Me new plastic plates! Aren’t they just stunning?! Bought for the Peirene salon evening last Saturday in order to avoid another strawberry debacle. Very clever of me indeed, I thought. That was on Saturday morning. By 3pm I was in a state!
“I don’t have enough time. Everybody will arrive soon and I am not ready yet!”
My husband glanced over the laid-out buffet. “The food seems to be ready.”
“Yes, but all the other things!”
“You mean organizing the chairs for the reading?”
“Precisely, that can be a tricky business! And I still have to wash my hair”
By 4pm the first cancellation arrived “Our child has a cough!” Second: “Dog broke a leg”, but best was no 3 “Babysitter has cancelled because her flat got flooded!” (It’s true! I have permission from the person in question to quote this) I kept a straight face, mimed understanding, after all a couple of short notice cancellations are part of any event. I prepare for them in advance, always slightly overbook. Again I thought, clever me. But however much you prepare, still every cancellation feels like a personal blow.
Come on, woman, pull yourself together. By 7pm I am sitting on a chair starring at the kitchen clock. Sophie Hannah said she will be here at 7pm. The guests will arrive at 7.30. The clock handle moves forward. 7.01: No one will come. I won’t ever do it again. 7.02: Why am I doing it anyway. 7.05: I remember my friend who films herself doing funny one-woman-shows and puts them on Youtube, she’d like to get a TV show but would never do them live. 7.07: I suddenly realize why. If you do anything live – even a literary salon evening – you are up against the elements. And whatever it is – good or bad –it causes emotions and you have to deal with them right there. Clever friend of mine to stay flat in cyberspace. Silly me for venturing into the jungle of human interaction. 7.08: The phone rings. I jump from the chair, answer the phone.
“Can I speak to Maykee?” A woman’s voice.
“Meike” I correct the voice coldly. Correcting the pronunciation of my name is always my last line of defence. If nothing else, I can make people say my name right!
“Speaking,” I then say.
“This is Sophie Hannah.” My heart sinks instantaneously. She will cancel too – oh no!
“I am on my way, I will be there in about 15 minutes.”
And she did. And so did all the other 25 guests! And then the game changed. It was no longer a one-woman-show, but rather a play with many performers involved – the guests who made the effort of coming, willing to talk to each other, listening to the author, the author putting on display her work and herself, and the hostess gradually enjoying the party- so happy that this time all of the desert gets eaten up thanks to her new, durable and colourful plastic plates.