I was invited to attend a House Of Lords networking group one damp, though mild October evening. “Be there for 7pm.” I was advised by the fellow whom I was entrusted to mentor through his early networking experience.
Dick was a keen networker, a little headstrong although he had at least an attitude for success.
I’d decided to take the train down to Westminster, it was easier on the constitution and I could at least sit and read through the hour-long journey – and it made a change from sitting in traffic.
The journey was swift and I arrived at 6.45, Big Ben saying so and a little early I thought, I’d walk some way over Westminster Bridge and take in a view of the London Eye – all lit up to brighten the Autumn evening commuter evacuation.
Some way along I stopped for a cigarette when I heard a female voice call out:
“Can I have a cigarette please mister?”
Looking about I noticed that the voice came from a woman who had positioned herself atop one of the lamp support pillars that populated the bridge at regular intervals …
“Be grateful for a cigarette please.”
“What are you doing up there?” I asked, surprised more than anything.
“I want to talk to Tony Blair – and I need a cigarette now.” came the reply
I hinted that she was not in the right place to speak with our current leader and that it was a particularly dangerous place to hold a conversation. Why would she not get down?
“I’m going to throw myself into the river because Tony Blair had me kicked out of my house … but first I want to talk to him – can I have a cigarette please?”
I offered her a cigarette and the conversation went into more depth over a few minutes although my encouragement to step down off the barrier was falling on deaf ears, the only attention I was getting was from passers-by …
“Having trouble with the Mrs are you mate?
“Nope, just trying to help someone in trouble.” I replied
“I’m going to jump if I can’t talk to Tony Blair!”
We’d spent ten minutes discussing the benefits of politicians and the alternative of leaping into a very cold river with a strong rip-tide – I was running out of cigarettes and the passing public were starting to linger.
OK I thought, lets try this I thought …
“Here’s my last cigarette, then I’m going to telephone Tony Blair for you.”
“If he’s not here in five minutes I’m jumping, I’ve got nothing to live for, he’s taken away my children and my home.”
It went on …
I was now seriously late for my appointment at House Of Lords and I could not help but notice a crowd had gathered on the terrace to witness the occasion of ‘a nutter about to jump into the Thames.’
“Give me another cigarette …”
I reached for my mobile and dialled 999, calling for a police presence and advising my chain smoking friend that I’d informed the government of her needs.
“Give me another …. Or I’m jumping”
I interrupted her now – look, Tony Blair has your details and you will be discussing all this in good time … but if you cannot wait – jump for all I care!
She froze for a minute, at least it kept her mouth closed momentarily.
The police arrived, they were present on the water also …
What’s the trouble here sir, having trouble with the Mrs are we??
The same reply I gave to the Police … no, simply being humankind …
OK madam, come on down from the barrier, we can talk about this.
“Not until I have spoken to Tony Blair …”
Can I ask why are you doing this madam?” asked the policewoman
Turning her manic gaze at me and pointing a finger directly the reply came …
“Because he told me to!”
A moment of shame before I quickly explained the situation to the police, offered thanks for their support, offered my card and left them to it …
Now 7.30 came when I entered the gathering that had witnessed the show over Westminster Bridge, with most of the excitement gone once the unfortunate lady had been removed from the scene.
Of course once my story was told I was met with surprise as well as bemusement.
“So that’s why you were late” cried Dick, not like you at all, thought there must have been a delay with the trains.
Could I introduce you to Fiona Jones, Head of Community Development for SHELTER.
So began a solid relationship with the Charity which brought many great opportunities for business and I enjoyed 12 months working with the Charity and their B2C marketing plus of course extolling the virtues of networking and preparing Dick for the road ahead – being ready for the opportunity that may be just around the corner and offering kindness and attitude, two of the most overlooked attributes of any networker.