Some weeks ago, I booked a ticket to hear a talk about “Love and Life” by the writer Sally Brampton. I’ve long admired her work, which has at times been a lifeline of hope and reassurance when everything in life seems bleak. Such is my admiration, not just for the writing itself but for her candour and emotional honesty, that I was somewhat apprehensive about the talk. What if my image of her was completely wrong? What if – as is so often the case – the reality is a disappointment?
I need not have worried. The event itself was lovely, allowing me to indulge my inner Virginia Woolf as I hurried up the steps into the book-lined walls of the Bloomsbury salon. Sally was as candid and open in person as in her writing. The audience, myself included, were clearly inspired by her. What is most remarkable about this inspiration is that it comes from an authentic place – rather than wishing to emulate her appearance or have her career or copy her lifestyle, it was about identifying with her vulnerability and connecting with her human-ness. So rarely do we get the opportunity to meet with others yet also feel it’s okay to let our guard down, to not have to be perfect. The relief was palpable. It’s probably the closest I’ll ever get to the consciousness raising groups that were so important to many in the Women’s Liberation Movement of the late 60s and 70s. Just to talk and share our stories is a powerful thing. It’s life affirming. As Sally herself has put it, “Connection is all that matters”. And tonight, in a room full of women I’ve never met and am not like to meet again, I felt that.