You find me, dear Reader, standing next to a post-box in the shade of a palm tree on a beachfront in Boca Raton.
You will recall that I made a passing reference late last year to the annual gathering of the International Association of Learned Runeologists in Boca Raton? Happily, Sebastian (Conference Secretary and PhD Candidate, Year 1) and I soon smoothed out our little misunderstanding about my role in proceedings,* and I found myself invited to give the plenary address. And what a stroke of luck it was that dear Babykins’ Chinook could drop me off over the Florida coastline.
Sometimes, dear Reader, fate conspires in our good fortune, I told myself as I glid through the revolving doors of the Boca Raton Hilton and headed for the registration desk to collect my name badge and complimentary gift bag.
But imagine my distress, dear Reader, to discover that I was listed on the programme as ‘Mrs Adeline Lomb’, that no badge had been made for me, and that the only remaining gift bag contained a collapsible toothbrush and a pencil marked ‘Boca Rat 2009’.
I unheard the advice to use the back of a discarded bus ticket to scrawl my name on and insert into an empty badge holder, dear Reader, held my head high, and threw open the double doors of the auditorium marked ‘Plenary Session, IALR’.
The auditorium was full of the great and the good, all gathered to hear me speak.
And there, waiting for me on the podium, was dear Sebastian.
The chill air-conditioning made him shudder slightly as he caught sight of me and waved me to a seat behind a pillar in the tenth row.
Sebastian tapped the microphone. Silence fell. I closed my eyes and took several deep, calming breaths while he mumbled something dull about scholarship.
‘And now let us welcome our plenary speaker’, Sebastian concluded.
Wild applause broke out in the hall as I proceeded podium-wards, my eyes lowered modestly.
Dear Reader. As I drew near I smelt the unmistakeable scent of Green Papaya no. 5, and heard the sound of a pair of Cuban heels tapping their way from the wings to the lectern.
I raised my eyes.
There, dear Reader, stood my old foe friend, Professor Chris Anthemum (Head of the Department of Archeology and Meteoritics, and rampant self-publicist), dressed as always head to foot in yellow.
Three hours later, I could hear dear Chris coming to the end of her reassuringly familiar speech as I casually sprinkled the last of the dragées that I always carry on me for emergency purposes over the buffet cupcakes.**
And this is how you find me now, dear Reader, popping my annual renewal for the Worshipful Society of Murderers in the post, and enjoying the start of the new year in sunny Boca Raton.
* How grateful Sebastian was to learn that the box marked ‘plagiarism hearing’ had been mistakenly ticked in his confidential student record. Dear, diligent Darren.
** Here is a picture of a dragée, dear Reader, with an elephant alongside to provide an indication of scale.