Hazel McHaffie

international conferences

Honorable invitation

BlossomWhy a picture of spring blossom? Read on …

It’s a few years now since I left academic life behind, but I still get occasional requests to fulfil roles relating to my former life which are gratifying but must be declined in everybody’s best interests. I always said I wouldn’t become a dinosaur on the conference circuit and I’ve held to that resolve – even when very tempting genuine invitations came from Canada and New Zealand (two countries I’ve always wanted to visit).

But the letter that arrived here from the States a few weeks ago was doubly delightful – not just an unexpected and courteous request, but one couched in extravagant terms to boot, which I why I’m sharing it with you. The age of chivalry is not dead.

InvitationIt was headed ‘Honorable invitation’, and the text began by ‘soliciting’ my ‘gracious presence’ at a forthcoming World Congress in the USA. ‘Gracious presence’ … me?? They would be both ‘pleased and honored’ if I would ‘consent to be their speaker’. I mean, how could one resist such a charmingly fulsome request?

And no, it wasn’t junk mail; the conference actually exists. But I’m under no illusions: I am not the honorable gracious presence who could best fit their prestigious bill. Scraping the barrel comes to mind!

I duly crawled back down from this virtual pedestal and burrowed back into my secluded and unknown study where I scribbled on in splendid isolation. Ah yes, but I am emerging three times this month to honour other less flamboyant invitations: two to speak in libraries, one to a bookclub. Not international, not hugely prestigious, but much more realistic. And fun! In one of them the audience was made up entirely of young adults – all bookworms! Wonderful.

I know my level.

BlossomRather like the beautiful tree to one side of our house: one week gorgeous blossom at its best, admired and appreciated; next week petal confetti blowing in the wind, lightly resting in all sorts of places. Nevertheless still nourishing the ground it sinks into. Here endeth the lesson!

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