For those of you who are not Very British, or who have been living under a rock for the last few years or both, Very British Problems is one of those modern media phenomena that started a few years ago as a Twitter feed and which then quickly spawned a book, a TV series, a clothing line and god knows what else.
Very British Problems is all about what makes us British people different from normal people like Americans and Australians - such as our extreme modesty, our amazingly polite manners, our obsession with the weather, and especially our awkwardness in dealing with pretty much every kind of social interaction. All the things that make normal people love us so much.
One of my Very British Problems is not having a clue how to react when I see a Very Famous Person in a public place.
Assuming I recognize who it is (which 87% of the time I don't) what am I supposed to do?
Very Famous Person
I saw in Logan Airport in 2014
but I had no idea of
what his name was
or what his latest record was called
Am I supposed to (Option A) rush up to them and give them a big hug and say how much I liked their latest movie, song, book, political rant or whatever is appropriate for the field in which they are Very Famous? Doesn't this happen to them something like 500 times a day and aren't they totally annoyed when you are the 501st person to do that to them today and they are forced to mutter something along the lines of, "So pleased you liked it." Wouldn't they rather you just left them alone?
Or (Option B) is it more appropriate to just make eye contact and give a little nod of the head and a smile to indicate you know who they are and know better than to annoy them by rushing up and making gushing comments about their latest piece of work?
One of the first times I came across this issue was when I almost literally ran into Prince Charles. He was lucky enough to be spending a couple of years studying at the same university as me and we crossed paths when he was coming out of a local bookshop and I was going in.
There are probably special rules for how to great Very Famous Royal People which makes things even more complicated. And in any case if you are going to adopt option A above, what are you supposed to tell a Very Famous Royal Person you like about their latest work? Especially this one who actually did even less work than other Very Famous Royal Persons because he was just a student like me?
"I like that nice suit you're wearing, Your Royal Highness - but why don't you dress in jeans and a raggy old sweater like the rest of us?" I don't think so.
Or perhaps, "Hi Charlie - I'm a big fan of the whole royal family thing - how are the corgis - say hi to your Mum for me." That doesn't seem entirely appropriate either.
So I just pretended I didn't recognize him.
Probably just as well really.
And then there was the time I was quietly having breakfast on the restaurant terrace at the Bitter End Yacht Club a few years ago and Richard Branson came zooming up in a big swanky speedboat (he owns a couple of the nearby islands and stuff) and he walked right past me into the restaurant.
What was I supposed to say?
"Hi Sir Richard - sorry about your house burning down. Hope you had good insurance!"
"Hi Dicky - love this whole space thing you're doing - how do I sign up to go to Mars?"
My mind was a total blank.
So I decided to be Very British and opted for a subtle version of option B. The briefest of eye contacts. (I think he probably recognized me too. Probably reads my blog.) And a very slight smile that clearly indicated, "I know who you are but I choose not to invade your privacy because I understand what a bore it is being very famous and insanely rich."
I think he appreciated my Very British solution to the dilemma.
So last December when Tillerwoman and I were standing in the immigration line at Beef Island airport on Tortola and I spotted a Very Famous Sailing Blogger and her family a few places ahead of us in the line, I had no idea how to react.
Not actually the one at Beef Island
As well as all the usual Very British Problems associated with approaching Very Famous People in public, there were two other complications to the situation.
Number 1 - and most significant - is that we were standing in a line - a queue as we Very British People call it. And we Very British People have a whole huge set of Very British Problems about the etiquette of queues. Most important of all is the commandment that THOU SHALT NOT JUMP THE QUEUE. As a Very British Person I was almost certainly physically incapable of stepping out of the line and going to chat with a person several places ahead of us in the line. I would be feeling that everyone else in the queue would be deeply offended because they would think I was "jumping the queue" and that is something that Very British People never do.
Number 2 - was that I am also a sailing blogger - but nothing like as famous as the Very Famous Sailing Blogger. I know who she is but does she have a clue who I am? Does she read my blog? Has she ever left a comment on my blog? My mind is a blank. The answer to these questions is very important. Depending on the answer it will make a difference to my opening remarks.
Do I introduce myself as an anonymous fan, or rush up to her and shout, "Hi! I'm TILLERMAN!!!" which would be about the stupidest thing to do with several dozen strangers watching us and listening to me if the Very Famous Sailing Blogger had no idea who the hell I was.
While I am pondering these issues, the Very Famous Sailing Blogger reaches the front of the queue and starts what looks like a very complicated conversation with the Immigration Officer presumably about the immigration status of her and her mother and her three beautiful little daughters. So I figure I will wait until we are both through Immigration and then sidle up to her in the baggage hall and start a quiet conversation with an opening gambit along the lines of, "Hi, aren't you Brittany from Windtraveler?" and compliment her on the good behavior of her three little girls because they really were being amazingly good. I think even a Very British Person could manage that.
But before I get the chance to make my move, BVI Immigration escorted the Very Famous Sailing Blogger and her mother and her three beautiful little daughters off to one of those rooms that they have in every Immigration Department in every airport in the world which you always hope you never see the insides of because who knows what they do to you in there?
And I never saw her again.
And that is how this Very British Person failed to meet a Very Famous Sailing Blogger.
PS If you ever see me in real life, please feel free to rush up to me and give me a big hug (especially if you are female) and tell me how much you love my latest blog post (even if you can't remember the title or what it's about.) I won't mind. Really.