After complaining last week that I wouldn’t get the opportunity to put my feet up until September, a friend invited me to London for the weekend and I couldn’t resist.
Every time I’ve visited London in the past it has been business related and I never usually take a trip to the capital just for pleasure.
I took the train from Leeds with National Express but the journey didn’t start well due to problems on the line after cabling had been stolen. I’d arrived uncharacteristically early for my train (if you know me , you’ll realise what a shock that is as I’m always fashionably late!) but that didn’t bother me too much as I thought I’d take my seat and enjoy a nice meal to pass the time.
My hopes were dashed again though when an announcement was made that unfortunately there were no staff on board. Had I only paid for a cheap ticket it wouldn’t have mattered so much but since I was travelling first class I did expect at least a cup of tea and a biscuit to keep me quiet on the journey.
So you probably feel a letter of complaint coming along here but I have to say that I have written in to National Express customer services, but to heap praise on the service I received.
Vicky from their Accounts department happened to be travelling on that train, along with Marianne who is a guard and realising the problem they made themselves known and went off to arrange sandwiches and drinks for us all.
I got chatting to them on the way down and it made me feel really good to know that despite all the negative publicity train companies receive, there are people in those organisations who do care about their passengers, and not only were they happy to admit they were employees when they could have hidden behind their newspapers, but they used their initiative to turn the experience into a positive one for us all.
You would definitely not have got that with the old British Rail.
So by the time I arrived in London and met up with my friend everything in the world was wonderful.
I’d always wanted to eat at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants so had booked a table for lunch at Maze which overlooks Grovesnor Square Gardens in Mayfair.
It’s very contemporary in design, and the menu is asian influenced. My freebie sandwich on the train had been a few hours earlier so by now I was keen to tuck into something more substantial.
I chose slow roasted quail for starters as it’s not something Michael and I would normally cook at home, then the waitress brought round a slab displaying 6 cuts of steak, for us to choose from.
My friend chose a piece of fillet priced at £28 but I was intrigued by a marble effect steak which we were told was fed on mice and deer.
I’d never heard of anything like it and almost fell off my David Rockwell designed chair, when I saw the price at £110. I just had to try it as it sounded really special.
When the steak arrived, I asked the waitress why mice and deer are so beneficial to a cow but she looked at me bemused. I’d misheard her accent and she was saying ‘rice and beer.’ How daft did I feel!
It was served with roasted garlic, and was very nice but perhaps would have tasted better and deserved it’s price tag if had it been fed on mice and deer. I actually preferred the delicious £28 fillet that my friend ordered.
When the bill arrived I felt like uttering Gordon’s trade mark f word - £220 for lunch without drinks. He wasn’t even at Maze that day to hear my feedback, and there was a distinct lack of other celebrities too, but nevertheless it was a memorable experience.
My London visit was rounded off by a trip to the theatre. I’m a huge fan of the west end so I took the opportunity to see The Lion King, a show I’ve never seen before even though it’s been running for years.
Being a softie I cried at the film so I had my hankie at the ready this time. The costumes are amazing and I love the music, much of which is written by Elton John and Tim Rice.
Hakuna Matata, what a wonderful day.
15 Years of Mr Gay UK
This Friday, the 22nd sees the grand final of Mr Gay UK, and I can hardly believe it’s our 15th anniversary of the contest.
I’m delighted that the event will kick off the Manchester Pride weekend, and 25 contestants from around the UK who battled through their heats will strut their stuff on stage to impress the judges.
The Ritz on Whitworth Street, Manchester is the venue for what will be a fantastic evening, and I’m really excited that Jane McDonald will be our host for the evening.
She will be joined by a celebrity judging panel which includes lovebirds Luke Marsden and Rebecca Shiner from this year’s Big Brother TV show.
The outspoken pair have just returned from their ‘wedding’ in Las Vegas, but unlike Peaches Geldof theirs was only a trial. I just hope we can prise them apart for long enough to concentrate on our contestants.
80’s new romantic and Visage front man Steve Strange is also on the panel, together with Aled Jones from Chris Moyles’ Radio 1 show, Lucio from Hits channel chart 40 uk show and hunky Scott Wright formerly of Corrie. Two stars from Hollyoaks complete the line up.
Previous hosts and judges have included Sir Ian McKellen, Graham Norton, Lily Savage, Jason Donovan, Jean Paul Gaultier and dozens more so it’s always popular with the stars.
Thousands of people will be flooding into Manchester for the whole Pride weekend so Mr Gay UK is a great event to kick start the fun.
The finalists are really getting nervous though and trying to come up with the most dazzling fantasy outfit to make them stand out on stage. My phone is ringing non-stop with questions from the guys, desperate to be their best on the night.
As well as the coveted title, the winner takes home thousands of pounds in prizes including cash, a holiday, a photo shoot in Morocco and they will also be the face of Bent magazine and an exclusive aftershave.
Since Huddersfield Policeman Mark Carter was crowned Mr Gay UK in 2006, we’ve seen a huge revival in popularity for the competition. Mark was a great ambassador, going on to take second place in Mr Gay Europe.
Last year’s winner Daniel Broughton from Blackpool has had a great year too. It’s going to be a battle just wrenching the trophy out of his hands but I can’t wait to see who will walk away with it on Friday.
The first 10 people to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with the correct answer to the following question will win a free pair of tickets.
Which loose woman is hosting this year’s Mr Gay UK Final?
If you aren’t a lucky winner you can still buy tickets on the door from 10pm onwards.