If I could give you one tip for the future this would be it: when Cardiff Central Travelodge say that they have power showers, they really mean that they have power showers. Showers so powerful that they are capable of creating something that can challenge for the biggest lake in Wales in less than five minutes. I'm not sure whether this is exactly a selling point - or indeed whether it is a good thing to have a shower which is capable of removing your head from your neck with the force exerted - but regardless of this it left me stood in about four inches of water and my trousers over the towel rail for the next 12 hours. As if this wasn't cause enough for celebration, the moment that I'd finished mopping up Great Lake Power Shower I promptly forgot that it's never a good idea to squeeze bottles of cream when they're upside down and I'd covered the floor in a very attractive burst of the Body Shop's winter sparkle. Just to finish the parade of my general inept-ness, I managed to get over-enthusiastic with my 'James' stamp that Nik had bought for my birthday and cover myself and various travelodge surfaces with blue ink. I think the packaging said something about adult supervision - maybe I should have taken the advice.
I managed to get all the way to the other side of the road to the travelodge before discovering that my yellow shoes were hurting me. Aside from my prancing around in my room in these shoes, this is only the second time that I've worn them out. The reasons for this are two fold. One - they're yellow and there is a limit to the amount of yellow a girl who is somewhere near translucent on the sliding scale of whiteness can wear. The second reason - they hurt. I wore them to see Griffin at the Bedford last summer and ended up walking down the street - with an accidentally stolen glass in my hand - without any shoes because my feet were refusing to continue wearing them. It being some time since this last incident I'd forgotten about the extent of the hurting aspect of these shoes and it came as something of a minor shock when my feet started protesting ten seconds into the two minute walk to the hotel where Fox's performance was taking place. Thus I discarded my shoes at the first possible moment, only to have to recover them when I discovered I had a piece of glass stuck to the bottom of my foot*.
When we reached Jury's the location of the function room became apparent largely due to the presence of its doorman in a flat cap. And given that this doorman happened to be Fox, I took it as something of a suggestion that we might be in the right place. As we'd arrived fashionably late, the room was already packed and it took something of a daring move to propell us through the crowds and to the bar. There it became apparent that i)you're not meant to get drunk at hotel prices and ii)getting served is something of a challenge. This whole episode was made somewhat more bearable by the fact that Fox was reasonably near to us - cue my demonstrating just how close I could get to his back without him calling security - and, to not put too fine a point on it, he doesn't exactly maake for an unattractive view. And was looking rather swish in black jacket, shirt, tie and hat. Where clothing's concerned, I'm shallow.
Cat, Val and myself having finally been served and moved where it was no longer possible for me to attempt to stick my handbag into Fox's back it wasn't long before Fox spotted us and, with admirable skill, extricated himself to come and talk to us. And I loved him all over again for doing this. I've come to think that all the numerous fans I've met in the past 18 months all strive for one thing - a tiny bit of recognition. And from Fox this also amounts to the fact that he knows enough not to consider us as being Griffin fans clinging on to him for contact via the back door. So recognition on two levels and a really nice outfit. I don't think a better start was possible. Though clearly Fox was racking up those all important brownie points at an incredible rate, helped greatly by his commending us on our choice of outfits. He was also suitably impressed and interested in my 'Little Fox' tableau present. Even if he was a little worried about the possibility of one existing where him and Griffin shared a bedroom.
The only thing going against Fox is his timing. Thus we were in the midst of talking to him and ignored entirely the fact that we were allowed to go and sit down for the meal. Indeed we ignored it to such an extent that when we went into the room everyone else had arranged themselves and given that there was six of us there was no where left that we could sit as a group. Cue my moaning about the fact that I'd been given the impression that we were in a wedding type situation and that someone somewhere would have spent several days creating seating plans. I also managed not to be hugely impressed that Cat, Val and I ended up on the table that got to go and get their food last. I believe that I may even have uttered 'Don't they know - future famous person sitting here!'. Thankfully Fox chose this moment to re-enter the room and given that the room wouldn't have been able to fit both him and my head in, I resisted all such future urges to pander to my ego.
When we'd all finally eaten - and managed to have an impromptu dance to Busted and McFly** - it was time for Fox's set and Q&A session. Both were funny, occasionally wistful and rather magical. Head stuffed with Billy Joel songs for Movin' Out, we were treated to what I labelled 'The Reduced Billy Joel Company' and we became even more convinced that New York may be calling. I also became somewhat awed by Fox's piano skills. When I was growing up, in the days when my musical skills extended beyond Griffin medleys on the recorder and my weeks were marked by Orchestra, music groups and clarinet lessons, I always wanted to learn to play the piano. It's still on my to-do list, though I suspect that I might have a bash at the guitar next. I've got huge respect for just how talented a pianist Fox is. If that weren't enough he finished with a combo of 'Jessie' and 'Hold On To Our Love', both intensely moving for how the point back to the-tortuous-reality-television-show and Eurovision respectively. It's odd just how much songs can mark a particular time, how they instantly conjure numerous memories, how they can touch something that you can't quite grasp and articulate something that even with thousands of words I never quite could.
But, as ever, the evening wasn't all about the music. After Oxford I'd been entirely smitten with Fox - but in an entirely asexual way. My reasoning was a notion that Fox had let me twist him rather too much, that he'd let me have my own way. I consider one of my defining moments with Griffin to be when he tried to outwit me on Shakespeare and we then ended up shouting at each other over whether I knew the meaning fo the word 'laconic'. ***I've since discovered that whilst I may have won the first battle with Fox I look like being defeated in the war. Fox gave me just enough rope to hang myself and now is triumphing in the most unlikely of places. And, being odd like that, I'm now entirely smitten with no reservations. So, in the midst of a speil on the 'unknown chord' in 'Bring It On', there was another reference directed at me about the second verse. Cue our corner finding this hilarious and everyone else not having a clue what we were laughing at. And it felt wonderfully special, as any in-joke always does.
When Fox had finished and a queue had developed to get items signed and pictures taken it fell to us to amuse ourselves untila suitable moment to speak to him. Thus we once again discovered that it's incredibly difficult to sing at a reasonable volume and still remain in tune. It did give Gayle and myself the opportunity to perform our much lauded**** version of 'Semi Charmed Life'. Whetehr anyone who wasn't tone deaf enjoyed it is debateable.
As it was getting progressively later and the queue for Fox was dwindling but never seeming to finish we decided to go and join it. Fox had said that he'd come and speak to us when he'd finshed but it kind of felt like we'd be putting an extra demand on his time if we did that and so joined the queue. When we got to Fox - after Julie had once again employed her incredible power to make him show his hair ["the lesson - don't shave your head"] - it was my turn for more ribbing before the question as to why Nik had 'James' stamped on her forehead arose. Cue the explanation of the origins of my stamp and Fox retorting "I've got one that says Corinne - we'll have to swap!". How much I loved him at that moment. After demonstrating with Nik - whilst Mummy Fox looked on - that he doesn't really sign breasts that often [maybe Griffin needs to give him 'the talk'] there followed a protracted discussion on the chickens that we'd bought him for Christmas. Obviously we hadn't just sent a chicken to his house but had bought them for a family in Africa in his and Griffin's names. But, even given this explanation, I can kind of see why Fox was struggling with the whole concept - especially since Griffin had clearly neglected to pass on the chicken story. Once we'd finally negotiated the minefield that is this present, with Fox deciding that he was probably entitled to go and claim the chickens should he so desire, it was time for another photshoot. And then there were the mandatory hugs and good lucks. It felt rather sad to leave him given what lies in front of him.
As if all that excitement weren't enough at 4.30 that morning I ended up in the travelodge reception, in my pjs and bare feet, complaining about the fact that the bed and Nik and my room only had two legs and had therefore collapsed. I'm starting to think that Cardiff was trying to tell me something.
*And I thought that I'd gotten past this when we stopped going to Jumpin' Jaks nightclubs.
**Though we weren't given the greatest hits in either case.
***Were I to psychoanalyse myself and this attitude here I could probably give the reasoning, but I'll save that story when I get the urge to blog about significant people of my past. But, needless to say, I'm only just starting to realise just how much I've been shaped by events when I was in my final years at school.
***By 'much lauded' I mean two possible slightly drunken men in a bar at the NIA at Birmingham told us we should have gone on the X-Factor.