“Broke, single and drive a bike taxi at the beach”. Not quite the winning business card slogan. I was hoping to have rather more to show at 27 years than an overdraft and a hangover. My
seeming greatest talent in Barcelona appears to be my ability to always find ways
and means to party. Maybe I should expand my career horizons beyond trying
to get rich Russian passengers into my rickshaw. My phone rang. Unknown number. I ignored it; this had been happening for days. I wondered vaguely who it was then got distracted by the thought of buying a one euro mini magnum at the supermarket behind me on Joan de Borbo in Barceloneta .

It rang again and I considered answering it but then decided that if it were that important, they would send me a message. The smug (and mostly quiet) voice of logic in my brain did quietly point out that I never check my messages or emails but I (as usual) ignored it.

The third time I answered. “Are you Nell English?”. Yes. “Finally, we have been trying to find you for weeks”. I explained that I didn’t have a computer, use Facebook or answer unknown numbers.

As it turned out I had been nominated for a prize. Prize? Me? What for? “The Most Inspirational woman in Zimbabwe”. I burst out laughing. Given my track record, us Zim gals need to higher our standards.

Anyway, apparently there was to be an award ceremony with red carpet
reception, champagne on arrival, four course meal, the lot. Okay. Pass me
onto the Nigerian man so I can give him my credit card details. Or would
you prefer that I mailed it to you directly, then maybe he can send me the
cash prize in advance?

Hahahah. A Zimbabwean award ceremony in Leicester of all places, as if.

I spent the next week pedalling around drunk tourists, (inspiring
Zimbabwean women around the world)  and forgot about the whole thing. Until
my sister and a few friends congratulated me on the nomination. So after
being reassured that no, they hadn’t passed on any advance credit card
details, and yes, it was a real ceremony now; now in it’s fourth year.

So off to Leicester it was! Luckily I have good friends in Manchester,
because the distance between Barcelona and the Athena Dome in Leicester,
England, was far and despite my concentrated power of inspiration, I was unable
to reduce them. Anwyay they picked me up, we had a fun and drunken night in
Manchester then set alarms as it was a two hour drive to Leicester, and we
still had to organize accommodation etc. Three bottles of rose and five
pints later, the alarm wasn’t so effective. The journey to Leicester was
then a bit of a rush, we basically jumped into the car in pyjamas.

Realising I was already an hour late, we decided to stop along the way so I
could change in a petrol station. So walked into the McDonalds off the
M6 or something in
basically my pyjamas, and walked out in a cocktail dress and heels.
One small hitch
however, was that the last time I had worn this dress was at my graduation
ceremony four years earlier, and well, I could feel the pinch. No worries, I
stuck a tshirt on for now and decided with my friends help we’d get it
zipped up in Leicester.

We pulled up outside the Athena, flicking mud onto the red carpet and jumped
out to finish dressing. Even though we were now an hour and a half late,
some women were still trickling in in glittering ballgowns. I had both
friends squeeze me together to get up the zip. It broke completely.

I then found myself on the red carpet, with my friends trying to fix
the zip situation (I had found a badge on my bag, with the appropriate
slogan ‘Change Is Good’ which they were now trying to use instead of
the zip. I distracted myself from my fear of their accidentally
piercing my vertebrae and paralysing me for life by frantically
stuffing earrings on and doing makeup in car rearview mirror. Only two
hours late now. Coming from Spain, that’s pretty early in my books.

Badge broke. Had fleeting idea that we could use my bra strap and poke
holes in dress and fashion a corset for the dress at the back. But
without a knife or scissors the only way to get the strap off bra
would be to use a lighter. Effectively burning a bra in order to
corset myself into a ballgown.

Leicester has a large Islamic population and at this point some young
Muslim girls walked past, and I toyed with the thought of asking them
if I could borrrow a head scarf, which I would then have been able to
use a ‘tipo’ pashmina. Thereby still covering my shame, just that of
my uncovered back instead of my very exposed mane of hair.

My poor friends were increasingly embarrassed (people were still
slowly streaming in, Zimbabwe has a similar attitude to punctuality to
Spain) and concerned that the bouncer, who had been watching the scene
with crossed arms and deadpan expression (to give hiim credit that
must have taken some willpower. He could have been a Queen’s guard),
wouldn’t let me in. My friends had offered to come with me, but given
the expense of the tickets (nearly seventy pounds each) I insisted
they not worry and have a nice dinner out somewhere and use the money
saved for partying after. I am sure they were relieved as they have
just got married and are back from an expensive honeymoon around the

So finally I grabbed a pair of black tights, wrapped them tightly
around my waist and did them up in a bow at the back like a sash, and
donning my leather jacket, just thought sod it and went in.

Missed the bloody champagne reception, and the lady at the door
couldn’t find my seat. So rather than wander around looking like a
gatecrasher, I went ot the bar for some Dutch, or rather Irish,
courage. Ordered a whiskey and then remembered had forgotten my wallet
in car. Great.

Anyway, I finally got on a table (right by the stage so worth the
wait). Missed the starter though so asked if I could finish the lady
next to me’s dinner too. Then proceeded to paint my nails at table.
This was met by a horrified pause, then one lady two to my right
(Tafadzwa, we ended up bosom buddies by the end of the night) said,
“no offense but that is such a Murungu thing to do!”. Inside joke for
you Zimbo readers and with that alongside the social lubrication of a
bottle of Jack Daniels, we were all sliding together in conversation
fine after five minutes.

If anything we all got too raucous, because when they announced my
name as nominee for category of ‘Most Inspirational Woman in Zimbabwe’
there was so much drumming on the table and YILILILIIIIING that noone
could hear the reason had been chosen for award. (I ran across
Zimbabwe. Or possibly it was for my ability to walk up and down stairs
on rollerblades. Or go to work after a bottle of Jack Daniels
inspiring ambitious alcoholics girls worldover. I missed what the
awardsperson said myself.)
Anyway, I didn’t get the prize. I wasn’t expecting to, as having
assumed the whole thing was a Nigerian scam or joke until last minute,
and then forgetting, had also forgotten to ask anyone to vote bar a
few on the day voting closed.

The party carried on anyway though, and the speeches by the poor
winners by the end of night were being drowned out by shrieks of
laughter and increasingly loud and slurred conversations. Then the
dancing started, and I joined the DJ and did a dance-off until I was
hauled off the stage by the bouncer. (Whose already tepid first
impression of me was icy by this point, having already seen me sneak
in my friends after the end of the nominee anouncements.

Didn’t mind not winning this time, but am a competitive and stubborn
donkey, so next time i’m bloody running 1000 km across Zimbabwe. Or
rollerblading from Barcelona to Beijing. I’ll keep you posted. Or
blogged. Open to suggestions and challenges 🙂
All in all a great night, and for all you (fellow;) fashionistas out
there, tights are versatile items of clothing!