Lunch with Duncan Bannatyne (and OCD)

by Charlotte Fantelli

So I had the fantastic opportunity to have lunch with Duncan Bannatyne last week. He is, as Uncovered readers will know, someone I have admired for a long time, so I was somewhat excited at the prospect. After the wonderful article I wrote about him ;-) He invited me out as a thank you.

For those who haven't read my other posts, I have obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and emetophobia - the following is an example of how this effects my everyday life now.

OK so imagine -

  • I had not been out for a meal in over three years,
  • I do not eat or drink around anyone I don't absolutely trust, and
  • I haven't even eaten my mums cooking in years! (No insult to my mum's cooking, I just don't eat anywhere other than home!)
  • I have to fight with everything in me to touch anything the public has touched - doors, chairs, cutlery...
  • I can wash my hands 100+ times in a day

And yet, I have just agreed to lunch with Duncan, who, by the way, is unaware of my somewhat-unusual traits!

The background

After a guy I was living with, threatened to spike my food with drugs when I was a teenager, I became paranoid, dropped to just over six stone, and if I ate twice in a week it'd be a good week! My mum had resorted to giving me build up drinks, as at my worst I was sick trying to force a slice of ham and a cherry tomato into myself - my stomach too small to take it.

However, I have come a LONG way since then. Back in 2007 my husband told me he wouldn't start a family with me until I was eating three meals a day and up to a size eight! (Italian chef's are like that!)

So now an AMPLE size eight (10 if I breath out!), a mum and a lover of good food, I am left with one difficulty regarding food - eating anywhere other than home. But, when invited to lunch with Duncan, I was not going to let that beat me.

The day itself

So, I had a very big day ahead. Not only had I a table booked in a little place in St Albans (100+ miles away from where I live), with Duncan, I had an afternoon meeting with Simon Dolan, my business partner.

I started the day by taking a trip to the hairdressers - Tony Hair (just thought I'd give Matthew Smith my fab hairdresser a plug!) I had my hair curled. I put on my tightest white shirt, an under-bust corset, tight black trousers and knee high boots with metal stilettos! Dressed as much to boost my ability to fit my 'persona', as for anyone else's benefit - my full body mask was adorned, I felt confident.

I arrived in St Albans. Duncan's chauffeur-driven Merc instantly gave away his presence, not just to me, but to the teenage fans who immediately accosted him.

Being the perfect gentleman (and perfect company for someone with OCD) he opened every door, purchased parking and did the general 'untouchable' things, meaning I didn't have to dance around and make excuses.

Hurdles

The first real hurdle came when I needed the loo. We went into the restaurant 'Lussmanns', which was clean and the staff were very attentive! After Duncan sat down I went and found the conveniences.

Like a world class athlete I managed to dance around the tiny cubicle touching handles and buttons and taps without using my hands. Yet I still managed to pee, wash my hands, and emerge so no-one would ever know the army assault course tactics I had just resorted to. Like a complete pro (after years of this crap) I had not a drop of sweat on my brow.

Next came the food. Now I had decided to be honest! I was going to simply say, "Duncan, you know I own a mental health magazine, so this shouldn't come as a major shock..." And excuse myself from eating. However, his enthusiasm for me to order some 'lovely' food, was such, I just couldn't say no!

I ordered Leek and potato soup - can't go too far wrong with piping hot root veg...? Nothing adventurous or rather dangerous about that! Excellent I thought, I can sit stirring it and blind him with my dazzling conversation...

'And for mains?' The waiter said.

Oh no!

'I am more than content with a starter'... 'really' I said 'I will burst out of my corset' - Duncan's reply was flattering and humorous, but did not let me off the hook. So I ordered steak and chips - well done!

Inner and outer dialogue

The conversation flowed and for a while I actually felt 'normal'. It is amazing how spending time in the company of someone who doesn't expect you to behave in a certain way, gives you the freedom to be who and what you want to be.

I did occasionally slip into my Dettol mode - A state I get into which can only be pictured by 'non phobic' folk like the Dettol adverts... I see things as if they were under a microscope. I seem to be able to spot germs at a hundred paces. When slipping into this mode I lose focus of everything else and watch - What is the waiter doing? Has he just touched that?.. and then my plate? What about the chef... What if... What if... What if?

Now I can usually switch from 'Dettol' state, to 'normal' state without missing a beat. Unless you know me really, really well and can read my eyes, you can easily miss the rising terror and internal turmoil...

Back to Duncan, and I think I managed to keep the conversation going without evoking any question as to my focus.

The meal

The meal came - piping hot, which was great - this way I could be sure it was as 'uncontaminated' as possible, whilst also being able to sterilise my cutlery :-)

I actually managed a good few spoonfuls, and I assumed he was used to sitting across the table from the model types who eat no more than a mouthful anyway!

I drank a glass of wine (figuring that the alcohol content made it less dangerous in my warped emetophobe world than a glass of water). Problem is, I am a total lightweight on wine!

The steak and chips came; well done Lussman's as they too were piping hot. I figured deep fat fried stuff should be as germ free as you can get! I had a couple of chips and they were absolutely lovely.

Starting to relax

Whether it the wine, the company, or the 'bugger it, I'm doing this now so I'm damn well going to enjoy it' attitude, I actually ate some of the steak and finished my glass of wine - knowing I had the car journey to Simon to panic about it if I needed to, besides a smile and hug from Simon can quite easily make me forget most things... For some scary reason I trust Simon (scary as trust is not something that comes easy to me) - I once told my psychiatrist "I don't have a problem with trust as I don't trust anyone, that way I never have to have a problem with it!" This was before I met my husband who showed me trust isn't always a vulnerability.

After the meal we went for a walk around the town, I walked off the adrenaline and the wine before heading off to my next meeting, almost forgetting that I had this thorn in my side called OCD.

I learned something that day, as I do most days I challenge my own perception of myself. I can live the life I want! It may not always be easy, but with a little hope and a shed load of determination, anything is possible... After all, I had just had lunch with Duncan Bannatyne!

Duncan, I think is still blissfully unaware of the ridiculous and somewhat hilarious inner dialogue that was playing out under the calm, corseted exterior of his lunch companion... I may just have to ask him :-)

C

Please see 'Welcome to my life' for more about me - and pictures of me with Duncan, with Simon and with my family x

Comments

Wow what an opportunity. I wish I had you guts. I have OCD and its bloody awful. Well done for admitting this, it must be hard to be so open about it. Becky

Thanks Becky - yeah I am a bit nervous about being soooo open, but then if I'm not who's going to be. All the very best on your journey - I once never dared to dream about what I'm doing now. It is achievable - well maybe not lunch with Duncan, that I can't promise, but OCD is manageable with the right amount of determination x

Wow what an opportunity. Duncan is someone I have also long admired and he seems like a normal down to earth, play it fair kinda chap too.

Yeah he sure is, very glad I did it.

Charlotte the more I hear of your experiences and what you are doing now the more I think you are providing a great service and are an inspirational woman. I have experienced PND and other hormonal related depressive episodes. I heard you speak at Forest Fire this year, what can I say other than keep doing what you're doing. This online mag is a fantastic medium for showing compassion, support & signposting people, and those in our networks, who are experiencing mental health issues. God bless you in this. Caroline

Thank you so much Caroline, I am blessed to have this incredible journey and even more so that I can share it with so many x

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