I did a talk this evening, about gardening for wildlife. I hadn't been planning to and was rather looking forward to a quiet week with no more demanding social interaction than a haircut, feeling slightly socialled out after the Friday concert and Saturday lecture. But on Saturday evening I got an email from a beekeeping contact who runs one of the local garden clubs. Her planned speaker for the coming Wednesday was unable to make the meeting, and was I by any chance free? Since I was free that evening the strong urge to sit in a chair in front of the stove with the cats and the Systems Administrator, with no obligation to be entertaining or even to speak, did not seem a sufficient reason to turn her down.
It's a mostly thankless task, running a club, as you grapple with finding speakers that will appeal to at least the majority of your members and that your club can afford, and then they go and get ill or stuck in traffic. Add in the key holder who doesn't show up on time leaving your club members standing in the car park for twenty minutes, projection and sound systems that break down, the noise of loud music and/or shouting and/or whistles coming from whatever club has booked the other room in the hall, and a sprinkling of people who have somehow got themselves elected to the committee despite having the social attributes of Donald Trump, and the lot of a Chairman is not always a happy one. We should be grateful to them at a time when newspapers are trumpeting about the epidemic of loneliness.
I'd already spoken to this same club earlier this year about the woodland charity, which was a good reason not to go again so soon. The Chairman promised that she had been planning to ask me again next year as they had liked me last time, but in an ideal world you wouldn't have the same speaker twice in nine months. But I was available at four days notice and lived just up the road, and beggars can't be choosers.
In the event I didn't even see my beekeeping contact, because she had a family emergency and couldn't go. The organisers were rather apologetic about the low turnout, blaming illness and the fact that the meeting clashed with the final of The Great British Bakeoff. I decided not to take it personally. The talk itself was fine. I'd done it quite recently so I was up to speed with the script, and they are a friendly group of people. Almost too friendly, in that I'd rather not chat in the minutes before the meeting starts. It makes it hard to get into the zone when you have to make polite conversation about irises and moles in the garden, and I'd really rather sit quietly in a corner and concentrate on what I'm about to talk about.