I met Sporty Spice four years ago on a typically rainy Dublin night, down a cobbled lane lit only by orange street lights and the twinkling of a wet pub window.
A few weeks before I had sent a link to Mel C solo concert tickets to my friend as a joke, but secretly hoping that she would want to take that joke too far and go to the gig. She instantly exclaimed that we had to go, which is one of the many reasons why we are friends.
We decided that this would be a hilarious night all by itself, but agreed to help the fun along by sneaking small glass bottles of the cheapest vodka the newsagents would sell us inside our coats. We were very excited.
The Spice Girls were my band. I was too young to appreciate Take That. I missed the glory years of Boyzone. Yes The Backstreet Boys were fine, and N’Sync looked like a really cool gang of guys on episodes of Sabrina the teenage witch, but The Spice Girls were the only ones who really spoke to me. And that voice usually told me to wear ill-fitting belly tops and do the peace sign in every photo of my childhood.
I had a giant Smash Hits poster of them on my wall holding an inflatable globe. They were all wearing Buffalo platforms of various degrees of height that would make anyone actually trying to get anywhere wearing them break both ankles before leaving the house. I imagined meeting them with all my heart as their mascaraed eyes were the last thing I saw before I closed my eyes to sleep.
They would love me, of course. We would all become best friends, and they’d talk about me in interviews and rush to me while I was giving birth instead of doing a big Wembley concert (yes, most of my day dreams involved me taking on the role of their Chinese best friend in Spice Girls the movie). I also had a day dream about the show Friends that I remember repeatedly imagining when I was young: I was cast as Monica and Ross’s cousins daughter who ran away from home and had to live with Monica and Rachel. I was really hilarious, and quickly became a fan favourite and a series regular, obviously. But that was after I became best friends with the Spice Girls, of course.
They were my girls, especially Sporty. I was always her when we played Spice Girls during yard time and when buying temporary tattoos from the corner shop I would always chose ones just like hers, barbed-wire arm ring all the way!
I feel like I spent a lot of my childhood licking temporary tattoos that I got free in magazines and lollipops on to my skin, and that’s something that doesn’t really happen anymore. I wonder is that a pity? I also wonder is this early obsession with body modifications the reason I now have three tattoos, all of which I gave no thought to before I lay down on the tattooist chair?
The gig ended up being just as funny as we thought, except we were mostly laughing at ourselves. The information we gathered from everyone in the toilets led us to believe that we were most likely the only people who had actually purchased their tickets. It seems like bad ticket sales led to the promotional company giving free tickets at the last minute to every office block in Dublin.
The weedy guy sitting next to us, let’s call him Lee, was by himself and had thought he might as well come since he it was a free ticket. Poor unsuspecting Lee who we, in a blur of petrol vodka, decided must be really lonely and took him under our wing to dance with, take photos with and generally shout things about the Spice Girls at.
“Damn, we never got to add him on Facebook!” I slurred as he scurried away before the encore. He’ll think twice next time he says yes to a free gig, “but at what cost” he’ll ask himself.
After the gig me and my friend went to a gay bar because we had just been to a Mel C gig, it was a night of opportunities and dreams and firsts! No-one would talk to us, not even a very scared looking table of Japanese girls who were being ogled by every female in the bar. We realised that we were either way too drunk or horribly unattractive. We went with the former, because it brought up less self esteem issues.
We left the bar and stumbled towards the bus humming Mel C’s solo work into the wet wind.
“It’s Mel C!” my friend suddenly shouted. She had stopped in her tracks, mouth agape.
“What?” I asked, following her pointed finger to a figure running from a local pub towards us down the lane. I would recognise those red leather trousers anywhere, it was her, in all her glory! She spotted us: mouths open, frozen in shocked, arms outstretched and pointing, rain water filling up in our mouths.
“Hi girls!” she said in her Sporty Spice voice, which also happens to be her real voice, what are the chances?!
“We were at your concert!!!” We both shouted at her, like you would a mildly deaf relative. Talking to a Spice Girl, a real life Spice Girl causes you to forget how to interact with humans. That and half a litre of vodka coursing through your cold veins.
“Do you want a photo?” She was so lovely and we were so drunk. It was beautiful and awful and hilarious and so terrible.
We managed to hand one of her entourage my digital camera (taking it back to when a digital camera I bought in Argos for £30 was a thing I carried around, proudly) and tried to make normal human faces. But failed bitterly.
She turned back to us to talk about the concert but all that came out of our collective mouths was:
She took that as a sign to leave and darted into the stage door she had originally been heading for. We were left dumbfounded standing in the rain but not feeling a drop.
“I can’t believe Lee missed this.” I finally croaked.
Then we did lots of very loud laughing, like in Notting Hill when Will’s friends laugh in the hall after he leaves the dinner party with Anna Scott (what a movie).
Well, you know what they say, never let your heroes meet you.