You see, there's some sort of problem with the way I formulate sentences when preparing to say them out loud. It never works. I have an idea in my head that has the potential to be an interesting anecdote, an amusing joke, a poignant, deep and meaningful speech. Except it never fulfills this potential; the words stumble out of my mouth and lie in a heap - like alphabet spaghetti - in front of me. Attempting to follow one of these conversations is like bear-baiting, the thing you're contending with is desperate to leave you exhausted and confused, and it would take some skill to make it through without losing the point.
And then there's my accent. This isn't a problem with friends or family, of course, but it's incredible how quickly someone will assume that you're stupid based solely on the way you speak. The first time I realised I even had an accent (odd though that may sound) was my first year of university. The most cringe-worthy moment comes from a seminar on Roma Citta Aperta, an Italian neorealist masterpiece. At the time I knew nothing of literature, film or poetry, and had jumped headfirst into a degree course that was half made-up of all these things. Good move, Tom.
So I arrived, understanding what I was told but lacking the means to express it. This particular seminar was a massive turning point for me. We'd all watched the film, and been discussing it for half an hour. I sat at the back, as usual, avoiding the lecturer's eye lest she ask me a question. She asked if anyone had noticed anything in particular about the portrayal of the Nazi occupiers. The room was silent in response. Seized, all of a sudden, by a need to prove my worth, I ventured an opinion;
"Well, they're all, like, gay." I nearly added an 'innit' at the end there to make it sound even worse, but there's no need - it's bad enough as it is. I caught someone to my left rolling their eyes, some others actually laughed. The lecturer replied,
"Yes, exactly. There are definite homosexual undertones." I got it right, you bastards. I was right; I had the answer she was looking for, only I didn't have the correct words to express it. I realised then that this was generally the case in my literature classes - I knew these things, I noticed them, but I didn't know how to get the idea across without sounding like a complete chav. So I read an incredibly boring book on literary theory and criticism, and armed myself with enough knowledge to make myself sound like I knew what I was talking about.
So that solved that problem, but how often do you get into literary conversations at parties? Not often at all, so my complete lack of oratory skill remains an issue. My accent has improved (a year in Italy demanded it - otherwise the people I held conversation classes for could have auditioned for Eastenders). If you heard it now, you'd probably wonder what I was making a fuss about. I've buried it, almost. But I do lapse into it - especially after a drink - and I love it more now than I ever have before. I'd consider resurrecting it if I could do so without people thinking I'm retarded.
And so, to remind myself that I'm not stupid and to give me a place to communicate the strange things I think, I started a blog. I'm not sure why, but I communicate much more effectively in writing. Maybe that's because there's less pressure to perform; I can think, re-think, write and re-write. Then there's the added benefit that if someone doesn't get what I'm saying, I don't witness their reaction. I don't have to see their eyes glaze over as I struggle to pull the conversation back from the brink of nonsense. It's come to mean quite a lot to me, so when people say nice things about it I can be rather too gushing in my gratitude. But I'm British - we have to say please, thank you and sorry at every possible occasion, so my thanks to Amber, Tabitha, Risha, Kisekae, Gnetch and everyone who reads and comments. If it weren't for you, I'd be destined to a life of painful conversation - or silence, which may be preferable.