Wow. Life doesn't hang about, does it?
You've had the year from hell, but you've begun to get yourself together. You've stopped noticing yourself all the time and started noticing the squirrel in the garden, and the berries against the leaves, and that sharp tang to the morning air. You've re-grouped and re-organised, and re-drawn the boundaries of your comfort zone in bright, bold highlighter pen. Taking slow, shuffly steps, you have finally begun, in other words, to move on.
And then your agent calls. Your gem-of-an-agent whom you'd really like to make some money one day to repay his endless, Tiresian faith in you, calls and says Never mind if you can't do the job: this is one director whom you cannnot afford not to meet.
More than once over the following weekend, I say wistfully to friends: Of course I won't actually be able to do the job, but I have to go...
So I go to read for the Director-I-Cannot-Afford-Not-to- Meet at a production office in north London on Monday afternoon. The air is dry and full of autumn crisp. I am a wee bit early, so I stop to gather my thoughts in a smart, mansion-lined street round the corner from our designated meeting place. I catch a passing local giving me a side-long look: the sort of look I haven't seen for some time, given that I have refused to consider theatre work since before Anna-mouse was born. It's the 'what-is-that-crazy-woman-talking-to-herself-doing-on-that-bench-look' well-known to the pre-audition actress rehearsing her lines.
The script - hand-delivered last Friday to ensure I have it for the audition - is neat and bound in red, with the play title in bold capitals in a little window on the front cover. It is a classic script, a joy to breathe in its papery freshness, thrilling in its quintessential script-ness. Never mind the job, it has been worth coming for this small, all-important confirmation of my status as 'Actress' once again.
Also, I have discovered several other pleasing things. The play is being cast by a true, old-school casting director whose word on quality cannot be questioned; the director-I-can't-not-meet is not only a theatre pro but directed one of my favourite feel-good movies of all time; the project stretches in an elastic line of perfect tension between now and February and there is a West End option should it happen to receive five star reviews. Just about everything, in fact, about this job smells exemplary - except, of course, for how much it is going to shake up my life with Anna-mouse.
The director is T-shirted, intelligent and kind. I warm to him immediately.
So what have you been doing? he asks.
I laugh. There is no uncomplicated answer to that question, and because it is so long since I went on stage I can't boast of recent theatre conquests, so I decide to talk instead about my work at the school which has recently filled so much of my life, and put me right when all else was wrong.
I talk about the children, and the projects I'm managing, and what a joy it is when some seed I have planted bears fruit. The director listens with open face and mind; asks questions; seems to understand.
After a while he asks me to read, and I open the fresh script with its beautiful white pages and find the few lines belonging to the funny strange character for which I have come to audition.
That was well read, he says, and soon after we shake hands and part.
I return to the same bench I stopped at just half an hour before. I am jangly with adrenaline, all fingers and thumbs as I phone my agent for a de-brief. I can barely think, let alone talk, about the changes ahead if I were to be offered the job.
But some tiny corner of my jumping brain is still, and is saying that the job is mine. I have had this feeling before. I remember it of old. It is a remarkable, instinctive knowing. That is not to say that I believe it. But by the bench, under the plane trees, it is there.
Twenty-four hours later, when my agent calls, pleased as punch, I remember to congratulate my sixth sense for being so wonderfully, scarily right.