Happy New Year! What has 2013 got in store for you? Somewhat scarily, my overseas travel arrangements for the entire year are already booked and in the diary.
So if you are going to be in Davos this month (World Economic Forum), the US next month (book tour), Dubai in March (Emirates Airline Festival of Literature), the Bahamas in April (Key Girlfriend Summit) – I won’t continue, you get the picture – then look out, because I will be there too.
My final overseas trip of 2012 was to the Paris headquarters of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on the day that it published a report entitled Closing the Gender Gap: Act Now (a call to arms if ever there was one). I was chairing a panel discussing how best to achieve the advancement of women in business.
The panel was made up of some alarmingly senior and influential people: Anniken Huitfeldt, Norway’s labour minister; Frances O’Grady, the new – and first female – general-secretary of the TUC; Kaori Sasaki, entrepreneur and non-executive director of several Japanese companies; and Roger Dassen, global MD (clients, services and talent) of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. I was supposedly in charge of all these people for 90 minutes, in front of a 250-strong audience – having overcome a rather shaky start in the green room when I confidently addressed Ms O’Grady as Minister Huitfeldt.
As I cast my eye around the mainly invited audience, I couldn’t help but notice how many well-groomed women were among them. In fact, since when did everyone get so glamorous? Every member of my panel was beautifully presented, including the man. O’Grady, for example, had immaculately painted fingernails, which might explain why I initially mistook her for a Scandinavian cabinet minister. I sat there wishing I had been to the hairdresser first.
I am definitely going to the hairdresser (act now!) before I execute the first task I have set myself in 2013 – get a new passport. The last one was issued in a hurry in January 2006 after I was turned away at the gate for trying to travel to the US without a machine-readable document. Seven years later it is totally full, not to mention totally worn out (rather like me, who bears no resemblance to the bright young thing of 43 in its photo). I also plan to get a new photocard for my season ticket, because the current one was taken more than a decade ago and it is only a matter of time before I get stopped by ticket inspectors and accused of trying to pass as my non-existent daughter.
I have many other goals on the agenda for 2013. These include, but are not limited to, trying to remain sane as Cost Centre #2 finishes his final year at school; going through my 25th year of marriage and writing both a new show to take to the Edinburgh Fringe and a new book that Penguin has commissioned for publication at the end of the year. I also want to establish our company’s business credentials more firmly in Asia and find someone who would like to publish my current book in Chinese and in Spanish. I also hope to run 5km in 40 minutes – in fact, I am in Edinburgh today to attempt just that on the Great Winter Run, but I think I can confidently predict that come Monday morning, that ambition will still be on my list. Finally, I intend to redo my garden, a project that I have been warned could prove exhausting but desperately needs doing. Act now!
One of the countries missing from my 2013 world agenda is my beloved Japan, a place I dearly wish I could spend more time in. Sasaki-san, one of the stars on my OECD panel, will be chairing the International Conference for Women in Business in Tokyo. This will be in early August. Can I get there and be back in time to perform in Edinburgh? I have no idea, but I need to get on to the travel agent. Act now!