Would my flag jokes at catwalk show get me hung out to dry?
As a fashion-designer-turned-correspondent I've been involved in hundreds of fashion shows over the years. In the beginning, when I was a student, I began backstage as a dresser.
Then at the end of first year of fashion college I progressed to design assistant. Then I moved up a notch to showing one outfit of my own design, then the following season I showed three. Finally, as a fully-fledged fashionista (in 1986) I produced an entire collection from my own label to a packed audience at Manchester City Hall, followed a couple of days later by a less formal/more streetwise show at the legendary Hacienda Club.
Then I was employed in the industry and responsible for collections in stores as diverse as Harvey Nicks and Marks & Spencer and each season I had to organise and produce private showings to their bosses and buyers. I even modelled a few times myself, too.
Now, as a fashion correspondent, I'm either situated front of house, on the 'frow' at the top of each catwalk, scrutinising and scribbling notes as each style sashays past, or backstage previewing the designs and interviewing the designers.
So, with all this experience under my belt, the next most obvious step forward would be to take the mic and become a presenter. It should be a doddle, really, shouldn't it?
Or so I thought ...
The show in question was the brainwave of a very charismatic up-and-coming young fashion stylist called Alexandra Godfrey. As a single mum with a young baby, Alex had been very impressed by the work of the premature baby charity TinyLife and so decided to run a charity fashion event just for them.
She approached me at the end of Belfast Fashionweek last season and I immediately said yes without a moment's hesitation. After all, it was months away. As a firm believer in mañana-mañana, I tend to give the thumbs up to anything if it seems like a long way off. I'd probably agree to walk the tightrope from The Europa to The Crown if it were ages in the future.
But time has a habit of creeping up on you, and so did this show. It has also snowballed in size, too. Indeed, since we had first discussed it, the evening had evolved from a first look at the new season's collections to a full-on royal variety performance complete with dancers, musicians, spot-prizes and stand-up comedy. All that was missing was the Queen parachuting in from a helicopter alongside Daniel Craig in a tux.
To say I was nervous would be a gross understatement. Especially when the doors of the Stormont Hotel flung open and a crowd of hundreds started to pour through.
"Why, oh why did I agree to do this?" I thought as I squeezed myself into a sparkly dress and got wired up to the microphone. And why oh why did I decide to begin the evening events with a few jokes, I thought as I waited backstage for everyone to take their seats? And why oh why did I think it might be funny to tell a joke about the damned fleg protestors, I thought, knowing that it was now too late to change my script?
They're going to boo me or throw things ... or even worse, lynch me from a tree in Ballybeen. Oh well, once more unto the breach dear friends ...
"And now, ladies and gentlemen," a voice said over the intercom, "please put your hands together for your hostess with the mostest – Fraaaaaaaances Buuuuuuurrrrrscough!"
Now, as it turned out, it all went off without a hitch, thanks God. Nobody heckled me and I survived it without a single death threat. In fact, it was an astonishing success from start to finish.
Congratulations to Alexandra on a fabulous night of fun, fashion and frivolity and for raising thousands of pounds for a very worthy cause.