HELP! I NEED A MAN; Walker: Michael Bowen Accompanies Esther

Article excerpt

Byline: Esther Rantzen

WOULD anyone consider becoming a walker for a fairly attractive,spasmodically witty widow of 67 who gets invited to parties, first nights andglitzy events, but who can no longer face going out on her own? It's not thatI'm pathetic or desperate, it is that I've been badly bruised recently byhaving to attend a party by myself because my usual walker has retired hurt.

I'll explain the nature of his wounds later, but I was determined to acceptthis invitation, and I'd been looking forward to this particular party for sometime. It was to take place in a glamorous restaurant to celebrate an old friendwho is a successful TV executive.

I anticipated that there would be plenty of famous faces, but not many I knew.Still, I'm a grown up girl, I've been a widow for seven years, so I decided togo to the party on my own.

I dolled myself up carefully, and arrived at the party the prescribed 20minutes late. THE room was crowded, drinks were circulating, so I took a glass,and positioned myself beside two women who were in deep conversation.

I smiled at them. Nothing. After ten minutes I tried another smile. Stillnothing.

Their conversation reached a natural break, so I introduced myself. They barelyflicked their eyes at me, and plunged back into their own conversation. Ilooked around the room. There was nobody I knew.

I picked up my drink and walked through the crowd.

Backs were turned, the noise was deafening, the star of the event was greetingnew arrivals and nobody was introducing anyone to anyone else.

I went back to my spot, but the two women didn't acknowledge my return.

So I finished my drink, applauded the speeches, laughed at the video and left.

It was more than a boring evening it was insulting.

There was a time when it was quite safe to attend such an event by yourselfbecause you knew the host had enough class to make sure nobody was - ignored orcold-shouldered.

Biddy Baxter, the brilliant TV producer who invented Blue Peter, was onceemployed by the BBC to make sure their parties worked as well as any of her topshows, and Biddy constantly introduced guests to each other and made sure theycirculated so that nobody was stuck with a bore. That was class, whateverhappened to it? When Biddy retired, somehow the skill was lost.

Luckily, at about that time I met a doctor at a party, who works in London,although he and his wife and family live in Oxford. She is a very successfulacademic, and spends many nights at official dinners.

They have a strong, happy marriage, and she doesn't care at all if he 'walks'me while she is attending the many functions attached to her job.

Michael Bowen, though a skilled and distinguished surgeon, nonetheless enjoysshowbusiness events. Many of my friends have reached the stage when they wouldfar rather curl up in front of Dragons' Den than brave the night air, so theyscornfully turn down my invitations to parties. …