I've survived it again. I went to a place where normal people were, and conversed with them without committing some kind of catastrophic faux pas. Anyone who knows me or even reads this blog will probably know how socially inadequate I can be. Hayes House is my bubble; a turbulent bubble, granted. Nevertheless, when I'm in the thick of it I forget that there exists a whole other world beyond our front door, which at times can be far more intimidating than the abject chaos I live in.
I was invited to a presentation evening given by the lovely Ormskirk Writers and Literary Society, or OWLS, as I came third in their annual Jo Cowell writing competition with my writing about Sam. I don't doubt that if the the award on offer had been for Ingenious Ways to Make a Prat of Oneself in Polite Company, I'd have come first.
As if agreeing to attend wasn't actually a big enough feat, I was asked if I would read my entry aloud at the presentation. Of course I said yes, partially because I'm an idiot, and partially because the writing is so personal to me that I thought it would be just too weird to hear a stranger reading it. Of course when agreeing to do this I hadn't hadn't factored in my complete lack of social skills, the fact that I lose all ability to speak coherently when I am nervous, and the reality that I sound a damn sight better on paper than I do in person.
In classic Clare-style, I realised at the last minute that I had deleted the only email from the OWLS which contained the start time of the event. Unfortunately my attempts to contact them on the day of the presentation were unsuccessful. I didn't know what to wear, when to be ready for, or where the hell we were going. I gave Stig the directions and he very wisely immersed himself in them and pretended to be oblivious to my wandering in and out of the bedroom with random pairs of trousers, muttering to myself.
Over the last four weeks I had become increasingly sick with nerves, culminating in my not eating all day yesterday. This mightn't have been so bad (possibly even a good thing for the diet that I always intend to start but never do) if it hadn't been that the OWLS had wine on offer at the presentation.
I followed Stig's advice (rarely a good plan) and had a glass to calm my nerves. Soon after I noted that I'd stopped shaking and felt almost calm. I thought I was prepared to hear my name called as the time drew nearer, but by the time they did call me I was clutching my entry so tight that I'd crushed the corner of it and I was beginning to lose the feeling in my right hand. I managed to get up to the front without falling on top of anybody and took my place, ready to read.
I thought perhaps I should make some kind of eye contact with some of the room, but unfortunately the old chestnut of imagining people naked scuppered that idea; I'd have had to stare directly at Stig throughout the entire thing and given that I was a bit tipsy I'd probably have lost what semblance of composure I had left. So instead I sped-read through the whole thing in about three minutes without looking up once, and for good measure I even managed a laugh-snort in the middle.
They were very lovely about my writing, and it was so nice to meet other people who enthuse about something I love so much. I may have acquired a few extra grey hairs but I'm so glad I decided to go.
I'd like to say a huge thank you to the Ormskirk OWLS. When they first contacted me I assumed it was some new writer's magazine touting for subscribers or advertising yet another writer's course (my inbox is full of them). I couldn't believe I'd actually won something. Even more so after the presentation evening last night where some of the other entries were read out. I'm really proud that I have a place amongst such accomplished writers, who'd have thunk it? Me!
I have to add though, that any illusions of literary genius were dispelled the instant I walked back into my bedroom and saw my half written sociology essay strewn across the bed in frustration, and sat next to it was the latest example of coat hanger sculpture as crafted by Sam, just to remind me who the real star is.