Facing the Clown

Firstly, I've been asked by Mumsnet to speak at their blogging event, Blogfest, in London this November. That is rather amazing, folks, especially given the quality of their guest speakers (and obviously the quality of their audience of fellow bloggers).


Right, that's the good news. The bad news?

I have a fear of travelling long distances and a wonderful ability to get lost. I have a fear of people, especially large groups of people and public speaking has a tendency to bring out the worst or the best in me, without any warning of which way I will swing until it's too late.

I have a fear of being lost in London, wandering the streets and finally being snapped on my way into the wrong door, as burly security guards descend on me.

I have a fear of getting there and not knowing where to go or what to do and making it into the event but ending up under the stage somehow.

I have a fear, readers, a specific fear for each part of this process. And then, there are the clowns.

I don't expect there will be clowns at Blogfest. I hope there won't be. It's just that I listed all my fears to RT Teen, then said, 'And to top it all of, there'll probably be clowns!'

And he said, 'Yes, maybe the whole audience will be dressed as clowns!' and burst out laughing. 'Or,' he warmed to his theme,'there'll be just one clown, sitting in the middle somewhere, watching you silently, and you won't notice it until you're halfway through.'

I doubt there will be clowns, or at least not more than one, and if there is a clown I would hope it's a Mumsnet blogging clown and not some random evil clown off the street. But it shows how one fear, or a list of fears, can grow and become a creature of its own making, a thing with talons and bright eyes, waiting in the shadows, waiting for me to notice it just before it pounces.

My list of fears, all brought on by the offer of a wonderful opportunity, is long and detailed but comes down to the very real and practiced anxiety of becoming lost and confused in a big, public place and with no one there to help me. I will be surrounded by many talented and grown up people and will be expected to move as one of them.

What I really need is a helping hand here, someone who knows I lose my mind in a crowd, who knows my face is changing not from fear of the speech ahead but at the sight of the double doors into the foyer opening more and more and more to admit people, pouring in off the street, until the place is so full there are people swimming above each other, reaching for the ceiling as we all drown in societal agony.

I'm sorry, I really should go and talk to a responsible adult for a while. One who can explain to me why London is not a terrible place and how all cities can be managed and how most people are good and welcoming and won't pour in off the street in a smothering, rippling torrent.

What I have to remember is that, if I make it down there and cope with the journey and get past the clowns, I can use that magical 5 minutes to explain how, for me, Thinking Outside the Box is often just getting out of the house in the morning. And then I will produce The Box, because if we're thinking outside of it and talking about it, we should at least have a look at it.

Readers, I will be the wild-eyed woman on stage, holding a box and a crumpled, hand-drawn map which I daren't let go. And I will be scanning the audience for the tell-tale sight of a curly wig, blackened eyes and a wide, wide smile.


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