When you are organising a conference the best part of 3000 kilometres away, it doesn't seem real. It's just a lot of vaguely unanswered emails, the odd shouty enunciated phone call as if we were both on the deck of different ships, and some forehead/keyboard interfacing.
And then you get there and it's all absolutely bloody real and happening. You go from quiet admin type person to the one everyone wants to talk to right now. You become the holder of USB sticks, and the conjuror of presentations from a Turkish laptop. That's something I hadn't anticipated. I now know certain Turkish words that I'll never again need.
There were always going to be things I hadn't anticipated. On the Tuesday night while I sat with the Board, dining at a lone table in a vast room, the delegates had been taken by our hosts to a restaurant in Taksim Square. Clearly this wasn't a terribly good idea and due to water cannon and retreating gas-masked protestors, it was not actually possible to get near the restaurant. They were deposited back at the hotel and suddenly we noticed delegates drifting in and out of our banqueting hall like lost bees. Tables were hastily set up and a meal for around 30 people produced from somewhere. I think it was what is known in the trade as a near fuck-up.
The conference itself went off really bloody well. I congratulate myself heartily. However prepared you are, there will always be at least ten people who change their presentation at the last minute or who bowl up with requests that it might have been prudent to warn me about, especially given the utterly rubbish internet connection. Although we were in a luxury hotel, the luxury hotel was in the arse-end of nowhere. I am not exaggerating when I say there was a shanty town down the road.
On the Thursday we were looking forward to Turkish Night. Our President had requested that I sort out a microphone for him as he wished to address the troops during the evening. Sometime during the Turkish buffet and before the Whirling Dervishes, the President got up to thank our hosts. The next bit should really only have happened in a poorly-scripted film starring Julia Roberts. He thanked me and said I'd been a generally excellent egg and all that, and then called me up. Unprepared, I took my napkin, and wrung it slightly, going pink. I'm used to large audiences but I'd been noshing on dolma and wasn't expecting this. He made the entire room - some 50 doctors, professors, and other senior associates - stand up and shout WE LOVE JANE. Three times, because the first two times weren't loud enough. I then squirmed back to my seat and took a big drink of booze.
As the conference trickled to an end Friday lunchtime, I escaped to the landscaped lake garden behind the hotel, where nobody could find me. Four days of constant requests had made me crave absolute silence. I sat on a hot pontoon jutting out at right angles in the lake. The wind was warm and brisk; and lightning fell from a sweaty sky. The lake was pretty choppy and splashy.
Back to Istanbul for the final night: a trip on the Bosphorus Strait. Perhaps it was the out-of-school feeling of the conference being finished but I was wildly excited about this and spent a fair bit of time with my head over the side like a dog out of a car window. I can't really condense it all into words, so I'll leave you with the final image: around 11pm as we returned across the middle of the huge black strait, the fairy-lit banks far away, I heard the dimly amplified calls of several muezzins from both sides of the water as my colleagues and associates danced to Turkish pop on the deck. Their callings to prayer were far away but twisted all together in the darkness. I stood as far forward on the ship as possible, unable to stop smiling at everything.