The pretty scarf out of its cellophane

Today is Saturday 20th January 2024.

As I write this blog I am in my pyjamas, in my living room with my cat by my
side warming herself on a heated blanket.  I know, party like a rockstar
right?  Well, today I partied like a different kind of rock star.

Ten years ago, someone once said…

“Never say no to any kind of public
speaking opportunity.”

I listened to that advice, and I have never said no to any kind of speaking

Two years ago, the hospital chaplain walked onto the ward where I
work.  It was a week after I lost my friend to suicide and we could not
have been more different.  Ade is a Reverand and Minister of an
Evangelical church in Manchester and I have always struggled with the concept
of religion.  I am not a believer in God but I have always been a firm
believer in fate.  I believe everything happens for a reason; it’s not
always good and it’s not always fair but I also believe that people meet for a

Ade took me under his wing.  He looked after my wellbeing at a time
when I wasn’t sure what my wellbeing was supposed to look like.  Fast
forward two and a half years and last week Ade asked me to tell my story to a
hundred people at the annual conference at his church.

He said…

“It’s short notice, you can think
about it, you can say no…”

I said…

“I’ll do it.  Thank you.  If
you think I can do this, I will do it.”

He said…

“It’s an African church and 90% of the
people will be black and we wear white.”

Well, the only thing I have that’s white is my wedding dress and a scarf a
friend bought me that never made it out of the cellophane because it’s too
pretty.  I figured my wedding dress might not be appropriate so my pretty
scarf made it out of the cellophane to cover my hair.

Now I am not experienced when it comes to church attendance.  I can
probably count on one hand how many times I’ve been to a Greek church and any
other kind of church was probably for someone else’s wedding.  You can
probably imagine I was a little fish flapping away outside of the bowl
containing the water I needed to be in.

I had no idea what to expect.  Two of my favourite people came with me
in the form of mum and Matt and as I write this I have to tell you, I have
never been more grateful to them for being there than I was today, not simply
because I had people there, but trust me, when I walked through the doors of
that church I was instantly emotional.  I kid you not, the welcome we
received gave a whole new meaning to the word…


We were embraced, we were greeted with smiles and warmth and it was

No one looked at us strangely.  We were the only three people who
weren’t African, and you know what?  It didn’t matter. 

We took our shoes off, the men were seated to the right and women to the
left.  I felt so sorry for Matt, this was probably not his most
comfortable moment and he was now separated from everything that was
familiar.  But you know what?  Matt’s a trooper.  He gets a lot
of stick in life and I am guilty for some of that, but I have never been as
proud and grateful to my husband as I was today.

There was music, there was dancing; there was joy.  I wish I could say
I lost myself in the atmosphere but my ridiculous inability to “let go” stopped
me from doing that and if I could go back, I would dance around that floor and
celebrate life with the rest of them.

I am always cold.  I wear between two and three pairs of socks all
years round.  I have the heater on underneath my desk all day at work and
whoever turns it off, they turn it off  at their own risk.  A cold
Kat is not a happy Kat.  I have three hot water bottles in bed with me and
I have never been to a church and not been cold…

Well, today I was warm.  I’m not sure if it was warm because the room
was small, or that we were all sat very close together?  Or maybe it was
the people that made the room warm? 

I sometimes say certain things warm my heart, like someone making a kind
gesture for another person, or kind words, so maybe that’s what it was, maybe
it was the hearts of the people and their kindness and compassion that made the
room warm. 

People I have never met before who had no idea who I was, came to us and
asked us if we were having a good time.  They encouraged us to dance, gave
us water and food and I sat in my seat, trying really hard not to cry because
the whole thing just felt out of this world.

As I watched each speaker I was in total awe of their energy and I couldn’t
help but wonder…

“How on earth am I gonna follow that?!”

I’ve never kept a count of how many talks I’ve done.  I’ve always been
grateful for any opportunity to tell my story but sometimes I’ve left the room
feeling like it was a really bad job interview.  I always put a lot of
work in to my PowerPoints and I have always denied being a perfectionist and

“…I just like things being done right.”

But I admit it here, right now I admit that I am the biggest perfectionist

I felt really strongly about getting today’s talk right.  I wanted to
get it right for Ade and I wanted to get it right for the people who were
watching.  With their warm embrace around my heart I wanted to give them
something that they might think about, because being in that room, just sitting
amongst the ladies, is something I will always remember.

When it came to my moment, as I walked up to the front of the stage I told

“…I can do this!  These people are
beautiful, I can do it.”

I can’t explain it, there was something in that room that just had me. 
I looked out at the audience as Ade gave me such a beautiful introduction and I

“…I can’t not tell these people how
special this man is and how much of an impact he’s had on my life.”

You know what I did?  I cried, I did.  My emotion got the better
of me, telling people the circumstances of meeting Ade and being invited into a
part of his life which other ward clerks at Bolton Hospital might not get, made
me grateful, and I guess my tears took the place of my verbal gratitude.

I’ve only ever cried once before in front of an audience and I felt like I’d
failed.  I’d let myself down and embarrassed myself.  Today I didn’t
feel embarrassed because today the people I was with didn’t allow me to feel
that way.

I kept looking at mum and I kept looking at Matt, both of them trying to
calm my panic; but they weren’t the only ones.  The entire room was on my
side, ushering me to get through my pain; men and women offering comfort in a
moment that I hadn’t expected. 

Once I had a grip on myself I got down to it and I told my story in a way
I’ve probably never told it before.  I think I managed to let go a
little.  I made people laugh, they joined in with my humour, they were
saddened by my misfortune but they celebrated my achievements.  They made
Matt stand up when I pointed to the only white guy in the room and said he was
my husband.  He was mortified but it was a moment where I got to tell an
entire room full of people that I adore him.

I know I’m a perfectionist but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I
do know I put a lot of pressure on myself to get things right and I don’t
always achieve my expectations.  I have a tendency to overanalyse and
overthink my actions, especially when it comes to public speaking.  I
wasn’t trained to accept my short falls so I go into everything I do with the
intention of it being flawless.

Today I was not flawless.  I made mistakes, I cried for starters! 
That is not in the public speaking handbook!  I talked too fast in places,
I may have gone a bit too fast with some of my slides.  But when you’ve
got a roomful of people nodding and talking along with you, shaking their heads
and laughing with you; when you’ve got men and women unafraid of eye contact
and surprising you with spontaneous applauses; those flaws, those mistakes,
well they don’t matter.  They don’t count.  What counts is the moment
where an entire room full of people stand to their feet and they give you the
biggest, the most profound, the warmest and kindest applause I have ever had.

I am not flawless.  Life is not flawless and human beings make
mistakes.  We might expect perfection but at the end of the day if we
achieve perfection, how do we learn from our actions?

Sometimes it’s the things we do that makes a difference.  Sometimes
it’s what we say that counts and sometimes it’s the people around you that
bring out the best in you. 

Today it was the people in the room who brought all of those things to the
forefront.  Maybe it was their enthusiasm or their laughter?  Maybe
it was their caring nature?  Maybe it was their faith?

Or maybe it was simply their warm hearts…

Dedicated to Ade and everyone at the Salvation-Ark Parish who made my
Saturday truly special.