The only famous person I’ve ever met

…is Stephen Fry. I met him in Borders in Oxford, when Borders still existed (I think it’s now a Sainsbury’s Local). I used to love Borders. It was massive – the biggest bookshop I’d ever been in at that point -, and had armchairs in it, and a good coffee shop which wasn’t always a Starbucks. Mr C and I spent many happy hours there when we first got to know each other.

One day, I was in Borders for some reason – I’m not sure why, and I’m not sure what time it was but I think it was during one lunch time (I used to work about 3 minutes walk from there and went to the cafe for lunch a lot, which was foolish as I had no money and it wasn’t very cheap) and I saw a sign saying that Stephen Fry was doing a book signing that day. It was nearly the end of time advertised for the signing, but I thought I would go and see if I could catch a glimpse of Mr Fry, who I had always been quite fond of. I went into the basement and found him and a couple of people who I assumed were his assistants, and everyone was putting coats on and getting ready to leave. Despite this and the fact that I hadn’t even bought one of his books to be signed, I decided to ask him to sign the notebook I always kept in my coat pocket. He was very nice and graciously signed my notebook, and I scuttled away.

Unfortunately, I continued to keep that notebook in my coat pocket and one day it rained so hard the notebook got wet and the ink on Mr Fry’s autograph ran, but it’s still legible.

Warning: this post gets a bit more serious from here on

One of the reasons I’ve always liked Mr Fry (since I watched him in Jeeves and Wooster as a child) is because he looks a lot like my favourite uncle, and also like my cousin (son of uncle), Jason (not his real name). He did the same raised eyebrow thing as Stephen Fry sometimes does, and Babymouse has this too – it’s a one raised eyebrow thing, a sort of quizzical, Holmesian movement – she looks just like my cousin when she does it.

Jason had another thing in common with Stephen Fry: mental illness. One of the several things I admire Mr Fry for is his willingness to be open about his struggles with mental illness – I wish more people would do this because there is still such a stigma about mental health/illness and, for the sake of everyone, we need to get over it. Our family don’t talk about things. We didn’t even know that Jason was ill until he killed himself. Of course I wished I’d talked to him more and taken more of an interest in his life, or just something, but of course it was too late. He was one of the gentlest souls I’ve ever met. I wish he was here to see Babymouse.

This year it’s 10 years since Jason’s suicide.  I don’t think I’ve ever told anyone about it apart from my colleagues in my old workplace who I had to tell to get the day off for the funeral. I don’t really know why I’m writing this now, other than that I want to talk about Jason and remember him and wish out-loud (as it were) that he had got more help and was still here now.

My family isn’t good at talking. Perhaps yours isn’t either. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to someone you don’t know.

Samaritans (UK): 08457 90 90 90

National Suicide Prevention Helpline (USA) 1-800-273-8255

If, like me, you don’t like talking on the phone you can email jo@samaritans.org

Wishing you a happy and healthy 2015.

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5 thoughts on “The only famous person I’ve ever met

  1. It is so very sad to hear about Jason. I think you are right in talking about him. I always feel upset when I hear about someone who has committed suicide. I think if only they had reached out to other people for help and comfort then maybe they would still be here.

    And sometimes it is the people we don’t expect who can help us most. About twenty years ago my husband had a head injury. He eventually recovered and is fine now but it was a long slow road.

    We found out that it wasn’t always the people we were closest to who helped the most, but people in our lives we hadn’t given much thought to before or total strangers.

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