If you’d asked me what I planned to do yesterday, lunch with Michelle Obama wouldn’t have been on the menu…
I was working from home, and my only plans for lunch hour were to do a bit of tidying up. Then about noon I got a phone call from a friend, followed by a couple of frantic texts: Michelle Obama was coming to visit EGA, the outstanding girls’ secondary where I used to be a governor.
Outstanding, but not privileged. The millionaire’s row of Richmond Crescent (home to MPs Emily Thornberry and Margaret Hodge and former home of the Blairs) may only be a stone’s throw away. But they don’t send their daughters to EGA. More fool them! It’s a fantastic school, and I can’t think of a better place for Michelle Obama to come and inspire young women – and be inspired by them.
Official guests (including Council leader James Kempton) were invited for 1.30pm. Lucy Watt & I agreed to meet up in our lunch hour and join the fans outside, along with other friends working locally.
It was gloriously warm and sunny as we joined an excited group outside the school entrance near Chapel Market. Twenty girls from each year group, plus the school choir, were inside with the VIPs. The rest had the day off, but so many had stayed on to get a glimpse of MO.
There were journalists mingling with the crowds, including correspondents from the Mail and the Mirror (only a pool media team were allowed inside). They were interviewing some of the girls about Michelle as a role model. (As the Mail later reported, she wowed the girls inside too).
More and more photographers materialised, stacked up on ladders opposite the school. Rita Chakrabati arrived with a camera crew.
The police produced barriers and penned us in, but the spirit was friendly, not confrontational. I chatted to my neighbours in the crowd: a black woman lawyer, and an award-winning graphic designer: very Islington! By this stage no-one was coming in or out. The postman came along with a bag of mail and was politely rebuffed. One of the Labour councillors tried flashing a Town Hall badge to some friendly jeering from the EGA girls. It would take more than that to get inside this event….
We waited and waited. Then suddenly more police materialised, and there came the convoy along Barnsbury Road, motor bikes with blue lights, half a dozen limos, and in the middle the big black Obama-mobile: probably the first and last time you’ll get Islington progressives cheering an SUV. A glimpse of blue, a smile, a wave, and she had swept past into the school.
And minutes later I was hurrying back to work, a sandwich at my keyboard, taking a bit of Obama sunshine with me.