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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Brighton CollegeBlimey, I've just met Paxman and Dimbleby. And it's not even lunchtime yet. Honestly, I spend a week loitering around the Lib Dem conference without so much as a sniff of Andrew Neil, only to hit the double whammy of A-list political heavyweights within 100 yards of my flat on a Saturday morning. You couldn't make it up. Despite what the lack of photographic evidence may suggest.

But anyhoo, Lisa and I have spent the morning mingling with the cream of the British establishment by attending an open morning at Brighton College, the grand public school across the road from my one-bedroom hovel. They've had a sign up for the past two weeks saying 'Open Morning - All Welcome', so I naturally felt that included me, and persuaded Lisa to tag along to see what she'd missed out on at the local comprehensive. Of course, having queued at the entrance for two minutes, it soon became apparent that by "all", they meant rich people with a nanny, and weren't quite expecting unmarried couples with nothing but a lottery ticket and a lot of optimism. But having blagged our way past the front desk (Lisa inventing a child called Everard), and proudly attached our name badges, we were given our very own VIth former called Ryan, and embarked on the grand tour.

The tour itself featured a demonstration of a Van de Graaff generator, a student playing the saxophone, a look at their fully-featured dance studio, and a cage full of rats. We were also taken down a corridor lined with signed shirts of former pupils who have gone on to represent England at rugby and cricket. Naturally I hadn't heard of any of them.

After a chat with the head of P.E., who's installed Sky Sports in the classroom, we headed for the Grand Hall where we listened to the headmaster, Richard Cairns, recount some lame anecdotes about his time as an R.E. teacher, talk about compulsory Mandarin, and tell us how proud he is of the school's record on dyslexia. He was followed by the heads of each department, including the head of drama, who insisted he wasn't a loose cannon, whilst sharing the stage with four pupils wearing masks, holding bananas and speaking Italian. The show culminated with a film featuring the Sussex cricket captain who's just joined the teaching staff (presumably not the science department, but who knows), and a dance by four VIth formers dressed as mud.

After that we were supposed to meet Ryan again for the second half of the tour, but having loitered in the foyer with the free orange juice for a while, we somehow failed to spot him. But it mattered not, because as I stood there wondering about helping myself to a sticky bun, who should I spot following us out of the hall but David Dimbleby! I pointed him out to Lisa, who looked around aimlessly for a good minute saying "Where..?", before finally admitting she doesn't know who David Dimbleby is.

She does, however, know who Jeremy Paxman is. And as I stood six feet from the Dimbleby, wondering how embarrassed I'd feel if I tried to take a flash photo at close range, Paxman himself came strolling out of the hall, said a few words to his BBC colleague, then walked right up to me. And may I say, he's a lot more craggy than he looks on the telly. I was tempted to shake his hand, then remembered that we were already there under false pretences, and if I opened my mouth and revealed how common I was, we were likely to be thrown out. So I merely looked as though I was used to sharing floor space with celebrities, and let him pass.

I also managed to get up close and personal with Holly Colvin, the youngest person ever to play test cricket for England, who Lisa already hates for being good at everything. After that, there was just time for the headmaster to say hello to me, for me to thank him for his time, and for Lisa to say "Who was that?". At which point we made a quick getaway through the main gate. I expect Ryan's still looking for us as we speak.


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