Several of the authors elected to read. I loved listening to them. Since these stories come from the soul, they all read from there. They knew the perfect times to pause, to soften or raise the volume, to accelerate or calm the pace. It was such a pleasure to sit there and soak it all in, especially after the hellishly long drive through thick traffic in the pouring rain.
My regret was that I chose not to read and wished that I had. It was just like all those times at school, when I longed to raise my hand and volunteer to read aloud in class. But something always held me back. I knew I could read well. I had a loud and clear voice. I didn't stumble over difficult words. English was my passion. Reading was my main interest. I knew I could read better than the girls who always chose to do it. I read aloud in my bedroom all the time. I read to my mother while she did the housework at weekends. I read her every Malory Towers book and a couple of John Wyndham, one of which reduced her to tears.
So why wouldn't I read in class? I guess it was pure shyness. But it was a shame. I came out of those lessons feeling disappointed in myself. I felt the same on Saturday. It wasn't a case of not wanting to read. I just let myself back out of it. Maybe it was because my narrator in this story has an accent. But I can do that accent, because I've read the story aloud at home. Millions of times.
I was once interviewed for radio and was very happy to read some stories then. I didn't want to stop, in fact. I could have rambled on all day. So maybe it's having people in the room watching, as well as listening, that I find difficult. Not being able to see the audience, I could pretend to be speaking just to myself, I suppose.
When I took my finals at uni, the prospect of the oral exam, conducted entirely in German and lasting a thousand years, worried me enormously. There was to be a panel of three external examiners. I pictured them all staring without smiling. And I envisaged myself, shaking and stammering. I have to confess that, come the day, I allowed a fellow-student to talk me into drinking three glasses of brandy (I didn't need much convincing) just before I went in.
I stumbled through the door, catching the loop of my tie-belt on the handle. This pinged me back out of the room again. After extricating myself, which took some time, I made a second entrance. I was smiling so broadly by then that I'd stopped feeling nervous. It's impossible to be too hard on yourself if you're smiling. And, wonder of wonders, the panel was smiling back at me! I don't know if they could see me that well through the brandy fumes. I expect I smelt quite memorable though.
I sailed through the oral after that. They couldn't shut me up. I prattled about the year I spent in Germany, answered questions with gushing enthusiasm, virtually had to be prised from my seat and shown the door at the end.
Remembering that, I'm determined to read if I ever get the chance again. I know I can do it really. Even without the brandy.