Thursday, November 1, 2012
First University Visit
As The Editor negotiated our entry to the campus it suddenly dawned on me – I have never previously been at a university. For a man with two degrees, that takes some doing!
Led to the lecture theatre I peeked through the door – and had a puckering moment. What seemed to be a full house, all looking in my direction. As I told them the only other time I faced a crowd as large was the riot squad in 1990- but I hoped for a more positive ending from this gathering.
Mildly panicked, I used the remaining few minutes of the countdown to sidle (flee!) outside for a last cigarette. Standing in the rain, sheltered by my new hat, I pondered. Here was a room full of young and inquiring minds. Doubtless they attended from a mix of motives, from the genuinely interested to the morbidly curious, and I had to somehow engage with them.
Talking is nothing new to me. My brief appearance on Channel 4 hardly phased me but then the cameras were easy to ignore. In the lecture theatre the shape of the room, the immediacy of the occasion, demanded quite the opposite. Smaller group and a smaller room would have been far easier to mesmerise, particularly given my style of extemporising.
The introduction I was given was embarrassingly fulsome impossible to live up to but very soothing on the ego. Not for the first time of late I had a glimpse of just how strange my life must seem to others’.
And so I talked for 90 minutes, sans notes, huge images of myself and my cell flashing on the wall behind me. Bless them for their patience, because I paced too and fro, sometimes almost talking to myself as I reached back into my memory. It was like living in a flashback.
My delivery was god awful. There was a mic at the lectern but chose to pace back and forth, and I wonder now how audible I was, how cogent. Never able to judge my own performance at the best of times, self doubt niggles at the edges of my consciousness.
What did I hope for from these guys, apart from their ears? That at some point one of them would be prompted to reconsider something they believed. Maybe, just maybe, I succeeded.
I did begin a bit mean; I asked who in the room was in favour of the death penalty, “who here wants to see me killed?” t may have been a little livelier if someone had stepped up at that point!
Thanks to all who gave me time yesterday. I truly appreciate it.