The Show Must Go On

I could see a glimpse of the front row from where I was standing. Helen Keen was telling the audience in Leicester Square Theatre how unique my story is and I noticed one of the other speakers walking up and down the hallway, going over their segment. I felt the warmth of the spotlights, but I wasn’t really nervous right up until the moment Helen called me up on stage. “Give a round of applause for Honey van Arkel!” It triggered an adrenaline rush… I stumbled upon stage and the squeaky sound coming from my mouth was nothing I recognised.

This trip didn’t start out all that well. Heerlen was still covered in ice and I had tripped over it right before I left. Still wearing both boots, I limped towards the ferry. I’ll save you the gory details, but I eventually got to London on one left boot and a right wrapped up foot. I also had developed a cold (or man flu maybe) and was increasingly worried about having to present in sign language. The Sun welcomed me to London though and I didn’t need to remind myself to keep smiling. But by the time I had found my hotel, I did feel rather sorry for myself.

Things could only get better. The Premier Inn staff were angels. Letting me check-in early and making me a sandwich even though the kitchen was already closed. I had planned to stroll along Covent Garden with my friend Infie, but I couldn’t in this state. We went to the pub early instead. Geoff, our pub expert, had chosen De Hems – a Dutch pub. They have ‘uitsmijters’ for lunch, for instance, and it was fun to see the English lot trying to pronounce that! Meanwhile the mental support group grew. Astro buddies Julianne, Annie, Rona and Todd joined and they had brought friends along too.

I left the pre-party early to meet-up with Helen at the theatre, which was literally across the street from my hotel. Outside I saw the posters for our event and it felt way cool to be part of this! I was introduced to the weirdest (this is a compliment!) band I’ve ever seen and as we were checking slides, Chris walked in. I jokingly said that I was nervous now he’d finally see me presenting his project on a stage. After all these years… Anyway. As you can see from the pictures, backstage was as glamorous as it should be.

Helen sparkled on stage and not just because there were two glittery stars dancing on her head. I really enjoyed her enthusiasm and I’m grateful for Simon Singh introducing us to each other. It led to this moment where I started to explain the stumbling upon stage. I wasn’t testing cool new moon boots. It wasn’t part of my special outfit for tonight. I hope it showed how I really didn’t want to miss this evening, even if I had to do it with one swollen foot. As I was saying this, I felt what was left of my voice going from bad to worse and I imagined how everyone there felt embarrassed for me.

No really, I was way beyond the stage of a sexy husky voice. To top things off, there was also something wrong with my slides, changing at times I didn’t want them to. But I genuinely enjoyed myself. I did. Struggling like this in front of the lovely audience we had that night, is not stressful. It seriously helps having people in front of you who laugh with you and I really appreciated the nice comments afterwards. You were all way to polite to tell me I was bumholian of course and the perfectionist in me wished I had done better, but it’s all OK because of all of you.

As I was one of the first, I got to enjoy the rest of the speakers even from the audience myself, although I did also help Matt marking all the answers of his pub/theatre quiz. The evening was over before we knew it. On my way out to the cold-ish late Sunday evening, I said bye and thanks to as many people as possible. No after-parties this time; it was a quick visit. One in which I crammed as much life into my weekend-time as possible. Someone backstage had said to resent travelling far for events, but I love it. It gives me time to think.

Besides, life’s about the journey eh. The boat home left early, but it was a good trip. It was quiet and the friendly staff had time for a chat. One gentleman pointed out Sealand, which I had never heard of, even though I had travelled passed it quite a lot. Note to self: as a biology teacher and an amateur astronomer you should really get some proper binoculars! I also did a bit of porpoise spotting, but they were playing hide and seek instead. A few trains later, I found my bike at the station and I got home in the late evening. Tomorrow I’d be back at work, so thank you and goodnight!