I went today to speak to a national conference of the Society of Friends, or Quakers. I was delighted to be invited because I have always had a huge amount of respect for them and the good work they do. When the followers of George Bush or Osama Bin Laden make me despair of religion, I think of the Quakers as an antidote.
I was talking at 11.15, so I got up in Shepherds Bush at 6.45 to get there by train. The journey was complicated by weekend engineering works, but I made it to Swanwick at 11am. Alarm bells started to ring when the taxi driver had not heard of the Hayes conference centre. Nor had the guard at the Marina, the girl in the pub, or the man in the Post Office. It turned out I was at Swanwick in Hampshire, and the conference was at Swanwick in Derbyshire, several hundred miles away.
The Hampshire Swanwick has a railway station. Swanwick in Derbyshire doesn’t, so when I bought a ticket nobody asked me which one I wanted. But when I looked through my agenda it did in fact say Swanwick, Derbyshire. So it was entirely my fault.
I had clerical and other assistance from day 1 of my working life, and subsequently PAs and drivers, and servants at home. I was always very aware just how reliant I was on this assistance. I think this comes over in my book. I may be bright, but I am not at all practical. Get me to a meeting and I will have complete command of the brief and the meeting, but without help I will never get there. In many ways I am the archetypal absent-minded bumbler, brain always on a knotty question while I lose my spectacles. I have lost four mobile phones this year. I really feel quite depressed about it; now I face the every day problems of self management that everyone has to deal with, I simply cannot cope. Despite trying very hard indeed.