Secretarial: Celebrities and cellulite
I Work For: SHARON SCOTT WORKS FOR STEPHEN PURDEW, SALES AND MARKETING DIRECTOR OF THE HENLOW GRANGE HEALTH FARMS GROUP
Wednesday 11 November 1998
I have two roles. One is what I call "looking after Stephen", which includes anything a normal PA would do, including dry-cleaning, diary and travel arrangements. The other involves quite a lot of marketing, and arranging celebrity visits.
Stephen lives between his three health farms, Henlow Grange in Bedfordshire, Forest Mere in Hampshire and Springs in Leicestershire. I've suggested that he get a helicopter to make the travelling easier. It's been particularly stressful in the last 12 months because we have had the BBC filming a fly-on-the-wall series about the refurbishment of Forest Mere, which has added to the workload.
Whereas I have a work life and a home life, Stephen's boundaries are blurred. Even when he is socialising he is also working, and his address book reads like a Who's Who of celebrities. The higher the profile of the people who visit the farms, the better it is for business, because it helps attract customers on the "if it's good enough for them, it's good enough for me" basis. Working with celebrities wasn't something I expected to be doing, but it certainly makes my job more exciting. Of course, there are the few stars who want adoration, and some of the younger ones can get a little too big for their boots, but most want to put on a fluffy dressing-gown like everyone else and just merge into the background.
Frank Bruno, Jimmy Savile and Barbara Windsor are among the regulars. It's funny seeing Barbara in relaxed mode, sitting with the other guests, when you're so used to seeing her looking terribly glamorous. You can tell how long people have been staying here by their appearance. If their shoulders are still hunched up then they've just arrived, but if they are gliding along the corridor looking peaceful and relaxed, then they have been here a couple of days.
Since Stephen lives on site he eats very healthily, and he also uses the facilities. He believes absolutely in what he does, and so do I. I think it's important that I look fit, too, which I do because I teach ballet to children at the weekend.
We had the Big Breakfast here the other day, which meant that I had to be in at 5am to be ready for them. It was a complicated job because the producer wanted the presenters to knock on the bedrooms of three VIP guests with three different types of breakfast. I was terribly worried that none of our guests would be willing to open their doors to a television crew at such an early hour. I needn't have worried, because they fell over themselves to be chosen.
On another occasion we had two film crews at Henlow at the same time. One crew were filming a hunting and shooting programme, the other crew were with a daytime beauty show. Everyone was getting confused about which crew was which and I feared a disaster. Luckily we got through it OK.
I think that the reason why Stephen and I have such a good rapport is because I manage to stay calm. Stephen once said to me, "I don't suppose you ever get angry." Of course I do, but I just don't let it show at work. He warned me that there would be times when he would shout at me when he was stretched, but he never has. Although Stephen is terribly busy we still manage to have a very easy-going relationship. We often pull each other's legs, and there's a lot of banter between us.
When I get stressed I nip down to the treatment rooms and get a quick massage, but luckily this job is mainly nine to three so I can be home for my children after school. Because he's a father himself Stephen is very accommodating when I need time away to be with my children. He even gives them signed CDs from pop stars, which ups their street credibility at school no end. This job has been everything I hoped it would be and more. I received a letter the other day complimenting me on my work, which was very rewarding.
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