I had an event. So as usual, I did the normal preparations. In this instance, I was to be chairing my first ever panel – so I made doubly sure that I knew what I was doing. I read all my authors’ books. I scribbled notes in my well-worn notepad. Then I listed out my questions, emailed them out to the other authors to make sure they were happy. I rehearsed possible answers in my head, role-played the possible scenarios.
I was prepared.
Or so I thought.
As I packed my case, I couldn’t have felt better. I was like a boy scout. I had everything I needed. I’d braced myself for every eventuality. I had even packed 5 pairs of knickers for goodness sake and two toothbrushes (I was away for one night!) But who knew? I might get kidnapped, or run over by that runaway bus that my Nan always warned me about. I needed to be prepared.
Except I wasn’t.
I wasn’t prepared for the tube not working.
I wasn’t prepared for the crowds.
I wasn’t prepared for my brain completely switching off.
I stood at Victoria, case clutched in my sweaty hand – staring up at the shut gates of the underground. I was actually having a hot flush. What now? I wasn’t ready for this. I had to get to the other side of London and hadn’t a clue how. Swarms of frantic, sweaty people shoved in front of me. They all seemed to have purpose. I had none. My five pairs of knickers would not help me now.
Then a light bulb popped up in my head. A taxi! They did it all the time in films – just stepped out in the road and flagged one down, it couldn’t be that hard surely? I would leap into one and be saved. All would be well again.
So I staggered, trailing a wonky case behind me in the vague direction of West. There were no taxis. Just lots and lots of people that don’t look at you. I kept walking. Hoping I might find another underground station. I called my husband, who was at home trying to feed two hyperactive children. “I’m lost. I can’t find Green Park.”
“It’s not here,” he muttered helpfully. I think he was distracted by his own burst eardrums.
Then I saw a taxi. I shut the phone on my husband and attempted to flag it down. To be fair it probably looked more like a suicide attempt. I failed to get it, but I did manage to keep my left arm – just.
I was nearly sobbing by now. My feet hurt. My case was lurching from side to side like a drunk sailor and it was getting dark. Then suddenly a man appeared by my side, tall and smiling. He asked if I needed any help. He said he could escort me to the nearest tube station.
I honestly thought I had been saved. I beamed up at him. I wanted to kiss him, but I didn’t. Instead I recited my dreadful journey and showed him the bent up wheel on my case.
“I was looking for Green Park…..” I said sadly.
“Well, you’re nowhere near. Let me walk you.”
I honestly didn’t care who he was. He could have been Hannibal Lector or bloody George Osborne, I would have happily trotted along aside him.
"It's ok," He said, showing me his pass "I'm a mental health professional..."
So my advice after this rather crazy affair, is plan your journeys carefully. They can go wrong. Next time I’m packing a map, a compass and several distress flares.