Six days after the general election a delightfully moving ceremony took place in a quiet part of North West Surrey. There was no pomp and circumstance, just the reading of a declaration of office and a discernible buzz of excitement from an audience of friends, family and a few members of the public in the local council chamber. It culminated in the draping of an ermine trimmed robe and thick gold chain around a new pair of shoulders as my husband John was officially sworn in as the 38th Mayor of Surrey Heath, making me the Lady Mayoress.
Considering I wasn’t born with a title or have never knowingly looked for one, this sudden elevation feels a little peculiar. Thankfully I have a year in which to get used to it! My family are delighted with the turn of events whereas the response from my friends has been mixed. Some have congratulated me whereas others think it’s all a bit of a joke. “I couldn’t imagine you being a politician’s wife”, one of them said in a tone that was almost derisory: “When are you going to Westminster then?” “Never,” I replied. “As I’m the wife of the mayor whose apolitical. Not the local MP!”
So what does my new role entail? In a nutshell, pretty much everything. From now until May 2011, I’ll be doing my bit to raise money and public awareness not just for my husband’s chosen charities – Heart to Heart and the Prostate Project, both at Frimley Park Hospital – but for some of the smaller local charities whose work is often eclipsed by much larger counterparts. There’ll also be visits to schools, hospitals, community projects and even the odd bit of tree planting. It’s territory that John and I are already familiar with having gleaned our knowledge from last year when we served as deputies. I’m looking forward to my responsibilities and to giving something back to a community that’s both warm and incredibly welcoming. However there’s one thing I’m dreading: the near certainty of over dosing on finger food.
Every woman knows that finger food and hips are like oil and water: they don’t mix! Whereas oil floats, finger food stays on the hips and if for some reason it can’t loiter there it usually menaces some other part of the anatomy. I should know I’ve got the tight clothes and expanding waistline to prove it.
The problem is that whenever I go to receptions where waiters are carrying trays heaving with cheesy nibbles, prawns buried in pastry, and tiny parcels of skewered meat it’s the equivalent to giving a chocoholic the keys to Willy Wonka’s factory. I really do try to say no, but after a handful of seconds polite restraint gives way to unbridled gluttony, and before I know it I’ve cleared the trays before anyone’s even had the hint of a look in.
Now that I’m the Mayoress there’s an even greater risk of overindulgence as my engagement diary is packed with events that either start or end with canapés. Short of wearing a tee-shirt carrying the message, “Do Not Feed This Woman Finger Food”, I feel there’s very little I can do except surrender to my instincts. But all isn’t necessarily lost. An ex-mayoress from a neighbouring borough described how she got around the problem by nudging her husband into eating canapés for both of them. Not only did it bring her addiction under control but it also steadied her weight: unfortunately he piled on the pounds. “Hey ho”, she smiled philosophically, “That’s what happens when you eat for two!” I couldn’t agree with her more but then I wouldn’t dream of inflicting my surplus kilos on my husband.
So the moral of the story is this: whether you aspire to reach “high office” or you get there by accident or design, beware of the finger food. Try it by all means but don’t get addicted.