When I was 18 my best friend went off to the other side of the world for a year. She left quite a gap in my life which I tried to fill by writing long, long letters to her. Over time, in my letters, I became the interesting, entertaining, confident young woman I really wasn't. She got the edited highlights without the embarrassing faux-pas, the witty comments without the dull silences.
When eventually she returned, I realised that while she had gained maturity through experience, I had only achieved lyricism through letters; it was almost inevitable that we'd struggle to connect in person. I couldn't help but feel I'd disappointed her and that feeling has come back to visit me more than once since then.
So, when my beloved mentioned the idea of a few bloggers getting together for a pre-christmas meet, my outwardly positive response was tinged with more than a little trepidation.
As the plans for #yuleblog began to take shape, and a date and venue were agreed, the guest-list waxed and waned. I wondered if others were like me, intrigued by the prospect of meeting the very finest of bloggers, but scared of the reality.
Finally the day dawned. I'd spent a whole week planning what to wear, but that didn't stop the last minute faffing - which boots? Hair up or down? One bracelet or three? Philip stoically calmed my rising anxiety with a bacon sandwich and then we set off for the trip into town.
As we sat sipping cider and waiting for them to arrive, I looked around at the old black-and-white photographs lining the walls of the French House bar. Pictures of people who'd been known and loved in the 1930s and 40s, their confident smiles and knowing eyes gazing down as we sat there in nervous anticipation.
We both looked up expectantly each time the door opened - but we'd barely been there five minutes when they arrived and then, almost immediately, I knew it would be alright.
Many of you will already know Bag Lady and Mr London Street from their blogs and admire their writing. It would be impossible for me to describe them in a way that does more justice than their own words - if you haven't come across them before, please go and read their blogs and soak up the mixture of reflection and memory, of acute observation and life-affirming love, all underlined by a mix of caustic wit and smut, then you might get an idea of what I'd want to write. All I can say here is that they were all the good bits of all their best posts only better.
They were simply just lovely.
As lunchtime wore on into evening, we drank, we shared food, we chatted without awkwardness or embarrassment. We admired the tiny wine glasses, waxed lyrical over the soft-shelled crab and guffawed at the presentation of the spicy pork and fennel polpette. We talked about our writing, filled in some of the gaps in our individual life histories, and got to know each other a little better. When lunch was done, we made our way to an overcrowded Soho bar and carried on. Eventually, some nine hours later, when Philip could tell that I was flagging, we agreed to call it a day and set off home, but even then it felt like we should have gone on for longer.
This morning, I realised that if I'd given in to all my egotistical worrying about what I wore, how I looked, and what they might think of me, I might have ducked out of meeting them. I wouldn't only have missed a lovely day out in London, I'd have passed up the chance of more days like that in the years ahead - and that would have been a big mistake.