How did that happen? I appeared on television and managed to make a complete idiot of myself, then Sophie appears on TV, totally unprepared, no prior briefing, and comes out of it covered in glory. I crept around for days after my appearance hoping no-one would recognise me, and Sophie is flouncing around in her ‘Mr Forth First!’ t shirt, being applauded on the streets and in the media.
Those t shirts are selling like hot cakes. And Sophie’s appearance has spawned others, one says on the front, ‘It’s good to have a laugh over your dinner.’ And on the back it says, ‘Don’t you think?’ Another doing the rounds says on the front, ‘Have sex or talk about elections?’ and on the back it says, ‘Tough call.’
There is a little item on the BBC website today, ‘Bill Forth’s biggest fan? The Sophie interview.’ And of course, the billboard outside the Co-op has gone into meltdown, ‘Local Girl Sophie a Sensation!’
Nothing for it but to grin and bear it. It has given a boost to Bill’s campaign in a quirky sort of way, although I feel that certain aspects of my reputation may have been sacrificed. All in a good cause, I suppose. Not my cause though.
The latest thing now is that our local paper is doing a little feature on Sophie, they want to talk to her about being a young person leaving school and looking for jobs and accommodation in our area. They plan to do the interview here, and take a photo of Sophie at work.
In the meantime, I have to do my sponsored swim. One hundred lengths. Really? I don’t think that’s going to be possible. Judith swims regularly, but I only swim on holiday to cool off, and I jump out of the pool like a penguin as soon as someone shouts, ‘Do you fancy a nice cold glass of white wine?’
But it had to be done, so I found my costume and went down to the baths this morning. Judith was warming up when I got there, and she suggested I do the same. I said no, I didn’t know how many lengths I had in me, but I wasn’t going to waste any of them on a warm up. She swam to the side and said I should have done some training, really. I reminded her that she’d said I didn’t need to train, I could just walk. She denied having said that, and told me I’d have to swim.
‘Okay,’ I said, ‘let’s get this over with.’
Someone from the baths was counting our lengths officially, and would give us some sort of certificate when we finished to verify our performance. She blew a whistle and Judith launched herself into the pool like a torpedo. I walked carefully down the steps and into the pool, and asked if they could turn the heat up a bit.
Judith went up and down that pool until I began to think she was half woman, half fish. God Almighty, the woman must have gills. I stopped for a breather every time I got to the deep end to have a chat with the officiator, Paula. She told me all about her husband’s hernia while we watched Judith power up and down and I got my breath back, and was ready to strike out for the shallow end again.
Paula gave me some advice after my fifteenth length, and said I would manage better if swam more horizontally through the water. She said I was swimming in a very cramped, upright position, cutting through the water like a submarine periscope and doing breast stroke with my upper arms clamped to my sides. She said it was an unusual technique and she was surprised I stayed afloat.
Anyway, by the time Judith finished I had done 32 lengths, and I pronounced myself finished too. Judith said, ‘What about your sponsorship money?’ And I said, ‘Bugger the sponsorship money, – that’s your lot.’ So we both agreed to call it a day.
When I got home I had an odd phone call from the doctors’ surgery. The practice manager spoke to me and said she understood I had been telling people that their surgery offered a taxidermy service, and she wondered where I had got that information from? She said they’d like to nip that rumour in the bud because it didn’t fit well with their mission statement. No sooner had I sorted that out, than the reporter from the Echo arrived, and we sat down and waited for Sophie to get changed after work and come downstairs.
I took the opportunity to ask the young reporter about the paper’s fascination with Grandma’s. She didn’t know what I was talking about at first, so I had to explain. Eventually she said she thought it might have something to do with people’s expectations of older women, but she would ask her boss.
Sophie came downstairs, and I was going to leave them both to it, but the reporter asked me if I would like to stay. It was interesting to listen in. I could see the angle the reporter was going for. Sophie was a young, impassioned carer, desperate to hold down her job, plucked off the street and saved from destitution by a rich householder with a bit of a conscience and more rooms in her house than she knew what to do with. But Sophie didn’t always fit the stereotype.
‘Sophie, were you incredibly relieved when Mrs Forth told you you could come and live here? I expect it was an answer to your prayers?’
‘Well, I knew I would be able to twist her arm. She was my English teacher and she always believed me when I said I would bring my coursework in the next day. Even though I hardly ever did. And if I said, ‘Honestly I haven’t copied any of my coursework off the internet’, she would never say, ‘You’re lying’. So I thought she’d let me stay if I told her I couldn’t go back home.’
‘Oh,’ the reporter glanced at me before writing something down.
Sophie watched as the reporter wrote, and said, ‘Write down that I really love it here, because that’s the most important thing.’
‘Do you think you will ever be able to afford a place of your own in this area, Sophie?’
‘No, not a house or a flat or anything. But Baz says boats are cheaper. Maybe I’ll be able to live on a boat. I’d like to live on a boat but at the moment the river is in the wrong place for me. Baz’s friend Chaz lives on a boat. I think we’ll probably all live on boats eventually, and just float around until we get old.’
After the interview and the arrangement for the photo at the care home, the reporter asked me rather archly about my ‘charity work’ and the sponsored swim. She was a little taken aback when I told her I’d just finished my sponsored swim, maybe she thought I’d made the whole thing up. ‘How far did you swim?’ she asked me.
‘Well, I was supposed to swim a hundred lengths of the pool, but bloody hell, I didn’t get anywhere near that.’
‘How many did you do?’
‘Thirty two,’ I said. ‘But I put a lot of effort in, and no-one need know.’
Sally’s Diary is a story told in serial form. To start from the beginning, click here.