You know how some things you just never forget; doesn't matter how hard you try. Those moments in your life that were mortifying at the time and linger, like the ghosts of Christmas past, to haunt you for ever?
It was 1982 and I was given the 'honour' of singing the first verse of 'Once in Royal David's City' as a solo to open the school Christmas concert. Let me tell you it was a big deal!
I practised and practised and then, at last, the day arrived! My family were all there, as were another hundred parents of kids who hadn't been given the solo.
Writing this now, I am living it all over again... The school hall, beautifully lit with real candles; health and safety hadn't been invented yet. Stained glass windows, made in art class out of crepe paper and black card, covered the windows and then there were the people, lots and lots of people!
The moment arrived. Dressed up in white sheets to look like a real choir, we assembled outside the door. We all held a candle and formed up in a kind of arrow formation; twenty or so children, angelic and focused. The teacher's Yamaha organ struck up an opening chord or two and we started walking, me at the front, 'Red Leader' ahead of the Christmas formation; my time had come.
I inhaled, just like I'd been taught, and then, then... nothing! People mistakenly think that Theresa May invented that coughing, choking, painful moment but, oh no, that would be me.
I think I managed a couple of grunts and an occasional Bethlehem but that was it. The room shrunk in on me as people smiled, that patronising smile that adults throw at kids. It seemed to go on forever. I remember, in that moment, thinking never, ever again... I remember resolving to never stand in front of an audience again.
Thanks though to my teacher, Mr Drew Smythe and some brilliant parenting, I came back from the brink and now I am honoured to be able to share my passion and thoughts with people from a stage; to talk about risk and resilience among other things and as we enter another 'Once in Royal David's City' season, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you to all of you that have hired me or heard me speak this year... above all things you have aided my recovery, and who knows, next year I may be ready to hold a candle and sing again!
Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful 2018!