You know those days when you collapse into bed, pull the duvet up around your ears and, totally spent, realise that was a day that was? That day was Friday 9 December.
It started like any other day. Bags packed for Newark, boot loaded with books, back seat stashed with Christmas presents, and me, bursting with good intentions of not being late to meet my mum for lunch in our new favourite coffee house, Strays in Newark. I was thwarted, of course, by my just-one-more-email habit and thus screeched into my mum's drive a *little* later than intended. Still, we managed our sandwich, and threw in a bonus second coffee (and mince pie) at the end of the afternoon as well, so I think I'm forgiven.
Meanwhile, I had the small matter of my talk at Newark library. I was nervous. Even more nervous than usual. There's something about speaking in front of people you know which makes you feel much more self-conscious, don't you think? It's where the 'worst case scenario strategy' doesn’t work anymore: if I trip when I stand up from my seat and drag the chair leg with me to the front of the stage before propelling myself into the lap of the unfortunate person who chose a front row seat, then, scuttling back into position, forget why on earth I'm standing in front of all these people and wonder if they'd be happy to hear about the contents of my Christmas shopping list because that's all I can think about right now, - then hey! It's not so bad because I'll never see these people again.
Oh yes, I will.
And if you think that the above is a figment of my warped imagination, click here to see why my fears have valid substance.
In the audience were some school friends, including one I hadn't seen for thirty years (remembered fondly for walking me home from many a night out in Newark, we being the only two who had the misfortune to live an hour's walk from the pubs) together with the handful of others who constantly support my endeavours. While it warms my heart to know they are with me once again, I don't want to let them down. I recognised some lovely tweeps with whom I've bonded over cancer on-line (I told you cancer wasn’t all bad). One even brought me a present of gorgeous, home-made, paraben-free (oh yes) soap and lip balm. With her were a gaggle of fire safety officers, passionate about keeping phones out of cars. You would be wouldn't you, if you attended the road traffic accidents they do. And last but certainly not least was the local radio presenter, June Rowlands, with whom I'll be chatting on air on the 29th January. I was humbled that June took the time to come and listen and while it was wonderful to meet her in person, there was the niggling fear that five minutes into the talk, she would fiercely regret ever booking me in the first place. All this in addition to the many new faces who'd taken time out of a busy Friday afternoon in December to listen to me, when I suspect they had the odd other job to do.
It's fair to say, I felt the pressure.
I'm happy to report that my feet stayed firmly planted in position with no suggestion of a stumble (although I note from my friend's photograph that I was crossing my ankles and my physio - she's not strictly 'my' physio, you understand, but it feels like that sometimes - would take a very dim view). I remembered what I wanted to say and said it in just about the allotted time frame. Although this is remarkable in itself, it isn't what will make the day memorable.
It was everybody else's input.
There were so many pertinent questions and anecdotes from people's lives relating to the themes of Glass Houses and Tea & Chemo and they kept on coming, so much so that I felt compelled to flash a glance or two at the organiser of the event to check it was ok that we were all still there. We spent a long time on the meaning of life, including near death experiences, but trust me when I say that it was a truly upbeat conversation about getting the most from life. I stood in that room in Newark library and all the rubbish, both globally and closer to home of the last few years, seemed so far away in those two hours. There was so much positivity even though people were talking about quite harrowing experiences. One lady even spoke about her mother who died as the result of a road traffic accident and how, it took a year, but eventually she felt compelled to talk to the driver of the car. She needed to let the driver know that she forgave them, that she knew it wasn't intentional. She had to express her forgiveness so that the driver could move on with their life. And thus so she could move on, too. I think there were a lot of us in the room holding it together at that point. What an incredible lady.
Some normality returned as I drove home, touching 50mph maximum because the run flat light had come on in the car. It's the second time in two long trips for me that this has happened. Me and this car do not get on. Still, at least we didn't have this little experience which is what happened last time the light came on.
Only a few people beeped and gesticulated to make sure I was under no illusions that I am an idiot. I think I need to construct a sign saying that I am driving in the inside lane of the dual carriageway at 50mph because otherwise I will have a blow-out and that, my friend, is going to slow up your journey even more than the speed I'm currently driving which, by the way, is much more frustrating for me as I have to do it all the way home.
I didn't mind the elongated journey. I was happy to stay in the moment. There is much goodness in the world and it isn't the total bleakness we can trick ourselves into thinking. Ordinary folk, the ones having the ordinary days, are doing extraordinary things. People put up with so much in their lives and keep smiling, keep being kind to others and if we want to feel better about the world, I wonder if we should simply look to those closer to home.
There is madness. I have an enormous dollop of Weltschmerz sitting in my head at the moment, like so many of us. I really do fear that the world may not exist in any recognisable form for even my children's generation, for so many and varied reasons. But I came away thinking that people never really change. People are the constant and people are what might just make it work out in the long run.
That is why that Friday afternoon in Newark Library will be a day to remember for me.
Thank you so much to everybody who came along, to the library for their organisation, to those who spoke and those who listened and those who enthused. It was a day that was.