I have a confession to make – I love to spot famous people when I’m out and about.
London is particularly fertile ground for catching a glimpse of a well-known figure as they get into a taxi or are waiting for a train. Seeing someone, whether politician, actor, sports personality or superstar adds, for me, a certain frisson to the day.
So, what is so exciting about seeing someone famous? I think part of the answer is that it’s out of context, a surprise, something you weren’t expecting. It can also be a shared experience if you are joining a crowd of others on the edge of a film set or outside a theatre.
Happily, I’ve never met a fellow ‘celebrity spotter’ – or ‘professional hoverer’ as my new-found friend Milly calls it – who wasn’t actually pleasant and good fun to be with.
Last year my friend and I were stood opposite Downing Street when the Queen and Prince Phillip just happened to emerge from lunch with the Prime Minister.
This delighted a couple of Dutch tourists watching with us. Much banter back and forth in their broken English and my even more limited Dutch about mutual respect for the Houses of Windsor and Orange, followed. You felt their visit to London had been made complete.
Last week, while in Oxford, I was wandering in the early evening down Broad Street in the heart of the town, when I saw the first of many enormous trucks.
A little detective work and the miles of cable that seemed to wind through a number of streets, past the Sheldonian theatre and on to the Bridge of Sighs at Hertford College, soon revealed that a major film was being made in the town.
A small paper note pinned to the windscreen of one truck said ‘The Mummy’. Intrigued now, I followed the cables, extras and dozens of film crew to New College Lane – which is where I spotted the sign on a vintage coffee van: ‘complimentary for cast and crew from Tom Cruise’.
Now there are some actors who – whether you are a big fan of their work or not – are global superstars and Tom Cruise is one of these. Which is why two hours later I was still waiting for him to turn up for a night shoot.
Alongside me was Milly – a master of ‘professional hovering’ in Oxford. Milly has met so many actors and filmmakers over the years. She and her husband were great fun to chat to and it was wonderful to hear their stories of Lewis and Endeavour. Good to hear too that people you admire, particularly the terrific Shaun Evans – are also smashing in real life.
And Mr Cruise? Well he arrived and greeted the crowd with the warmth and good humour he is known for at premieres. I think I’ll watch Top Gun this weekend – and I can’t wait for The Mummy to come out next year.