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Ever had one of those panic-filled, embarassing moments when you wished you could instantaneously burrow a hole into the ground and hide in it?  Happened to me right on my recent birthday.  And it involved a “celebrity” of sorts.  So read on.

To celebrate the day, C and I decided to cap it with dinner at a Japanese restaurant.  C picked Sapporo Teppanyaki at the Castlefield Centre (Manchester).  He had been to the one on Duke Street in Liverpool a year ago and had raved about some of the “tenderest beef” he has ever tasted.    We arrived around 7.  The place was sparsely filled, with only one group seating full.*   We sat next to a newly dating, couple,**  them to my left, and C to my right.  We had the spicy tuna for starters, and I ordered the lobster teppanyaki and C got the beef fillet in teriyaki sauce.***

While into our starters, another couple came in and were seated next to us.  The woman sat next to Craig while her husband (hereinafter referred to as “Mystery Man“) was further over to her other side.  They pored over the menu for a while and the woman occasionally turned to C with polite conversation (e.g., have we ever been to this place before, were we celebrating something, pointers how/what to order, etc..).  Later, C quietly turned to me and whispered that he thought Mystery Man looked familiar and that he might be in some program on TV.  He couldn’t remember his name though and said he had a funny feeling it was “Nick Something“.  In attempt to quench his curiosity though, C took out his spankin’-new Android phone (which he hates) and began his Google-sleuthing, angling the phone away from the woman beside to avoid detection.  Every now and then, we turned back to polite chit-chat with our seat-mates and “oooohed” and “aaaahed” along at the chef’s knife- and flame-throwing maneuvers.****  After some time though, C frustratingly complained that the dang Android phone wasn’t coming up with answers.   In the tone of a mastermind to his accomplice, C told me to “look closely at the guy, and remember what he looks like.  When we get home, we can google again and see if he is who I think he is.”  Hmmmm….  The thing is, I really am not very good at this.  C had given me a similar assignment a couple of months earlier.  We were visiting Fountains Abbey when he told me that one of the women in our group might be an actress in a daytime soap, whose name he could not recall.  He had then told me to “memorize her face” so that we can do our google- and wiki-research when we got home.  The problem is, I had not quite developed “English eyes” yet (still haven’t) :  i.e., Every platinum haired, skinny, put-together English, stylish, middle-aged woman looked like Helen Mirren to me.  So when we got home then, the Google “identify-the-mystery-person” project failed largely because none of the possible results matched the image in my head — which was … Helen Mirren, and of course, we weren’t looking for Helen Mirren.

But back from the tangent, back to earth, back to Sapporo Teppanyaki. I groaned back to the Godfather :  “Not again!  I can’t do this!  I don’t know who he is.  I can’t tell him from Adam, and I don’t think I can remember his face”.   The guy, FYI, looked the typical pale, slim, British nerdy/geeky cute, — which is every third or fourth male person you see on the street.   But still, wanting to be helpful, I thought of the next best thing.  I pulled out my ol’ reliable iPhone, and pretended to be taking pictures of C, when in fact, the camera was trained beyond him…. right onto Mystery Man.  And so while a commotion was going on as the Chef danced on the next table, I clicked and clicked on Mystery Man.  Now how’s that for “documentation”?  Pat on the back, Miss Chicago.  Well done.

Towards the end of the meal, at that the uneasy lull between wrapping up the main courses and the dessert menu came chit-chat again.  C feebly toyed with his Android phone, and we decided to snap a picture of ourselves.  But the Android was new, and C fumbled through the menus to get to the camera.  So I, being the fabulous techie that I am, puledl out my iPhone and clumsily tried to take shots from the front facing camera.   And this is where the drama/action begins. Suddenly, Mystery Man gallantly comes to the rescue… when he volunteers to take the pictures for us.  UH-OH.  Anyone with an iPhone would know that the camera always displays at the bottom left corner, the last picture taken.  And in this case, it would precisely be that one of MR. MYSTERY MAN himself.  Once he held the iPhone, he would see that I had surreptitiously taken shots of him! Flustered, I tried to “clue” the hubby into the situation we were in.  He was, of course, blissfully clueless.  At this point, I tried to take any — any — random shot with the camera just to block the last shot recorded and jabbered something about setting the camera up (as delaying tactic).  But I fumbled and failed.  Mystery Man assured us not to worry —    “I am familiar with this, ” says he, “I know how to work it.”  Wow, ok.  Off from my hands and into Mystery Man’s…. the camera with Mystery Man’s own picture as the last shot.  I’ll never know if Mystery Man caught the photo that I took.  Most likely he did.  But he was nonchalant enough, or polite enough, to not say nothing of it.   When he left to go to the rest rooms, C finally asked the wife point if he was the host of some regional (Northwest) TV show.  She said yes, but clarified that he worked for national television.  He was with the BBC Breakfast show.  Apparently, the BBC is relocating some of his studios out of London and into Salford (in the case of the Breakfast Show).  And thus Mr. and Mrs. ________’s look-see into Manchester.  Below is the picture.  Can you guess who he is?  (Clue:  No, his first name is not Nick.  But it has one syllable.)

Final Notes:  The food was excellent.  The couples on either side of us were very nice.  The day was perfect.  Happy, funny, birthday to me.

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FOOTNOTES:

*Usual Japanese teppnayaki style : 4 long tables connected on the ends to form a big square.  One-sided bar-style seating, with the chef(s) performing in the middle in front of a modern gas-powered teppanyaki griddle.

** Of course, I knew they were newly dating.  Women can “sense” these things.  And sometimes we overhear conversations.  Accidentally, of course.  :)

***  Wow, did I really just list down what we ordered/ate?  Can’t believe I did that.

****Ok, so I am slightly more blase in general but let it not be said that I could not feign enthusiasm enthusiastically.

POST POSTSCRIPT:  04/21/2011.  Mr. Turnbull will be staying on with the BBC Breakfast show and will be making the move up north.  Go Manchestah!  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-12920382

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