Tea with Sandra Bullock

Today I am at the Young Women’s Group at the Maggie Centre. In enabling my membership they have clearly stretched the point regarding age. We spend a comfortable hour talking about some of the aspects of how cancer has impacted on us individually. Although we are all very different people, we recognise themes and threads from each others’ experiences and the talk is not maudlin or depressing. It’s a space we can talk openly about how we feel and our interlinking experiences form us into a definite group. Our membership ebbs and flows as life pulls members back into work or further treatment and as new young women find us. It’s a good space to have. Our conversation is so intense and centred around cancer that I forget to tell everyone about my recent encounter with Sandra Bullock. It’s either that or my memory is worse than I thought.

On Saturday afternoon I have tea with my friend Emma. It’s a birthday treat and she invites me to a lovely hotel overlooking the Thames at Richmond. The weather is wet in an American horror movie kind of way – the sort of weather you see in films when you know there are people holding huge, cascading hosepipes to replicate a downpour. This one is real and, despite offering her a lift, Emma decides to walk from her home to the hotel. We drive and park right next to the hotel entrance. In the 5 steps it takes me to get from the car into the lobby, I am soaked. Emma, already waiting in the lobby is beyond wet and sheltering with a group of open-mouthed tourists who cannot believe this British summer. You wait until Wimbledon, I think.

We squelch our way through to the restaurant where we are given a table with a lovely view over The Thames where even the river traffic has stopped because of the deluge. Our attention is soon drawn by the 2 glasses of champagne which are put in front of us, followed shortly by tea and a stand with elegant sandwiches, scones and an assortment of tiny cakes. We are very democratic and eat one of every time of sandwich each. But we are terrific gluttons and Emma thinks we need another round of sandwiches each which duly appear. Beyond a low partition in the restaurant a loud party of women are having tea in what we think is an unreasonably exciteable way. We scrutinise the back of their heads and think ‘hen party’ but we’re proved wrong when they burst into a very loud rendition of Happy Birthday. The party at the next table join in gamely. Eventually they get themselves together and stagger off, women of a certain age on a good afternoon out. A short while later, the second round of sandwiches and a scone each into our tea, the Maitre D’ asks if we would mind moving to the bar area as the restaurant is being set up for dinner. We are quite happy with this and are duly moved.

By this time, the rain has cleared and the sun has come out. It is now blazing into my eyes, making all conversation impossible so I move to a chair with my back to the window and facing the party who joined in the singing earlier. There are about 6 people and a small boy all enjoying tea and chatting quietly. That’s Sandra Bullock, I say to Emma. ‘No, I don’t think so’, she says. It is, I insist, trying not to look whilst looking hard. We eavesdrop a little on their conversation, hearing that they plan to eat dinner within the next couple of hours after a short walk and where they are going for dinner the following evening. Sandra and her son head off for their walk while the rest of the party go elsewhere. As soon as they are gone, a woman who is having a drink at a table next to us says ‘Wasn’t that Sandra Bullock?’ The waiter reappears and confirms it is, indeed, Sandra Bullock and that she is very nice. Emma comments her skin is very good and we agree she looks good in the flesh. The waiter then proceeds to have a cab driver kind of conversation. ‘We’ve had them all in here’. You know how it goes. He mentions an actress who was in the restaurant recently hiding away because she is pregnant and doesn’t want anyone to know yet. Hmmm. We leave feeling full and happy. The rain has stopped and we walk back into Richmond so I can catch a bus home. We critique people who walk past the bus stop. Famous or wannabe? There are quite a lot of wannabes and several women wearing shoes we wouldn’t be seen dead in. It’s an entertaining end to a good afternoon.

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