It’s 9.40pm on a Tuesday evening. I just came running home. I am eating a Chilli Bean Wrap that I find decidedly underwhelming, but I need to eat. The alternative is going to bed hungry.
It’s normally neither the time for me to have dinner nor would I normally come home this late on a “school night”. But I really, really, really needed to sit in a large hall with two and a half thousand other people tonight, so Neil Gaiman could read a children’s book to us.
I’d booked the ticket over a month ago, not realizing then how much I would need it today.
Let me start by telling you a little tale of how I side stepped into a part of reality last week that I normally don’t visit. It’s occupied by corporate America and its indecipherable rules. I am decidedly not a fan and tend to avoid it, but my day job forces me deeper into it than I would prefer.
I made a mistake, one that would’ve been avoidable and that I was fairly ignorant of to begin with. I made this mistake out of concern for the people I was put in charge of. I didn’t worry about my job or position within the company, because people mean more to me than work.
Never mind, the mistake was made, and my job was taken from me. Officially I changed position from an active role at the front lines to one in the background. And my only regret is that I rendered myself incapable of looking after the people that were my only concern to begin with.
Last week, therefore, pretty much sucked badly. If you’ve read my previous blog entry, you’ll know why else it sucked. So by the end of it I was pretty disillusioned.
I’m a very stubborn idealist. I’m a hopeless romantic and a daydreamer. You kinda have to wonder how I am not disillusioned all the time.
Well, normally I don’t feel so let down by those that were meant to look after me. Mind you, I don’t normally let someone look after me, but in a corporate environment there is a hierarchy and those “above” me didn’t do their job well enough in letting me know about the pitfalls of mine, thus I stumbled and fell.
Aside from being disillusioned, I also felt angry, let down, and somewhat resentful.
This week I returned to work in a new position, not quite recovered from last week’s shock. Still, I looked forward, with rather mild interest, to this Neil Gaiman event I had a ticket for.
The event was for his latest children’s book “Fortunately, the Milk”. I’d ordered it on Amazon while I was on my last business trip (then not realizing that it would indeed be my last one). It had been half price only.
The day it arrived I took it home and read it out loud to myself. Someone had suggested on Twitter that this was the way to go.
It was well written, very imaginative and amusing. But it didn’t have me in fits of giggles as so many people suggested. I suppose it’s not the same when one reads it out loud to oneself. I liked it, though, and wanted to see what happened at tonight’s event.
Well, fortunately, Neil Gaiman is a master of his craft.
I left work tired, made my way to the Central Hall Westminster and gasped at the length of the queue, which, by the time I arrived, wound exactly once around the entire building. By the time I arrived at the entrance, the queue was even longer.
Is there a Neil Gaiman event that doesn’t sell out, I wondered?
Until all those two and a half thousand people were in and seated it took a while and the event started half an hour late. Tired as I was, I admit hoping it wouldn’t run too late into the night.
There was an MC, who looked very much unlike your usual Master of Ceremony. He had long hair, ripped jeans, a sleeveless shirt on and tattoos were showing. He made us stamp and clap “We will rock you”.
It was hilarious.
Then one guy came and sang a depressing song and then later on another guy came and sang a song with the first one that was a lot more fun. I suppose, if you’re English, you know their names. Both of them old timers, musicians, good sports and I can’t remember their names now.
Finally, Neil himself came on stage. The hall roared with applause. He brought Chris Riddell, the illustrator of the book, with him, who sat down and started drawing right away.
And so the incomparable Neil Gaiman read a room full of adults a children’s book.
This time I was in fits of giggles. The laughter went through the roof at times and believe me when I tell you that the ceiling of Central Hall is rather high indeed.
He brought friends to read with him, they all took on various roles, playing pirates and wumpires and dinosaurs.
They did it brilliantly. It was so much fun.
When he had finished, Neil answered a few questions that had come from Twitter. One was how he was able to sustain his creative energy. He said creativity gives him energy, it doesn’t drain him. Months long signing tours do of which tonight was officially the very last night.
Now, as I was standing in the queue outside waiting to get in, I checked Twitter. Since my data allowance has already been used up for this month, loading anything takes forever. But I wanted to see, if he had tweeted anything today. He hadn’t.
Instead his wife tweeted a photo of Westminster Hall. I cursed very unladylike (not that I’d ever claim to be one) and almost yelled out my certainty that she would join the evening.
So, as Neil was talking about creativity, he finished up by saying that he had received a surprise that morning, which consisted of his wife, who was supposed to be in America, not being in America, instead being here to visit him.
And there she was.
Amanda Palmer live on stage with a ukulele. And she sang the most amazing song about ukulele’s that I never thought I’d ever hear or would possibly even like.
She finished, the hall exploded in applause once more, everyone took their bows and my hands still hurt a little from clapping.
As soon as I got up from my seat I started writing this blog in my head.
I had the widest smile on my face most of the way home. I had such a fantastic evening, even more so because it came completely unexpected.
I smiled on the tube and I am smiling still.
I stopped smiling briefly when I missed either of the two busses that would take me home. But then I decided to run home instead, keeling over briefly, because both my lungs and knees are terrible spoil sports.
I continued to walk really fast instead, never slowing down, only speeding up. Writing as I was “running” along.
I’d left work so tired that I wouldn’t have thought to have such a bout of energy still left in me. But as Neil Gaiman said, creativity is a source of energy, not a drain on it. I was fuelled.
Add to that my gratitude to Neil, his friends, and his wife, who gave me a wonderful gift tonight and reminded me once more what matters more than anything that happened last week.
Laughter, for one.
Neil came onstage and said that this might very well be the only time that he would read “Fortunately, the Milk” in its entirety and most certainly in this form. On his website he said it would be unique.
And that it was.
I cannot express my joy at having been there, my gratitude to their efforts and the joy they put into this themselves. It was such a fantastic event. So unexpected.
Writing is a gift. Fortunately, Neil Gaiman, is sharing his with us.