I'm writing this as my Virgin Pendelino train speeds northwards, taking me home from a weekend in London, where I enjoyed the honour of being an invited speaker at #TADtalk2017, a wonderful day conference for people with diabetes organised by our very own Dr Partha Kar, a thoroughly modern consultant who has done so much for us.
I've been scrolling through a seemingly endless roll of tweets from people who attended, all saying nice things about the speeches made by me and five other people for whom Type One diabetes is part of their lives.
There's something truly uplifting about knowing that some carefully chosen words and a few Powerpoint slides have been enjoyed and appreciated. Thank you to everyone who took the trouble to comment, either online or in person. And I managed to get the best selfie ever:
Compared to the other speakers, I was just a "humble peasant". I haven't run any marathons, cycled coast to coast, raised any money, led medical or nursing staff in the NHS or gained any sporting honours, and as such I felt a bit of a fraud as "just a bloke with diabetes who enjoys befriending and helping fellow diabetics". It was therefore a disconcerting tiny taste of what it must be like to be famous to find myself recognised by people whom I didn't knowingly know, and to be filmed, photographed, and publically thanked for doing something which comes fairly naturally to me: public speaking. The online diabetic community is of course, only a few hundred in number, but I guess because I use my real name and a clear photo on Twitter I am pretty recognisable, and for one day I felt like a minor celebrity. But only a #diacelebrity. Fame: is it any wonder?
But that's very self-centred of me. The real point of #TADtalk2017 is to start a conversation and to enjoy each others' company, not to praise speakers, be they sporting heroes, nurses, doctors or even retired teachers. And my, did it do that! My Twitter timeline has never been so active. There really was something special in the air, as there is whenever we people with diabetes get together. I've said it before, but I won't stop saying it, even if that does make me a #diabore talking #diabollocks (my words).
The togetherness which springs from this chronic, all-pervading yet perfectly manageable condition has to be seen and experienced to be understood. It overrides literally everything: gender, age, status, occupation, tastes, interests, and anything else, leading to profound friendships based on nothing but a shared condition, and yet everything. Fellow diabetics feel like friends before I've even met them, and when I do meet them it feels like I've known them forever. I count among my best friends people who are a fraction of my age, live nowhere near me, have little or nothing else in common with me and whom I have only met once or twice. It's a diabetic thing, and if you're one of them and reading this, you know who you are.
So I owe a thousand thanks to @parthaskar and his team for putting on this event for us, to the sponsors @DiabetesUK @JDRFUK and @AbbottNews for supporting it and to all those #diabuddies for just being there. I sincerely hope there's a #TADtalk2018, and if there is, I'll be there applauding whoever gets asked to speak, as warmly as yesterday's audience applauded us.
And to think that four years ago, I had barely spoken to a fellow Type One. As the old BT ad used to say: "It’s good to talk". Long may the talking continue!
I shall post the content of my speech as an additional piece for those who were unable to attend, once I've had a chance to edit it into a more coherent piece of written work.