Well what a week that was! If you’d have said to me at the beginning of 2020 that by mid-March we’d in full Coronavirus lockdown and unable to go past the front gate I’d have brushed it off. If someone then said four weeks into that lockdown you and your family would be on Granada Reports (twice in one week including once ‘LIVE’ from your dining room!!) and receiving birthday messages to Alfie from Ant & Dec, James Corden, Hugh Jackman and Stephen Mulhern etc then I’d have laughed in your face! Well it did actually happen and this is how it all came together…
Alfie’s 6th Birthday
Well! If you read the transcript above from the second of my Isolation blogs, you’ll know that’s when it all began but it started very slowly. In my last blog, Be Like Bambo, came my Bruce Lee moment (as it’s now known!). I bent with the wind and boy did it work! My sister, Janine had also been emailing many celebrities such as Joe Wicks, Paul Hollywood etc but she’d also contacted our regional news programme, Granada Reports.
Victoria Grimes, a TV reporter from Granada Reports (or Grandad Reports as Mila-Rose and Alfie call it!) contacted her to discuss the email she’d sent and she said it’s the kind of story that would bring a smile to peoples faces during these dark times. We had our first conversation with Victoria on Wednesday 15th April to see which celebrities Alfie (and Mila-Rose) liked. Ant & Dec were mentioned as well as Stephen Mulhern, Mr Poppy from Nativity. James Corden was also but mentioned but as he was in L.A. it probably was a bridge too far. At that point though we had more chance of getting a message from Archie the Donkey from Nativity!
w/c Monday 20th April
On Monday, we discussed with Victoria the details of the Skype interview that was planned for Wednesday. I took a few shots of Mila-Rose and Alfie in their Toy Story outfits that would be used in the report. These were sent to Victoria to use in the edit in the hope that maybe a few regional celebs would see this and maybe do a message. At that point she’d been in touch with the ITV press office who contacted the likes of Ant & Dec, Stephen Mulhern, members of the Nativity cast etc. They were still a long shot.
By Tuesday, Victoria had unbelievably secured messages from Stephen Mulhern (which she said was very special) and Catherine Tate. Everything seemed to be coming together. She’d also managed to get through to Ant & Dec’s agent but she pointed out that it wasn’t a given. As things were moving along, it was still in the back of my mind in regards to James Corden. Alfie was watching him more and more that week on YouTube, I’m not quite sure he fully understands his pranks but he just laughs and laughs at him! That day we also received an amazing message from all the players and coaching staff at Leigh Centurions, it was arranged by our good friend and Alfie’s mate, Gregg McNally or Greggles as Mila-Rose and Alfie refer him as! I honestly couldn’t get the grit out of my eye after watching that video!
Wednesday came and by lunchtime we’d done our Skype interview with Victoria. It was very funny, as we now knew she’d secured Stephen Mulhern’s message she was trying to prompt Alfie into talking about him and his show, In for a Penny. Firstly, by asking him what his favourite TV show was, Ant & Dec he replied! Same again having secured Catherine Tate, she asked what his favourite film was aside from Toy Story – he replied with PlayMobil – The Movie! You couldn’t make it up! During the Skype interview, I received an email notification from Marc Wootton’s agent. We now had a message from Mr Poppy from Nativity!
By Thursday morning I was on the phone to Fulwell73, the agency of James Corden. I was now confident we could get something (I think Victoria also had the same feeling as she said she’d sent an email to Hugh Jackman’s agent!). I had also sent a tweet to James Corden but I wasn’t that confident of him seeing that as he has well over 10 million followers on Twitter! I messaged Matthew McNulty to let him know I’d contacted Fulwell73. He replied to say that he’d text one of his mates who was in Gavin and Stacey, an actor by the name of Andy Knott. We were now as Matthew said “attacking him from all sides”. Then at 5.07pm came the message of all messages! I pressed play on the WhatsApp video message. the sound of a male voice singing Happy Birthday and the camera panning round to reveal… JAMES CORDEN!!!!! WTF!!! I couldn’t stop smiling, inside and out. A sense of just pure joy! I immediately ran upstairs to show Louise, we both looked at each other in shock but the feeling was just amazing! I just wanted to show Mila-Rose and Alfie there and then to see their reaction but that would just spoil the whole surprise. That evening everything just snowballed, we started to get messages from footballers Emile Heskey, Jermaine Jenas, Robbie Savage, Robbie Fowler, Jason McAteer, Adam Lallana, Leon Osman and Chris Kirkland. All but one of these were courtesy of our good friend, Gail Ashton, she had kindly fundraised for Alfie in the past. Her brother-in-laws brother is ex-Liverpool player, Stephen Warnock. He had brilliantly rallied the troops to get pull all these messages together. We have amazing friends who are just so kind and will always go out of their way to help. That evening we also had a call from Victoria, we would be on Granada Reports on Friday – LIVE!
Friday came and the nerves were jangling! We were going to be on live TV, God knows what Alfie would come out with! At lunchtime the line up was fully complete, Victoria had got the messages from Ant & Dec! We now had the Birthday Dream Team! Just 4 weeks ago, we were worrying how we were going to tell Alfie his Toy Story birthday party was not only cancelled but he also wouldn’t be able to celebrate it with all his family and friends. Now he would be on live TV having celebrities wishing him a Happy 6th Birthday! We went live and Alfie received messages from James Corden, Ant & Dec, Mr Poppy, Catherine Tate, Laura Tobin, Charlotte Hawkins, Ben Shephard, a personal message from Hugh Jackman and Stephen Mulhern. In his message, Stephen took it to another level and invited Mila-Rose and Alfie to have a FaceTime call to play the Stopwatch game! So so surreal. Everything was wrapped up and after the show had finished Victoria suggested we watched it back. There was a 10 second delay on us watching it so we had to mute the TV so we could switch back to face the camera. Also, Mila-Rose and Alfie were so ecstatic we didn’t really hear any of the messages due to their screams of joy and excitement! We watched it back and I could feel the emotion getting to me, by the time the James Corden message was on the screen I’d left the room as I was in bits. A mixture of joy, relief, emotion and pleasure had hit me all at once. 4 weeks of putting this together and I’d exceeded all my expectations and more. I looked across at Victoria and she just said I want to give you a great big hug but as she and Simon, the cameraman were outside on the patio they were unable to enter the house. I just about managed to pulled myself together to make sure Mila-Rose and Alfie didn’t see me trying to get the grit out of my eye once again!
Alfie’s actual birthday!
This was almost as surreal as the previous few days! We were up at 5am as Mila-Rose and Alfie were so excited! Presents were opened, lots of food/sweets were consumed and we even had a little street party thanks to a visit from Louby Lou! Alfie then had a virtual party with our family and friends, he absolutely loved it! During the party I had a phone call from a number I didn’t recognise, I rang it back later it was only Stephen Mulhern! What a lovely guy and true to his word! I explained that Alfie had been up since 5am and had a lot of excitement the last few days and he just said I’ll FaceTime you whenever is best for you. He didn’t have to do that but he did and we played the Stopwatch game on Sunday morning. He was just amazing with Mila-Rose and Alfie! A real down to earth guy who just wanted to do something special for our family.
I’m so proud of what I’ve achieved and I’ve given our family and friends a memory that will definitely last forever. From the moment of Alfie’s diagnosis, my/our aim has been to try and make the worst case scenario into a positive. My main target for this project was to first and foremost make Alfie’s 6th birthday as special as possible and with the help of our fantastic family and friends we’ve achieved that. I also wanted to raise awareness of his condition, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and given one phone I’ve had already this week it looks like that could well be achieved in the coming days. I’m not a medical expert, I won’t ever personally ever be able to find a cure. My aim when I started Action4Alfie was to make sure people knew about DMD and that no parent went through what we went through at the time of diagnosis. If just one of these high profile celebs can stick with us and maybe help in anyway then I’m sure someone of great importance may just stand up and take note. So that’s about it really, I know I’ve gone on a bit but this blog is now documented for both Mila-Rose and Alfie to look back on in years to come and if someone asks them what did you they do during the Coronavirus lockdown of 2020. They’ll say “Well, let me tell you a little story…”
Stay Home. Stay Safe and try to create something memorable this week!