Of course I personally knew hardly anyone there, though pretty well everyone was a familiar face. However, I had an instant result as the first person I bumped into was Cleve 'most snoggable male' West. The magic words 'Psssst I'm VP' was sufficient to generate a satisfying hug and pecks on both cheeks and the invitation to 'come and meet some people'. I'm most grateful to Cleve for making me feel welcome instantly. After that it was a mad whirl of introductions with a fair number of smiles of recognition as soon as the real name on my badge was translated into that of my alter ego. Martyn was also there, sporting a very thin moustache and award winning hair, who made sure I met Lia, whose sparkly hat I have to say would have made Arabella (literally) green with envy.
Then at last, some people who actually know me arrived! The first was Jekka McVicar, who greeted me with 'Oooooh it's you' and allowed me to photograph her escort, the controversial gnome Borage. You may remember his presence at Chelsea earlier this year ended in uproar and Jekka confided that the subsequent publicity and his appearance (at around 4mins 45secs in the link) on Have I Got News For You has gone to his head rather and as you see from the photo, he's turning to the demon drink. Then Victoria greeted me with a massive hug and 'At last, someone I know', which was a surprise as I thought she'd know everyone. We had a chance for a lightning catch up, interspersed with me meeting Nigel (yay, at last) plus Valerie McBride-Munro, the Guild's chairwoman.
We were then called into lunch, where I found myself seated at the Marshalls table, who were also the main sponsors of Chelsea this year. I was sandwiched between Mark Gregory and Graham Clarke. It was great to talk to them about my trip to Chelsea in May and to get the insiders' view of what goes on there: I'll tell you much more in a later post. Lunch was lovely - full details over at Victoria's - then just as things were threatening to degenerate into a post lunch snooze, we were awakened suddenly by the PA system bursting into life to welcome us to the awards part of the ceremony.
Thankfully this was briskly handled and helped by very few people choosing to make an acceptance speech. I had a massive OMG moment when the names for the best blog award went up as Veg Plotting was on there. James won of course and rightly so, but I was really chuffed when he urged everyone in the room to read my blog during his acceptance speech. That merited an enormous hug afterwards. James' table was a most successful one, as the double award winning Mark Diacono was there, as well as Martyn, who picked up a fair few shortlisted mentions for his sins. Whilst there, I also bumped into Matthew Wilson, who told me he'd just put the finishing touches to his eagerly awaited TV programme, Landscape Man, now due to be aired early next year.
Then it was back to the reception area for afternoon tea, plus more meeting people, thanks to Victoria. I also managed to track down Emmat, whom I'm sure you'd like to know is looking very well - there's hardly any evidence of her bump, yet. Victoria and I decided not to go to the post awards party (nor the alternative pub venue), but to decamp to the nearest Starbucks instead for a really good gossip and catch up.
I had a brilliant time and I haven't told you half of it. However, that would entail lots more name dropping [yes, you've done enough of that for one day - Ed] and lots of compliments that were made about my blog. I'd rather stay up here on cloud nine and hug them to myself for now, if you don't mind :D
Update: As well as Victoria, Cleve, Jane, Mark, Nigel and James have now posted their versions of last week's event. Each gives a fresh perspective which in my view serves to highlight one of the strengths of blogging :)
Update 2: And in 2010, we did it all over again, only this time the bloggers surreptitiously snaffled lots of the other awards ;)