Dance partner Fergie's got ex-factor at royal bash
This man's life
'We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once," said Friedrich Nietzsche.
The sage words of an iconic German philosopher aside, none of us were dancing last Saturday afternoon as we found ourselves lost in deepest Co Wicklow. At 2pm, we entered the 2,000m beech hedge maze at Russborough House. And, like the eejit I am, I didn't bring the map of the maze - thinking how difficult could a maze be?
Fifteen minutes later my family and I were going around in circles.
My wife and I and the two young kids - a baby boy of eight months in his buggy and his big sister, who will be four in February - had a feed of sandwiches and cake in the fancy cafe, so we weren't immediately worried about starving to death in Blessington in the unlikely event we couldn't find our way out of the maze. After about an hour of taking turns only to come back to where we started from, my daughter took charge and said: "It's that way!"
And it was that way.
It was like a metaphor for life. A three-year-old guiding her 51-year-old father towards the exit.
My mood didn't improve dramatically on the drive back into the city when my wife told me that Manchester United were two down to Newcastle with the game only 10 minutes old.
My daughter was decidedly unsurprised as she said Jose was a grumpy man and, anyway, wanted the phone switched from the woe-is-me Portuguese curmudgeon to the slightly more upbeat Peppa Pig.
The following day we stayed off the internet all day. This had its drawbacks.
We were in a restaurant in Ballsbridge having tea when we got chatting to a couple opposite. We told them we were going to the Kylie Minogue concert that evening. (My daughter had been to Taylor Swift during the summer, so we thought we'd try her on Kylie, if only for half an hour, as guests of promoter extraordinaire Peter Aiken.)
The couple next to us relayed the sad news that the petite Australian poppet's concert was off. Upon being told that she would not be bopping to Kylie later, my daughter put on a grumpy face worthy of Jose Mourinho. But the day was saved and she soon forgot Kylie when the waiter in the restaurant produced a scoop of pink ice cream as a consolation treat.
Dancing with the royals? Yes, in 2007, I danced with the Duchess of York at a summer party in Elton John's stately pile set on 37 acres of rolling countryside by Windsor Castle.
I still think I have the bruise on my toe from Fergie treading on it (as the aforesaid Kylie, Kate Moss, Rod Stewart and wife Penny joined us on the dance-floor to the sound of the Pet Shop Boys, who were also physically present at Elton's charity do).
Eleven years later, walking into St George's Chapel in Windsor last Friday morning to attend the wedding of her daughter Princess Eugenie, Sarah Ferguson looked like an air hostess from the 1970s in that ridic hat. That be as it may, the big jolly redhead looked like the jolliest person in the church, too. There is an apocryphal story that Prince Charles once thundered at Diana: "Why can't you be more like Fergie?"
You have to admire Sarah Ferguson. While not exactly a saint, she has put up with much from the House of Windsor with a certain grace. The Queen's private secretary Lord Charteris once described her thus: "Vulgar! Vulgar! Vulgar!"
Sitting not that far from her at the wedding, the Duke of Edinburgh once thundered to the Queen that the Duchess of York "does nothing" and "is pointless". He was said to march out of the room when she appeared on the television.
Then there was, in April 2011, her very public non-invitation to the wedding of William and Kate at Westminster Abbey. Fergie said she never expected to be invited anyway. What made the public humiliation that bit more humiliating was that her two daughters, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, were among the 1,900 invited guests. Anyway, it was good to see my former dance partner back, however briefly, in the good books of her majesty.
My own majesty - my mother - is eight years dead today. I will visit her grave this morning. I will never forget her brief speech at my father's funeral. She said, "Goodbye Pete. I love you and I hope to see you soon."
Maureen then stopped and smiled. "But not too soon, Pete."
This mischievous side of my mother's was also manifest one afternoon in 2008 or 2009. I had interviewed Louis Walsh in town. I asked him did he want to come up to the family home in Churchtown to meet my mother Maureen who was, I said, not exaggerating, a huge fan of The X Factor.
When The X Factor judge arrived in the kitchen, my mother barely blinked. Indeed, when Louis asked would she like to come over to London to watch The X Factor in the studio, she mortified me by saying she'd rather watch it in her own front room. That didn't stop my sisters taking Louis up on his kind invitation many times over the years.