Wednesday, March 12, 2008

After the horse has bolted

OK so I brought the teasmade upstairs, cleared the books from the bedside table, plugged it in, set the time, set the alarm, filled the tank with water, fished the teabags out of my dressing gown pocket, put them in the teapot, went downstairs, poured milk into a china jug and settled it in a bowl of ice, carried up the bowl and two china mugs and pressed the button so that a little red light went on underneath the logo of a steaming cup of tea. I was aiming for tea at seven o'clock. I got tea at seven o'clock. I also got woken up every hour between midnight and seven o'clock by the thought: "I wonder if the tea is ready yet?" which was not at all the idea.

The day got worse because foolishly I had agreed to open a barn. My friend rang yesterday and said they didn't have anyone else to do it and would I consider it. They had to be desperate. I said slowly: "Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay" thinking "I suppose it will be alright. A barn. There'll be a farmer and his dog there."

After she rang off, I checked it out on the Internet and it was not so much a barn as a diversification/environmental/education project with a cafe and a giftshop. My ex-friend e-mailed me a guest list and there were councillors on it and people from Non-Departmental Public Bodies and I thought: "Now I'm in trouble." In my real life I am a journalist - this means I sit at the back of the room listening to speeches thinking: "God, you're boring!" This is not the best life experience to have when you realise you have to write and deliver your own speech. At least I abandoned the passing idea of "doing a David Cameron" - that is to say speaking without notes. If I had tried to do that, I think I might have had a stroke before finishing.

Some days I think you would be better just not getting up at all. I turned up at "The Barn", converted and perched on land overlooking the coast, the wind fretted sea and out onto Holy Island. The first thing I did was blow in to the education room where the presentation was being given. I arrived late - all things are relative. I arrived an hour and a half earlier than I was due to cut the ribbon but half an hour later than the event actually started. Although I had been given permission to miss the speeches and just do the ribbon thing, I wanted to hear what it was all about. What that meant was the wind virtually hurled me through the door which was right at the front of the room where the attentive audience was watching a video presentation. Everybody caught the entrance - complete with a cup of black coffee which I had snagged before I went in thinking I would just slip in at the back. (I had to have the coffee because of the sleepless night courtesy of the teasmade.) I then had to stand there at the front, leaning against the wall till the video was over because in my embarassment, I could not immediately see anywhere to sit.

The "barn"venture had taken the farmer five years to pull together which judging by his speech has not been easy. Clues like "The project has certainly not been without its problems" and "When agreements are made they have to be honoured not altered halfway through or have payments reduced." It was all quite complicated and includes flooding marshland while still allowing sheep to graze. Presumably they will warn the sheep before the tides sweep in - either that or give them swimming lessons and lilos. An enthusiastic environmentalist also talked of the importance of the project to the Light Bellied Brent Geese which are allowed to graze on stubble around and about. (Apparently the geese were supposed to take the hint and graze on grass but they have refused. It is either the stubble or Jamie Oliver recipes - nothing else.)

After we moved into the cafe for a pre-arranged "comfort break", all too soon it was my turn. I did not even have a podium to hide behind. I realised as I was being introduced that this had been a very, very bad idea and that the audience was undoubtedly asking exactly who the hell I was. My voice shook, my hands which clutched my pieces of paper shook. I told them that it was in fact the second time I had cut a ribbon for an opening ceremony - the first being yesterday when I discovered driving back from the village with the teasmade in the boot, my husband had decided to string ribbon across the gateway to the cottage on the premise that since I had not been born a minor royal I might need some practice. I think they laughed but I am not sure as there was a humming in my ears by that point. With some relief I read a section from the blog and then said some words like "diversification" and "preservation" and "nature". Then we went outside and I cut the ribbon which was red and strung between two manicured box trees. I have never done it before (I do not count yesterday when technically what I did was drive through the ribbon in the Saab) and I am never doing it again.

Apart from my pretty disastrous appearance as Sophie Windsor (believe me they earn every penny) I enjoyed being part of someone's dream. I think anyone who makes something that big happen is to be congratulated. But probably my personal highlight came as I was walking through the blustering wind back to the car when a man in a tweed jacket leaning against a bench said:"Do you want to write some song lyrics?" That is what you call a good line. As it happens I have just seen Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant in Music and Lyrics. "Hugh" said: "I could set them to music and play them in a session in a local pub where we all meet up." Apparently lyrics have to be strong and have something that repeats. I could do that do that do that.

9 comments:

Norman said...

Its all a changing scenne, isn't it? There was nowt like that in my day. Beal was just a farm you passed on the way to Lindisfarne.

Julesritter.com said...

I apologise for the ditty I left on your site last night - never blog after a few glasses of wine - it wasn't meant to be offensive, I thought it was hilarious at the time but hindsight is a marvellous thing. I loved this piece and will try to be erudite and witty in the future. Julesritter.com

softinthehead said...

Ooh I didn't realise you there THAT famous.

Iota said...

They must like you and have accepted you if you get asked to open a barn. I think that's great.

You didn't tell us what the tea was like. We need to know.

aims said...

We're just having a new roof put on our barn (which is our home) ---- you could come over and I'll string a ribbon across the gate and you could 're-open' it once the roofers are done.

I promise no 'huge' fanfare or speeches necessary...

CrazyCath said...

I think you were very very brave. Or naive. No I prefer brave. Well done an' all that. At least you didn't run out screaming...

And take no notice of Norman. I haven't in all my years knowing him. ;0)
Your secret location is safe with us.

mutleythedog said...

Further to AIMS comment - I have been saving up for some new underwear and I wondered if ......

wife in the north said...

Thank you Aims and Mutley but as I said I am never doing it again. Though if there was anything guaranteed to make me change my mind, Mutley's kind offer would obviously be it. Perhaps Mutley we could write a song together instead - do you play the zither?

Sarah said...

Jonathon Ross, and his ilk, play bursts of appropriate music, as a guest (usually nervously)enters the studio.
I came up with 'Hit The North' by The Fall.
That's all, though.
Any other suggestions- oh, I suppose you're set to write your own bloomin' theme tune, now, eh?
Have you been announced as 'local author'?
I am, in press, referred to as 'local artist'.
Some folk achieve 'celebrated local artist'. (Sigh)