My lasting memory is that Gary Barlow is every bit the generous gent you see on the small screen. Interviewed by TV crews, radio DJs and journalists for an unrelenting hour, Gary Barlow had time for everyone. Even me.
The next time I see him, he’ll be on tour with Take That and I’ll be battling with thousands of other screaming girls, women, mums and daughters, aunties, cousins…. But not one of them will be wearing a t-shirt showing their beaming face as they hug Gary Barlow, emblazoned with the immortal words:
‘Gary – I’ll NEVER FORGET!’.