‘Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-
way street’ – Paulo Coelho
I’ll be 100% open and honest this post is 95% excuse to share my selfie with Tom from McFly again and I have no shame in admitting that. What is a bit of an interesting story though, is the circumstances that lead me to be in that Starbucks, at that time, on that day, to be able to get one of the best selfies I’ve ever taken; especially under pressure.
Rewind to 8am that morning and I’m sitting on a train just leaving Newcastle station after getting back from holiday 6 hours earlier and having 4 hours sleep. But the sun is shining, I have a massive coffee and am going to a meeting that I’ve been looking forward to in terms of my job role and development so life is sweet. The meeting starts an hour before I get there but I was allowed an hours reprieve due to just coming back so late the night before. I’ve got my favourite sundress on and I’m feeling good
Train is on time; I hop on the tub to Oxford Circus and stroll out into the sunshine towards Portland Place. As I get towards the road I’m supposed to be on I notice some police vans and a cordoned off area; not unusual, the BBC headquarters is opposite the building my meeting is in and is often roped off if Theresa May is on the One Show. So I start walking round the back way. Police everywhere and the whole street is roped off. Hmm that’s weird, is Trump in town or something?
As I keep trying to find a way in I walk up to one of the police taped areas to ask someone what’s going on when a police woman shouts at everyone to move as far away from the area as they can possibly get. Turns out there’s an abandoned car outside the building my meeting is in with a suspected bomb in it. It’s officially a suspected terror attack. Shit.
After being buried alive, being involved in a terror attack is probably one of my biggest fears. It amazes me how keen people are to stand around in situations like this with their phones out filming what’s going on. My number 1 priority was following that police woman’s instructions and getting as far away as possible.
— JamesClayton (@JamesClayton5) June 28, 2018
I call my boss to tell him, who informs me they’ve all been moved to the back of the building for safety. He tells me to stay safe and keep in touch. So I do just that, I walk about half a mile away from where it’s all happening and find a Starbucks to park in for the foreseeable.
What do you do in situations like this? No one around me seemed to be panicking, which was reassuring, but mostly I think because I was about 5 blocks away and they probably had no clue what was going on down the road. I rang Dave and told him what was going on and told him I loved him, I texted my friends the same. And I waited.
A fraught 45 minutes wait; checking on twitter and I notice some BBC staff come into Starbucks so I figured people were allowed to leave their buildings. I rang my boss who confirmed a bomb disposal robot and been to the vehicle and performed a controlled explosion.
It was at that point that Tom from McFly walked in. At first I just thought it was someone who loked exactly like him; call me naïve but I still expect my celebrities to be surrounded by screaming girls and bodyguards, not causally walking into Starbucks to buy a bottle of water. A quick intagram search confirmed he was wearing the same shirt, definitely him.
Now, normally, because I’m massively socially awkward, especially when it comes to famos, Dave stopped me getting a selfie with Peter Beardsley in the Butter & Spreads aisle in Tesco once because it would have been so cringeworthy. My point is, I would probably have ordinarily thought ‘Huh, there’s Tom from McFly, that’s cool’. But seeing as less than an hour ago I thought there was a real chance I may be blown up, and that Carrie is probably his biggest fan in the world, I owed it to her to try and get a pic with him. Only if to celebrate being alive.
I was sitting near the door so as he went to leave to said his name but he didn’t hear (or was ignoring me) as fate would have it though, he stopped suddenly and put his bag next to me to put his sandwich away. If ever there was a sign this was it.
Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Hi, it’s Tom isn’t it?
Me: Hi, I’m Helen
Him: Hi Helen
Me: I just wanted to say I’m a big fan
Him: Aww thanks very much
Me: And my friend Carrie is a huge fan
<I spread my arms as wide as they will go to illustrate the word ‘huge’, just for clarity>
Him: Well it’s lovely to meet you and say hi to your friend Carrie
Me: Can I get a quick photo?
Him; Of course
Me: Thanks very much, have a great day!
Me: You too, nice to meet you
Of course since then all I can think about is what a divvy I probably sounded like and all the things I should have said. I should have told him that Too Close for Comfort is probably not only one of my favourite McFly songs, but one of my favourite songs by anyone. I should have told him that the music video to Afraid of Heights was so sweet it made me cry into my cold turkey and chips when I saw it for the first time on Boxing Day last year. I should have asked him if he would so a short video saying hi to Carrie.
All that aside though I’m proud of myself for being brave, perhaps the events of the day gave me a bit of a YOLO attitude but it’s possibly the biggest example of the butterfly effect that I’ve ever personally experienced and has definitely made me want to seize the day more.
Next time I see Peter Beardsley in the Butter & Spreads aisle in Tesco, that selfie is mine!