Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to meet Sir Ian McKellen as part of this challenge. In tow was my friend Gideon, who I'd had to tear away from the TV in his rather cluttered bedsit near the Holloway Road, where he'd been glued to some programme about 12 strange people in a house full of mirrors and cameras. I think you know the one.
Gideon was photographer for the evening and I distinctly recall that on our way home, somewhere near Blackfriars Bridge I think, he had a right go at me.
"Why are you going around shaking hands with all these people again?"
"I've told you why Gideon. I had a bet with Michael and no I'm not a hand fetishist."
"What about a palm-o-phile?"
"No, I'm not that either."
"Well I'll tell you one thing that you are. A right little sycophant. If you'd have done any more sucking up in front of Ian McKellen, Mr Dyson would have tried to patent you."
Those weren't his exact words, he doesn't have a huge capacity for wit because he's usually too busy working out mathematical formulas on his lap top, but that was the gist of it- That I was some sort of obsequious lick-spittle.
True enough, I had said "Pleased to meet you Sir Ian" and "Thank you so much for agreeing to this Sir Ian", but I'm not sure what Gideon had expected me to do, swear at the poor man?
Having said that, I do generally have problems working out how to address titled individuals. Should short members of the royal family be called your highness? If the Pope was on an aircraft carrier would he be His Worship of his warship? I could list other tired and unamusing examples but you get the point.
In the case of Lord Kinnock, though, my mind was put at rest early doors (which incidentally is an expression that I still don't understand, but if it's good enough for professional footballers to use...)
In fact before we'd even met, I was aware that here was a man of substance, a man of good old-fashioned values. The reason being was that 10 minutes before the meeting was scheduled, my mobile phone rang and this former leader of the Labour Party and EU Commissioner was actually ringing to apologise and to inform me that he was going to be 10 or so minutes late.
Where others would have simply kept me hanging around in the dark in some waiting room, Neil Kinnock kindly put me fully in the picture. How nice, I thought.
At his offices near Westminster I introduced myself to the friendly security guard and took the opportunity to ask for some advice.
"How should I address Neil Kinnock when he appears? I know he's a Baron but should I call him Lord Kinnock or what?"
"Yes M'lud will do."
Hmm, this practice will come in handy if I ever get called up before the beak I thought. Perhaps when I'm sued for using the BBC's photographs on this website without permission.
Anyway I didn't have to wait too long for my photo opportunity to arrive and said photograph was taken by said security guard. You'll note that the brown hooded top, my usual appareil, wasn't on display today but I thought I'd make a special effort as this was a Peer of the Realm and so I went for an all black ensemble at the risk of being stopped and asked to deliver a box of Milk Tray.
Anyway, as we made our way up to Lord Kinnock's office to fetch the auctionable gift, with me jabbering away about some pointless topic- I think I was complimenting the beautifully designed water-jug in the waiting room, I was met with a friendly "Listen, do stop calling me Lord Kinnock. It makes me feel so bloody old, call me Neil," and with that, I warmed to him even more.
Upstairs, Neil kindly handed me a tie for the auction, I believe it's in the colours of the University of Wales and after John Motson's similar neck-wear gift back in August, this becomes the second tie that'll be up for the bids.
I thanked Neil and following an enquiry from him, I told him a bit about my background "...I've had a number of jobs actually, they keep managing to lose me but currently I'm working in the heady and exciting world of data entreee...."
After that we had a brief chat about football hooliganism, not because I'm angling for the position of Sport's Minister, but because I reminded Neil about the only other time I had seen him in the flesh.
Wembley Stadium - 1983, Milk Cup Final. My dad and I were cowering in our seats as two thugs were terrorising everyone around us with aggressive posturing and gallons of blue language. Up steps one robust Welshman sitting next to us, who was equally trying to protect his son from the foul tirade, a bit of rough and tumble ensued and before you could say, "order, ORDER!" the two bullies were sent packing from the Stadium, tails between their legs. I remember, at half-time my dad went up to him and thanked him kindly for saving the day.
"Oh, say hello to your father again from me," said Neil as we parted company yesterday.