Thursday, 15 August 2013


I like awards. I think they’re fun. They’re fun to get and they’re fun to give.  As I believe in the innate justice of the universe, I figure anyone who gets an award has put themselves in the position to receive it and should get it. Bravo I say.

The friend I know with the most awards –  his office shelves are in danger of collapsing onto the head of the receptionist and knocking her unconscious in the middle of ordering his lunch – laughed about what it would be like if EVERYONE got an Oscar. Just for showing up on the red carpet in front of those art deco columns.

‘Hello, welcome, here is your Oscar. Aaaaaaaaaaaand -  one for your husband! He does what? Data entry? Fabulous! We love his work.’

Obviously there are some who think that universal award-giving deflates the value of the award. But I don’t agree. Universal oxygen does not deflate the value of having it.

This posits that winning an award is tantamount to breathing. When in fact what I want to suggest is that breathing is tantamount to winning an award. We just don’t think of it that way.

Not until someone has shoved a pillow over our face or our SCUBA gear has packed up at six fathoms deep. Then, if Jack Nicholson were to show up in a designer submarine, brandishing an Oscar and mouthing the words ‘Congratulations!’ while offering air to the schmuck in the suit next to you – you wouldn’t feel like a winner. You’d think ‘Jack! Throw me a tank! I don’t NEED the statue! I don’t WANT the statue, it’s HEAVY, I’ll take the Air!!’

But no, you hadn’t been nominated for oxygen. Only for Best Supporting Actor in Best Short Film Live Action (Two Reels).

Awards are in the eyes of the beholder.

I worked in prisons on and off for three years. I facilitated workshops for The Forgiveness Project, a glorious organisation that explores forgiveness through real stories – stories of people who have experienced criminal trauma and made the decision to forgive. The guys who took the course often lived on the ragged edge of life, exposed to treatment that would have levelled creatures of a lesser species. At the end of the three-day workshop every participant got a certificate of attendance. An award.

We sat in a circle, 25 of us. We’d bonded, after our three days of hearing and telling stories, doing role play and reading journal entries, and no one wanted to leave. The prison governor stood at the front of the room calling names. One of our staff stood beside him, giving the certificates and shaking hands.

The men would rise from their chairs as their names were called, to huge applause. They beamed. Some cried. One confided, gazing at the paper that had been printed off in the Forgiveness Project office two days earlier, ‘I’ve never won a thing in my life.’

We get to decide what counts.

I was in Paris last month, visiting the city with my family who had flown from Canada to spend the season in Europe. I don’t see them often enough and every moment in their company is a joy.

Strolling down the streets of Montparnasse en route to an evening by the Seine, my sister asked ‘What’s on your bucket list, Steph? What do you want to do before you die?’

I’ve thought about this. My answers were quick to hand.

‘I’d like to learn to tie knots,’ I said. ‘You know, good ones. I want to speak fluent French. And I’d like to win a BAFTA.’

That is an award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts. I think it would look good on my desk. Well, I don’t actually have a desk but if I had a desk, it would look good on it.

My sister was two steps behind. She quickened her stride to catch up. She looked down into my face, her eyebrows raised.

 ‘A bathtub?’ she said. (She’s from Canada. They have different awards.)

Two days later we were ascending the charming and history-steeped streets of Montmartre, six of us looking for a café with a view and good food, maybe tables in the shade. I was arm-in-arm with my bilingual nieces, trying to get them to speak French so I could pick it up, when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned and saw my sister pointing straight ahead.

‘There it is, Steph!! Just what you wanted!’

I looked in the direction she indicated. I saw what she meant. I ran up the hill, my family followed, I stood before them and made my speech. And as humbled and honoured as I was to win what you see on the bottom right of your screen – a life’s goal, my heart’s desire – I think the greatest achievement I could ever hope to know is the love and faith of the six hilarious, kind-hearted, generous-spirited supporters and fans recording the event for posterity:

Stephanie wins her first Bathtub. (Photo by Graham Young)


  1. Love the dress! You must have secretly known you were going to win :)

  2. As always, love this. And you. Please print a copy of your speech... x

  3. Eat your heart out Woody Allen. I used to think everyone had awards, the Award-winning "Phil Yerown Namein" so they were pointless until I got one myself earlier this year (+£25!!!!!, c'mon, see my website) and now I think they are very worthwhile. Mine doesn't actually exist as a desk-sitting object, just words but perhaps I could print them out very large and mount them on an elegant cardboard box...

  4. Perfect! Very funny and moving, of course. And congratulations!