Unconventionally-beautiful Glacial Groove Queen Sophie Ellis-Bextor cruised into Hurstpierpoint, Sussex, yesterday in her snow-white, 34-foot yacht "Blue Peter Groovejet", at the end of her 210-day, 23000-mile round-the-world solo sail, writes Maritime Correspondent Bill Barnacle for Stamp Collector's Quarterly.
Ellis-Bextor stepped on dry land and immediately fell into the arms of her proud mother, former Blue Peter presenter Janet Ellis. "She said she'd sail around the world, and she has!" cried her tearful mother, who proceeded to pin a Blue Peter badge to her daughter's breast, to cheers from a huge crowd.
The rock-star style welcome clearly surprised Ellis-Bextor, who said "I'm not used to this, after such a long period of solitude. Where I've been hanging out, I've not been recognised much. And the boat trip was the same."
Ellis-Bextor, fingering her Blue Peter badge gingerly and trying to prise her mother away, told the writhing throng that she was delighted to prove people wrong. "I love being unconventional. There's so much convention. People don't think you're capable of these things. Take away those expectations, and there's no limit to what an unconventionally-beautiful glacial groove queen can achieve."
The World Speed Sailing Record Council is expected to confirm that Ellis-Bextor's feat is a world record. "She's the first disco-type singer to get round the world solo", said spokesbosun Jack Tarr. "Gladys Knight made it round, but, as we all know, she had one of the Pips stowed away to help out with stormy weather (I didn't rate their version much - Ed.), so we had to disqualify Gladys. Victoria Beckham is bound to try it now Sophie's had a go, but even if she makes it, Sophie will always be the only unconventionally-beautiful glacial groove queen to sail solo round the planet."
Ellis-Bextor revealed that she loves the way she can avoid recognition, and that was one of the reasons that she sailed round the world alone, as was the difficulty of her image. "Being unconventional-looking can be a challenge for a woman and a singer", she told journalists gathered at the quay-side at Hurstpierpoint. "It was oddly liberating, being alone among albatrosses, manatees, whales and migrating eels and turtles. I realised that we all have a unique beauty. The world is full of unconventional beauty. It's society that tries to impose convention on us."
She went on (and on - Ed.), now leaning on her mother, struggling to get her "land legs". "I also took my stamp collection with me. I'm a keen philatelist, which is not widely known, and I wanted to prove that philately gets you everywhere. I mean, round the world is pretty much everywhere!"
Once the laughter at this unconventional joke had died down, Ellis-Bextor revealed that she tried to speak French as much as possible during the voyage. "I can only speak very little French, and I tried to practice while I was alone, but I didn't make much progress. It's a good job I'm not French, or I'd be in real trouble!"
Once the laughter at this second unconventional joke had died down, the round-the-world heroine had another revelation for the gathered multitude.
"I started writing a novel years ago", she said, somewhat tentatively. "It wasn't very good, and I soon stopped writing. However, in between fighting the heaving main, speaking pidgin French to the albatrosses, and enjoying my stamp collection, I returned to my manuscript. I have made a new start. The novel is now the story of a stamp-collecting unconventionally-attractive groove queen and French lady sailor who is writing a novel about a stamp-collecting unconventionally-attractive groove queen and French lady sailor writing a novel about a stamp-collecting unconventionally-attractive groove queen and French lady sailor writing a novel at sea. It's all rather complicated now."
Finally, as she left the quayside, Ellis-Bextor said that one of the main reasons she embarked on the voyage was to avoid having to listen to her most-famous hit "Groovejet (If This Ain't Love)". "I really hope that they're actually playing my latest single now, instead of always playing "Groovejet", she grimaced, as the evening sun shot spears of gold into the heaving graphite sea and the pastel-shaded hovels of Hurstpierpoint radiated a sombre, unconventionally beauteous hue, and she staggered away, on the arm of her adoring mother, leaving just one more question in the mind of this reporter.
Does a mariner's rolling gait sit well on an unconventionally-beautiful glacial groove queen? Is it a handicap? Or is it - and Sophie Ellis-Bextor's inspirational words and deeds make me think it could well be - is it another triumph of unconventionality?