When I went for my first job interview, fresh out of university and in my new suit, all ready to answer the hardest questions I could imagine any interviewer would put to me and certainly ready to explain why I was the best person for the job I never imagined that 21 years later I’d be double checking with a Downing Street Security Guard that “…it really is OK for me to just walk down there and knock?”. However, it seems all roads on my career led to that moment and yes, I did, just knock on THAT door.
Having jumped on a train at Market Rasen Railway Station I have to say I was already feeling very good about myself; taking the train, reducing pollution, using our much-needed railways and with every faith that my journey would be simple and trouble free I found myself at Kings Cross Station uttering a sentence the taxi driver never thought he’d hear “Downing Street please.”
For the man on the other side opening the door and saying “Welcome to Downing Street” it was just another day, but for me, for Red Herring Games, for the hours we’ve worked, the battles we’ve fought, the hills we’ve climbed, the clients we’ve entertained and been cheered on by and the successes we’ve toasted in Prosecco this was THAT moment! Somebody recognised what Jo has achieved with her home-started murder mystery company and I was there to accept that recognition (Jo would have been there, but a pre-booked trip to Orkney, to escape the chaos of the office in order to write several new games for clients and to celebrate her Mum’s birthday prevented her going and I have to say, on this occasion I didn’t suggest she change her plans at all!).
Downing Street really was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. There are endless books and websites dedicated to the history of the building, the people who have lived there and those who have worked there in days gone by. Not to mention the pets who’ve found homes there too! So there’s no need for me to wax lyrical (or otherwise) about the paint work, the décor, the works of art, the number of rooms (trust me, there is a loo, but don’t challenge me to ever find it again!). The staircase with the photos and paintings of Prime Ministers past fascinated me, with their ministerial dates and personal signatures, all lined up in chronological order. Mind you, even Downing Street runs out of wall it would seem, as the parade ended with Gordon Brown and apparently there’s nowhere for anyone since to go. I shall say nothing… (oh, other than Love Actually. Yes, the “golden oldie for a golden oldie” dancing scene with Hugh Grant. It’s that staircase, except there’s a Lowry on display at the top of the stairs now!).
Visiting Downing Street is one thing, being invited in takes it to a huge new level, but to be asked to exhibit our murder mystery dinner party games and events there takes it into the stratosphere. With Sherlock the Red Herring on display too everyone wanted to talk to me; I guess the novelty factor of a murder mystery company being in Downing Street wasn’t lost on many of us! Meeting the Minister for Small Businesses, Margot James and hearing her say that, in her opinion, ours was the most original and unique business she’s met for a long time was just the icing on the cake (I did wish, at that point, Jo had been with me, as it seemed mean taking all the credit for her hard work, although I will admit the moment passed and I have basked in the glory since!).
The hardest part of the day wasn’t the departing (I love that guests were invited to leave. So English!) it was leaving my mobile phone in a pigeon hole, next to the front door. Leaving my coat at the door was lovely (seriously, it’s tax payers money, turn the heating down!) but leaving my phone was almost heart breaking. So, I can’t show you the portrait of Queen Elizabeth I that I stood in front of, the Changing of The Guard on Horse Guards Parade that I watched from the Drawing Room window, the canapes that were not only so delicious but beautiful looking too, or the black and white checked floor in the hallway that we’re so familiar with from Heads of States visits we see on the news. What I can tell you is this; if you’re a small business owner reading this keep an eye out for an application form for the 2017 recognition and fill it in. I can’t begin to tell you how much you’ll get from the whole experience, not least, possibly, a visit to the most famous address in Great Britain.