Monday, October 15: This evening I go with my friend Neziha to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Muscat for an InterNations gathering.  We arrive really early because we drove directly from work, and since the gathering doesn’t begin until 7:00, we have fruit drinks in the lobby to kill time.

When we walk outside to the pool area next to the Lazy Lizard Lounge, where the gathering will be held, I see a thin blond woman sitting at a table with three laid-back looking friends.  Immediately, I am taken aback.   I say to Neziha, “I know that woman!! She’s a T.V. star!!”

“Who is she?  What does she star in?” asks Neziha, who has never seen the woman before.

I am not good with actors’/actresses’ names, or T.V. show names, or even T.V. character names, so it takes me a few minutes to connect all the dots.  “Uhhh, the show is…. it’s…. uh… Oh, I know it, give me a minute, it will come to me!”

Many minutes pass as my mind goes through its obstacles and convoluted paths like a ball in a pinball machine.  Finally, I yell: “Absolutely Fabulous!  It’s Absolutely Fabulous!  It’s a British sitcom.  Hilarious!  It’s about these two partying drunken women.”

Neziha asks me what the woman’s name is.  Again, I have to search in my memory archives.  Finally, after many more long minutes it comes to me: “Patty, no, no, it’s Patsy!”

Joanna Lumley and me at the Radisson Blu

As if it’s not enough that I have remembered the show, of which I have watched many, many episodes, and the character, who I should certainly know after watching so many episodes, but now Neziha wants to know the name of the actress.

To that I answer, “I don’t know!”

Later, we take a seat at an adjacent table to this actress’s table, not to eavesdrop but because there are not that many tables. During this time I am busy convincing myself that no, that cannot be Patsy.  Why on earth would she be in Oman?  And why at the Radisson Blu and not one of the more upscale hotels in Muscat? And the people she is with look so cool and down to earth, not how you would expect TV types to look.  No, it cannot be her.

Meanwhile one of Neziha’s friends joins, and we go through the same conversation.  He and Neziha want to approach her and just ask if it is her.  He has a smart phone and he looks up Absolutely Fabulous and tells me the actress’s name is Joanna Lumley. He passes around her picture on the phone and everyone thinks it must be her.

We then digress into a number of unrelated conversations, one of which is the story of a Palestinian guy who drops in on our table and tells us of how he was arrested by the Palestinian authority on account of “looking suspicious” and was tortured.  We talk about this horrible situation, the current problems with the situation in Palestine, and his personal story for quite some time.

We are not sitting close enough to hear the conversation at the actress’s table (if she is in fact the actress), but I can hear snippets of her voice and again, I become convinced that it is in fact Joanna Lumley, aka Patsy Stone.  Her voice sounds like Patsy, and her profile looks like Patsy, and the signature way she holds her cigarette and wine glass looks most definitely like Patsy.

Finally, I think Neziha cannot take all this guessing and wavering back and forth as to whether I think it is her or not, and she convinces me that we should just approach her and ask.  After getting up my courage, we both go over to their table, which feels awkward and intrusive.  I say, “Excuse me.  I hate to interrupt you, but I have to ask you, are you Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous?”  She says, smiling, “Actually, yes I am.”  I say, probably sounding like an infatuated teenager, “I thought it was you the minute I saw you, but then I thought, what on earth would she be doing in Oman?”  And she answers, “Actually, I’m on holiday.”  “Oh, well it’s so nice to meet you.  Thanks so much!”  She is very kind, but I feel so awkward I practically run away in embarrassment!

Neziha, Joanna Lumley and me at the Radisson Blu in Muscat

Later we sit and talk at our table some more, and then I think it might be nice to invite her to the InterNations gathering.   However, before I do that, I decide to run over to the InterNations check-in table and ask them if she can get in free if I invite her. The Irish woman at the check-in table, who has never watched Absolutely Fabulous and doesn’t know who I’m talking about, says, “Everyone has to pay.  Of course she would have to pay.”

Well. THAT is embarrassing, if I invite her and then she has to pay 5 rials to get in!  I think, wouldn’t it be gracious for InterNations to invite an actress, who many of the British members would certainly love to meet, and let her in for free?  I find this really irritating and ridiculous, to be honest, and decide that I’ll invite her anyway and if she wants to come, I will pay!

Neziha is determined that we should ask the actress if we can take a picture with her, and despite my hesitation to interrupt her again, I finally agree.  We apologize profusely again for our intrusion, but she is incredibly gracious and hops right up from the table to pose for pictures!!  I invite her to the InterNations gathering, telling her I’m sure there will be many Brits there who would love to meet her.  She politely declines, saying she has to catch a flight home at 3:30 a.m.

What a fun night!! Meeting Joanna Lumley is the highlight of the evening, and the only saving grace about the hot and sweltering outdoor InterNations gathering is talking to Neziha and an Omani woman who lived in the USA for 17 years.  Also, I meet a really nice Greek man who is working on the huge new Muscat International Airport.  It is lovely to meet a Greek man so soon after my trip to his country.

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For those of you who don’t know Joanna Lumley, here is her biography from her Facebook page, which is actually taken from Wikipedia.

Joanna Lamond Lumley, OBE, FRGS (born 1 May 1946) is an English actress, voice-over artist, former-model and author, best known for her role in the British television series Absolutely Fabulous portraying Edina Monsoon’s best friend, Patsy Stone, as well as parts in The New Avengers, Sapphire & Steel and Sensitive Skin. Her distinctive voice has been supplied for animated characters, film narration and AOL‘s “You have email” notification in the UK. She has spoken out as a human rights activist for Survival International and the Gurkha Justice Campaign and is now considered a “national treasure” of Nepal because of her support. She is an advocate for a number of charities and animal welfare groups such as Compassion in World Farming and Vegetarians’ International Voice for Animals She has won three BAFTA awards and a British Comedy Award (Wikipedia: Joanna Lumley).

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And, about the British sitcom: Absolutely Fabulous, also known as Ab Fab, is a British sitcom created by Jennifer Saunders, based on an original idea by her and Dawn French, and written by Saunders, who plays the leading character.

Edina “Eddy” Monsoon (Jennifer Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley) are a pair of high-powered career women on the London fashion scene. Eddy runs her own PR firm and spends her time chasing bizarre fads in a desperate attempt to stay young and “hip.” Patsy holds a figurehead position at a top British fashion magazine. The two women use their considerable financial resources to indulge in alcohol, recreational drugs, and chasing the latest fads in an attempt to maintain their youth and recapture their glory days as Mods in Swinging London. In 2011, they are still chain-smokers. The partnership is largely driven by Patsy, who is both co-dependent and enabler to Eddy. Their lifestyle inevitably leads to a variety of personal crises, which are invariably resolved by Eddy’s daughter, Saffron Monsoon (Julia Sawalha), who has become bitter and cynical. (Wikipedia: Absolutely Fabulous)

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