"Can you take me to Downing Street please?" I said as I jumped in the cab at Waterloo. The cabby, clearly somewhat disbelieving repeated it for confirmation before we set off.
Yep, it's time for me to blog about last Friday evening, when I attended the Downing Tweet Christmas party hosted by Sarah Brown. I am incredibly slow off the mark here as Sarah and Holly have both already written fabulous blogs about this. First of all I want to take you back to November 2005, which is the first time I went to Downing Street, that time, to number 11.
I'd been asked by the CF Trust if I'd do a speech at their 40th anniversary do which Gordon Brown would be hosting at number 11. I was hugely over excited and had bought new shoes and everything (well in advance - a rarity for me) when the week before my already poor lung function took a dive and I was admitted to the Bristol Royal Infirmary. I was feeling really pretty rough, and requiring oxygen throughout the day, something I'd never needed before, but my wonderful team listened to my pleadings (or rather demands) and promised me they'd get me well enough to do my speech.
Everyone worked so hard to ensure I'd be able to get there; oxygen cylinders (a new addition to my entourage at this point) were ordered, taxis booked and a wheelchair borrowed. A day of complete bedrest ensued, followed by tiring and slow attempts to put on my clothes and sort out my hair and make-up, having to sit down at intervals to catch my breath. I was exhausted by the time I was ready, and promptly fell asleep in the taxi, the oxygen helping me catch my breath as I dozed. We picked A up en route and went straight to Downing Street, where Taxi driver and A were searched (amusingly I wasn’t – I can only assume it was a moment of PC going too far) and we were ushered into number 11.
Being new to the whole concept, I refused to take my oxygen in with me and left it in the taxi (how reasonable). I stayed seated as much as possible and did a lot of listening to people chat, in order to conserve my energy ready for my speech. When it was my turn, I stood, somewhat nervously, at the top of the room, Rosie Barnes on one side, Gordon Brown on the other. I cannot remember the speech I made, but I do know that it made people cry. That is the design of my talks; to hit people hard, people who have no experience of CF, and to make them see just why these funds are so vital.
After my speech, I quickly located my chair so I could sit down. People were congratulating and thanking me and there were so many interesting people to talk to but my chest was aching and I felt so tired. In all honestly I was relieved when it was time to go; as soon as I got to the car I grabbed my oxygen and felt my lungs relax as the effort to breathe was reduced. It was an incredible but exhausting day, one which my mind desperately wanted to participate in, but my body did not. I fell asleep very quickly and slept all the way back to Bristol, where I was returned to my hospital bed. I never dreamt I’d get to go to Downing Street again, and how different an experience it would be with lungs that work...