Sheila Farebrother’s 90th birthday party began promptly at 4pm with champagne and canapes. The venue was a converted barn in the countryside near Worthing, West Sussex.
After helping themselves to a fine spread of salmon, chicken, lamb and ratatouille, the 80 guests were told to take their seats for the entertainment.
The lights dimmed, a band struck up and in walked… Sir Elton John.
There were gasps among the audience as he took to the stage.
Ordinarily, it might not seem so odd that, superstar though he undoubtedly is, Elton had taken the trouble to travel to a converted barn venue in West Sussex for what was his mum’s birthday.
But almost everyone at last Saturday’s do was well aware that for the past seven years, since 2008, Elton and Sheila have not been on speaking terms and that there has been a cataclysmic falling out between them.
As ‘Elton’ launched into his first song, Daniel, the audience were able to take a closer look at the performer.
It gradually dawned on them that this was not the man himself, but a tribute singer called Paul Bacon.
Mrs Farebrother’s hiring of a lookalike to sing at her milestone birthday party shows a lively sense of humour.
And a certain toughness, too, given that she can find something to laugh about in such a situation.
She chose the playlist herself for the hour-long set — 16 of Elton’s greatest hits, including Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Candle In The Wind, Your Song and I’m Still Standing and was up on the dance floor for most of it.
The last song was the 1976 No 1 hit Don’t Go Breaking My Heart, in which the phoney Elton performed a duet with the real Kiki Dee, one of the celebrity guests — along with former newsreader, Angela Rippon — who was present.
Mr Bacon, 54, from High Wycombe, who set up The Ultimate Elton tribute band in 2012, said yesterday: ‘It was very much Sheila’s idea. Her 90th birthday was a big occasion and she wanted to hear the music she knows and loves so much.
\’As the other chap wasn’t available, she got us in, the next best thing.’
To an outsider, it may seem incomprehensible that a son would no longer see his elderly mother.
He is still believed to support her financially and it has been reported that he sent her flowers for her birthday.
So what has happened?