Monday, 22 February 2016

by the skin of my teeth

I met some friends for coffee this morning, and one of the things we talked about was nuisance phone calls.  None of us ever answered them if they showed as Number Withheld or International.  I remarked that some genuine callers, especially older people and those living alone, did choose to withhold their number, but they could always leave a message.

Early this evening the phone rang, but glancing at it I saw it was a withheld number, so didn't pick it up.  It went to answerphone, and when the light stopped flashing and the infuriating new message beeping began I hit Play, expecting a recorded message about how changes in government legislation meant I needed a new boiler.  But no, the caller gave their name, the name of a Colchester garden club and a Colchester phone number, and briskly announced that she was just ringing to check I was OK for Friday's talk.

Friday's talk?  Before going off to my coffee I'd almost finished sorting out the details of lunch in London with a friend on Friday, an agreement which has stood in principle since about the second of January while the date was fixed a couple of weeks ago.  But the name of the garden club rang a definite bell.  I checked my Sent emails and sure enough, I'd emailed to the woodland charity on the 26th of November to let them know I'd be doing the talk.  I must have then forgotten to write it in my diary, or else failed to transfer it to my 2016 diary.

I was utterly mortified.  In over a decade of volunteering I have never double booked myself for a talk.  I had to cancel at short notice for my mother-in-law's funeral, and then I managed to track down another local volunteer who agreed to take the booking in my place.  My email to my friend confessing I had made a grave error and couldn't make it to town this Friday crossed with hers confirming which John Lewis cafe we were meeting in at 12.15 and saying she was looking forward to seeing me.

Fortunately she was extremely nice about shifting the date for lunch, assuring me that as she was very busy with work next week would suit her better anyway, and reassuring me that she had forgotten to go to an appointment at the US embassy the other week to renew her daughter's passport.  These things happen.  I suppose they do, but thank goodness the garden club booking secretary had a withheld telephone number, so I was able to check where I was supposed to be going on Friday and unscramble my other arrangements before calling her back, sounding as if I knew exactly what was going on, calm as a swan although I was paddling frantically under water.

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