I have to note down here the events of Thursday evening as although they will be memorable it is only right that I record the details in this blog. So far on this site I have traced the random path of events which started with my own ‘big bang’ of starting work in London nearly a year ago and some of the very wonderful and strange happenings which have occurred since. They have built up slowly so I have been able to take everything in my stride, although, as I have written about before, sometimes things happen which made me take stock and open my eyes in wonderment at the things life throws at me.
I was for a while rather unsure about attending Ben’s lecture, as it seemed foolish to spend money on seeing a guy I’d got used to so openly and freely being able to chat to. Additionally, the idea of me going to a science talk seemed ridiculous, as everyone who knows me will attest. However, I knew he’d make it interesting and when I suggested to him on twitter I came he said I should. I did want to see him again as I’d missed him and so the idea of a night off in favour of a trip down to the Royal Institution became simply too tempting.
I arrived in Mayfair early, so killed some time in Starbucks before heading onto the venue. I was beginning to question my sanity again until I stepped inside the building: it was a hugely impressive place and the walls were adorned with portraits of famous lectures which had taken place there over the years. One’s imagination couldn’t help but be captured by it. There had been a time at school when I genuinely did love science, was fascinated by astronomy and enjoyed Chemistry and Biology enough to take them through to A Level. Of course, those higher level courses soon got the better of me and I defiantly bucked against them, throwing myself into literature and giving the labs as wide a berth as I could get away with. I lasted a year of AS level Chemistry and dragged my way through 2 years of A level Biology, hating every second; twitching painfully at any mention of fruit flies; genomes; photosynthesis or quadrats. By the time I left school, science had scarred me for life and all I wanted to do was read poetry, novels and drama texts. The humanities building at university was like a safe house where white coats, moles and sulphuric acid couldn’t touch me.
Taking my place in the crowded lecture hall, however, I was prepared to put aside those differences and be open minded enough to enjoy the talk I was about to hear. It was interesting looking around at my fellow audience members and trying to guess what had brought them there. I supposed it was a mixture of members of the Institution, people interested in the topic and Ben Miller fans. There were young and old people and an equal divide of men and women. Ben was introduced to the stage along with the scientist/journalist who was to lead the conversation with him. It was lovely to see him again and he was clearly in his element, getting to discuss his first love in a place so sacred to it.
The talk was very entertaining and I needn’t have worried about getting lost or confused in the science. It was filled with anecdotes and impressions; was funny and serious in happy measure and I learnt a lot. It really did appeal to the long lost teenage science geek within me and Ben’s enthusiasm for the subject matter really did shine through and was infectious. He performed an experiment for a bit of showbiz effect towards the end and took questions from the audience, amongst which were some treasures from the young kids there. It was announced there would be a book signing in the room next door and everyone started to shuffle that way.
I debated to myself when the best time would be to catch him: I couldn’t leave without saying hello at least. The opportunity didn’t present itself straight away and he was keen to get going with the signings so I decided to loiter in the signing room until I got the chance. The books were being sold at one end of the table he was sitting at so I queued there in order to buy one. When I got to the table he spotted me, grinned and mouthed a hello. I then waited for the very long queue to dwindle down. It seemed nearly everyone had stayed to get their books and it was a very odd feeling having to queue to speak to this person I’d chatted to so many times. At the theatre it was rare to witness him or any of the others in ‘celebrity mode’ as it were, although that had made it easier to befriend them as their fame could be forgotten about. They were always just normal people doing a job, the same as we were. Whilst I was waiting, John Sessions appeared, flitting about clearly waiting for Ben and on the phone making dinner reservations.
I was virtually the last in the room and by the time I got to the front it was just me, Ben, his partner, his publisher, John and his friend and a few scientists from the RI. And so finally I got to say hello properly; had a hello hug and kiss and a brief chat exchanging the normal pleasantries. He signed my book for me and asked me to join them for a drink afterwards. This was such a lovely invitation and although I felt a little nervous about being part of such an unusual group of people(!) I was flattered to be asked and couldn’t refuse! He introduced me to everyone as he packed up and we headed down to the bar. I stuck to him as someone I knew and we chatted a little about how the evening had gone, the enthusiasm of the younger audience members and they discussed their plans for the remainder of the evening.
We got to the bar and I talked to his lovely partner Jess for a while about her family and my theatre. I then talked to Ben about how his filming was going and he asked me more about the show and what else was new with me. It was strange being on the inside of that kind of situation, and he gave me some interesting insights. It was as natural and great to chat as it ever had been and it was so lovely to be included there and to meet Jess (who wondered if she’d met me before, when she’d been a ‘different shape’!)
Eventually goodbyes were said and he, she and I left at the same time. I headed back to the theatre as they got in their taxi home. Although I’m not going to go into details of what we talked about here, needless to say it was great to see him again and wonderful to reconnect with someone from that time. It’s great to be in touch still, not because he’s famous or well-connected or anything of that nature, but because he’s a genuinely lovely person whom I enjoy talking to. Long may it last! :)