London: Digital Identities Conference 18.05.18
Presenting at a conference on deprived sleep is like wandering Peruvian forests on Ayahuasca
The last few days have seen me emerging from hypnotic tortures of sleep deprivation, of days blurring into nights blurring into dawns and hotel breakfasts. Train journeys taking me to speak at a conference in a hopefully much better way than I spoke two weeks previously at the Edinburgh Mad Con.
I went down to London on Thursday for the King's College conference, sharing space with two colleagues: one with pink hair called Bridget and another from New Zealand called Sarah, both chilled out and super nice. We wandered the National Library: I remember entering dark recesses of globes and scriptures and parchments, with Bridget showing us around her future home. Next year she will work there as its Grand Vizier on a throne of Gutenberg Bibles. Sarah, meanwhile, prefers ice-cream with honey and almonds.
I spent Thursday evening hyperventilating in a hotel room at a PowerPoint talk that wouldn't come naturally. A slide disappeared and never returned, my Chromebook refusing to play ball. Eventually I sat down and tried again, and found my voice. Getting up at 4am, I sat on my bed and went through the order. Friday: I sat on a tall stool before a small audience and produced as easily as I had on the edge of my bed in the witching hour.
So here's what I've learned: sit, don't stand; and don't go over 15 slides. All the best talks I've given have happened when it's been like this, so now I know.
After the conference I drank blood-red wine on an empty stomach. Wandered up a busy London street in a dusky afterglow, and collapsed on the bed of my hotel room. Woke up first at 10.30pm, then at 3.15 am. Got up, washed off my make-up, removed my tight black dress (which I'm always worried will trap me in the process, leaving me to die like Meinir in the tree trunk of an ancient Welsh legend). Slipped under the sheets and eventually fell asleep, to awaken with an undeserved hangover.
I'm conscious this post may make no sense to anyone except me, but sometimes it has to be this way, because that's how conferences happen. On Saturday morning, with the conference over and time to kill, I entered Regent's Park. For some reason I expected a small, shrub-like square, but instead discovered a beautiful place of sunshine and silence. I took out a book I've been reading and lost myself in the writer's thoughts. Later I met a friend I hadn't seen since our Masters in Creative Writing: Temi Oh, who's just signed a book deal with Simon and Schuster. Her super-cool sci-fi novel comes out next year. Then hopefully a Netflix or Amazon or Sky adaptation.And me? Maybe my eventual book will be academic, about transgender narratives in the 21st century. I would like to do this, academia can be a creative site too, as you bring things together in a single narrative that helps the reader to make sense of complex but important issues, while in some small way, you make the world a better place to live in.