How did I become Godmother of a ship you may well ask.
Experiences like this don’t happen to ordinary women! On my Facebook profile it says I am a Jack-of-all-trades and master of none, which rather sums me up. All my life I have looked for new challenges. But it is this continual search to fulfil my own potential and follow my dreams that makes me want to enable others to reach their full potential as well.
I became the Godmother of the fabulous Independence, we will call her Indy as most people fondly do, by winning a competition, a competition I had no idea I had entered.
My darling daughter Alicia, who was twelve in 2008 (yes I am an older Mum, my fabulous bonus in life) was at home poorly, I was running a very successful charity Gamelea Countryside Training Trust, on my husbands farm, for people with learning disabilities, young people excluded and in danger of exclusion from school, people with mental health problems and ex service personnel finding it hard to cope with civilian life. I wanted to give other people opportunities that weren’t being offered to them anywhere else, allowing them to gain some self-esteem and self-confidence to go on to do bigger and better things.
The guest that day on Loose Women was Sir Steve Redgrave. He had just set up a sports foundation for young people, and was being sponsored by the Royal Caribbean Cruise company, who were looking for an ordinary woman who had done something extraordinary for the community. This had been extremely successful with the previous ship in America. As this new ship, Independence of the Seas, would be the largest cruise ship to sail out of Southampton, they thought they would run a similar competition here in Britain. The prize would include ten free cruises.
We’d been on very few holidays with our daughter at this point as we lived on a farm with many responsibilities we couldn’t leave easily. It’s extremely difficult to find people to look after a farm if you want to go on holiday.
No sooner had she seen the programme, she got on the computer, wrote a short essay about me and my achievements, and sent it off.
The first I heard of this was when I received a phone call from the Royal Caribbean PR Office telling me that out of hundreds of entries they had whittled it down to six potential candidates, and were doing telephone interviews to select the four finalists.
I almost hung up on them; my first thought was that my daughter had entered me for some sort of reality television programme. I was not going on Big Brother. I could think of nothing worse. Eventually the woman on other end of the phone convinced me it was no scam. I had genuinely been selected.
I received a further phone call a short time after, asking me if I had my passport ready, as in two days time I would be going to Stansted airport to be flown with three other women to see the Independence of the Seas in the shipyard in Turku in Finland. I had to take a ball gown as we were also invited to the handover ball from the shipyard to the Americans.
To say I was over the moon was an under statement. I had a passport of course. Only problem was it was two years out of date.
I rang the passport office in Peterborough, who were wonderful and gave me an appointment the following day. I had a few mad hours filling in forms, having photos taken and finding signatures.
Two days later I was at the Radisson Blue Hotel having dinner with a Royal Caribbean PR person assigned to look after us, and three other lovely women, who were potential Godmothers.
This wasn’t without incident. On leaving the hotel room I realised my daughter had left her handbag behind with her sewing kit, which contained dress making scissors! With great difficulty I squeezed the offending item into my overnight bag. Common sense had left me at this point, as instead of dumping them in the hotel wastebasket, I wrapped them securely in my clothes and hoped they wouldn’t be picked up by airport security. While hardly a deadly weapon it still felt like I smuggling contraband out of the country.
The next day, we found ourselves walking across the tarmac to board a private Leer jet with Richard Fain himself.
And so began one of the most exciting periods of my life.