Take That And That And That

It’s funny how the world turns.

If it hadn’t been for the unvitation, I would have been in France yesterday, and not in a hotel room with Take That.

What happened was this – I’d been invited by a PR to check out their new range of designer children’s clothes, which they were previewing at the Savoy Hotel in London. And with some unexpected time on my hands, off I trotted.

So at lunchtime yesterday I was in the PR’s room at the Savoy making polite noises about all the pruck on display. And then the door opens, in comes a tall, well-dressed man who holds out his hand and says “Hello, I’m Howard”. And as I was shaking his hand, I noticed that Howard had some friends with him – Gary and Mark. At this point my jaw hit the floor, as I wondered which rabbit hole I’d fallen down to end up wedged into a small room with three fifths of Take That.

It turned out that they were there because the PR was offering them free designer clobber for their children. And all credit to them, Take That held back at first and didn’t exactly fill their boots. There was lots of “Are you sure? Are you sure? This is fantastic, thanks so much”. In a lot of ways they were like normal dads for whom picking out their kids’ clothes isn’t a natural skill set, even when it’s free.

Now, as it happens Gary Barlow had been on my mind lately, as I had promised to tell fellow blogger English Mum all about my GB/Rice Krispie Situation. This dates back about 10 years to when I used to work on ITV’s This Morning. Gary was appearing to plug his solo album, but before he went on he wanted some Rice Krispies for breakfast. There was a teeny delay in the delivery, and all of a sudden all his people were discussing “the Rice Krispie situation” in very serious tones on headset mics. It struck me that this was a prime example of the surreal life of a star – when people are treating your cereal needs like it’s a planet-changing event.

So when I saw him yesterday I did mention that we’d met before, and it was on the tip of my tongue to add “…and I got you your Rice Krispies!”, but luckily I held it in. And I declined to mention to Mark Owen that we’d also met at This Morning, when I’d shown him the way to the loo. Somehow there wasn’t an opening in the conversation for that one. Good thing too.

Now, as a journalist, what’s the etiquette in a situation like this? I think they assumed that I was with the PR people. It would have seemed a bit churlish to say “I’m a journalist, but not that sort of journalist”. So mostly I lurked in the corner and tried to pick my jaw up off the floor.

But as an undercover spy, I have to say that the Take That dads could not have been more gracious and grateful for what they were given. For people who’ve had staff to tend to their every whim for years, and for whom getting free stuff is a regular occurrence, they were completely down to earth and appreciative. There was none of that graspy sense of entitlement that you get from people who’ve had one freebie too many.

As they left, as a thank you they offered the team tickets for their tour next year. Apparently they will perform as a foursome, then there’ll be a bit of solo Robbie, then all five. Sounds amazing. But not as amazing as yesterday.