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Thank you Mrs Patmore!

The term "you've been Patmored" became a familiar cry as Mrs Patmore was recognised time after time throughout her visit to Hong Kong. Of course, the wonderful, affable Lesley Nicol who plays Mrs Patmore in Downton Abbey would beam and say, "Yes I am" to hesitant and starstruck enquirers (even in the middle of department store, Marks & Spencer, with two smiling teenagers!), before happily posing for selfies, or giving away autographed postcards pulled from the depths of her bag.

This past week we have been blessed with the presence of our beautiful ambassador as she and LA songwriter Mark Mueller began a whirlwind tour of events to support our projects and campaigns here in Asia. With accommodation so kindly sponsored by Alexander Wassermann and his team at the Intercontinental Grand Stanford in Tsim Sha Tsui East, who generously donated harbour view rooms for them for the entire five nights (thank you SO much Alex), the trip was jam packed as Lesley, Mark and his partner Mike arrived from the USA and threw themselves straight into work.

 hotel

Starting the tour on Friday 26th May with a visit to Hong Kong International School (HKIS), coordinated by our Animal Welfare Education Manager, Karina O'Carroll, Lesley, Mark and Mike rolled up their sleeves to meet the students and join in the fun. In fact, the visit disguised a serious motive as part of HKIS's mental health awareness week, where they had invited our canine Professor Paws and their volunteer humans in for a relaxed and casual visit, giving students some time to simply de-stress with the dogs.

 Professor Paws 1

The dogs didn't disappoint. Professor Coco and carer Angela, Professors Brownie and Stanley with carer Andrea, and Professors Chiu B and Goonyck with Winnifer worked the room like pros, with a delighted student audience patting, hugging and cuddling them and de-stressing in the process. One teenager who had gingerly held Goonyck and stated that he "wasn't a dog person", was later seen lying on the floor next to each furry professor in turn, enjoying therapy of the dog kind with a big beaming smile on his face. Lesley, whose other dedicated charity is Medical Detection Dogs, loved the visit from start to finish and was surrounded by the volunteers, students and teachers, who were delighted to have this famous actress in their midst.

 

Professor Paws 3  Professor Paws 3

On to our Animals Asia office for Lesley, Mark and Mike to catch up with all in our Hong Kong team and enjoy a couple of hours reminiscing and relaxing. This was a fabulous opportunity that gave us all the chance to ask a few cheeky questions of Lesley's life and exploits over a glass or two of wine!

AAF HK TEAM

The next day, it was time to visit Ta Pantry where our wonderful Hong Kong supporter Esther Sham had laid on a sumptuous vegan tea for a select group of our VIP guests, along with Hong Kong Support Group Leader, Susan Sum (below). Thank you Esther and your wonderfully generous team for such a perfect and elegant afternoon.

 Ta Pantry

With everyone royally entertained with behind the scenes insights of Lesley and Mark's professional journey, the afternoon went by in a flash before we were heading over to vegetarian/vegan restaurant HOME for an evening event to launch their new Moon Bear dish – a wonderful vegan mushroom risotto, where the profits benefit our rescued bears in China and Vietnam.

Home 1

The restaurant owner Christian Gerard Mongendre and his partner Celina Jade were thrilled to greet Lesley and – together with supporters such as local model Richie Kul and his gorgeous dog Lily, who had come in especially to meet her too – made her feel welcome and loved in this city of Hong Kong.

Home 2

Lesley's final event was the highlight of her trip as she and Mark had generously agreed to hold the world premiere of her one woman show - "How the Hell Did I Get Here" - at The Fringe. Kindly sponsored by Terry and Jane Endsor, ensuring that every dollar raised that night would go to Animals Asia (endless thanks to you both), the event was planned with precision by our Development Manager, Eva Yoe, who had worked her socks off to ensure that all Lesley's events would go like clockwork during the course of the trip.

The premiere day dawned and Lesley was first given the VIP hair treatment by Fathima of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Hair and Beauty Salon who so generously gave her time and talent for free. Now beautifully coiffeured, Lesley was whisked off to The Fringe to meet with Mark and Mike for a late afternoon rehearsal before the main event.

From 7pm our friends and supporters began to stream into The Fringe, where drinks and vegan canapes were enjoyed along with chats and updates from the Animals Asia team. Just after 8pm it was time for Lesley to enter the stage - as she did, to a rapturous applause. And the applause went on and on, as Lesley delivered the most superb performance with her special brand of talent and passion in celebration of a life she loves on the stage.

Fringe 1

Ups and downs, gulps and laughs, carrying an enthralled audience every step of her way, from a childhood of shyness (in National Health specs) to a woman in her fifties who finally made it big! The guts it must have taken to even work on such a show, that saw her vulnerable and exposed, let alone deliver it with such aplomb, was clearly what everyone loved most of all. Lesley simply showed how every single one of us can triumph against the odds, against relentless kicks in the teeth, and against those who say it can't be done.

Lesley 1

Mark's amazing songs and lyrics, and his belief in Lesley's story did her proud. The atmosphere in The Fringe was palpable and intense, and every song almost drowned out at the end by a delighted audience that was taken on a journey of life.

Fringe 2

Just when we thought Lesley had finished and the last standing ovation quietened, she threw a final surprise, by singing an encore of a new song she'll be recording soon, called "I have a Dream". The song brought everyone to tears – not least because it featured our beloved moon bears and their journey from farms to freedom. Behind Lesley on the big screen was a picture of her beloved rescued bear – Pickle Nicol.

Lesley 2

So many emotions experienced in the audience that very special night - with everyone knowing and loving that they were part of a small but special snapshot of a woman who was brave enough to share.

With endless thanks to Eva who worked like a Trojan throughout those chaotic and fun filled days – and to our tireless Animals Asia team who helped her through every successful day.

Lesley 3

To Lesley, Mark and Mike - our love and gratitude for the absolute honour of premiering Lesley's one woman show in Hong Kong, and to my beautiful friend and ambassador, in sisterhood, for every minute you champion Pickle Nicol and friends.

 

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