I panic a little at the top of the stairs as the roar of the crowd reaches me. Lecturers, deans, interested parties and acquaintances everywhere (Galway is too small, I think), one of Daragh's cousins, a lecturer in history, whose name escapes me at this most inopportune of moments. I am a cormorant among the ducks, dark and reptilian and extraterrestrial, obviously not like the others. After dashing to the canapé table, I scarf a dozen oozy cyphers of chopped beast or root and pastry, downed with wine--but not too much, I have a chapter due tomorrow. When approached, I crouch and feint, taking the position of the fencer that I was for all of three weeks. I sidle out of conversations, like a little crab looking for the sea. Ah well. I looked amazing, I think, in my armour of black leather and red lipstick, my little white owl necklace for a talisman; it keeps my heart from pumping out of my chest. Seriously, I am 38 and I shouldn't carry on so.