Write About A Time When You Have Been Surprised

Every now and again there is a coursework or exam task that asks you to explain something. It can be done via bullet points and article format, or it can be done via a descriptive piece. This is one I did years ago now, with a Year ten bottom set, to show them how to structure their words. 

A time when I felt very surprised 

There have been several times in my life when I have felt the emotions linked with being surprised but nothing compares to the day when I won something for the very first time.

I am one of those people who if they enter something has absolutely no chance of winning. Ever since the National Lottery began, I have kept the same numbers each week and won nothing. If I am entered for something that gives a prize, you can guarantee that the prize will be given to someone else, even though their entry is useless by comparison. I have as much luck as a three legged dog that has lost the ability to balance on the remaining three.

So when I won something and I had not even entered, it came as a total surprise, a bolt out of the blue to please me for the rest of my life. It was an Internet competition that Amazon.co.uk used to run. I knew nothing of it when I submitted my review of a book, but that was about to change.

I had read the third Harry Potter book called The Prisoner of Azkaban and had enjoyed the read but was a little concerned about the dark nature of the novel for a young audience. I have always been careful what I give children to read and so, it sprang from that ideology that I would criticise the book for being dark in content.

Two weeks after I had submitted the review, I received an email from Amazon saying, ‘Congratulations. You are our book reviewer of the month for December. Your prize is a night at the Whitbread Book Awards and a night at the Marriott Hotel on the Embankment, in London. Do you want to accept this prize?’

If ever a more stupid question has ever been posted on the Internet, then please let me know, but I had no idea it had been entered for any competition. I had no idea what the email referred to and so, had to work it out for myself, with ever increasing degrees of surprise growing on my already smiling face.

My wife was talking to me at the time of me reading the email and by this time, I had stopped listening, as is the case when I try to do more than one thing at one time and so she had to be stern with me to get a response.

I apologised, as you do, looked back at the computer to see if I was dreaming and then apologised to her and asked her to read what I was reading. I still could not believe it. When she realised what had happened, she told me to say yes to the thing and get on with it quickly. So I did.

A couple of weeks later, at the end of  January 2000, I found myself stood quaffing cocktails quicker than they could serve them to me, getting intoxicated on both the booze and the fact that so many famous people were coming through the doors.

Ann Widdecombe came and sat down next to me, a senior Tory MP at the time. Actors and actresses waltzed in; some like Jerry Hall, once married to Mick Jagger, seemed to glide in effortlessly as if they were on ice skates. Then, it was as if God had walked through the door.

I have always been a fan of the work of Seamus Heaney, being introduced to him in my own GCSE years and reading Beowulf, the translation that he made which was to win the award we were attending.

It was a moment of great excitement. I had not expected it, for my glass, already half drunk again, was placed firmly in my mouth when he walked through the door and scanned the room. His eyes met mine, which by now were increasing in size from the surprise of what I was seeing. His reply: well, his eyes lit up when he saw me as if we had been friends long ago and he was simply saying hello again old friend over a crowded room.

Sheer magic! The feeling that surged through my body cannot be humanly described in words, but the event stopped the drink from going down my throat. Instead, my teeth fixed onto the rim of the glass for what seemed an interminably long time. Then he was gone. The whole thing lasted for no more than three seconds, but it is a memory that I will never forget.

What a surprise. We never talked, but as a writer and poet it was as if I had met with God all over again. That has to be the time, when I was most surprised. Nothing before or since has come close, not even when my wife said ‘yes’ or when children came along. It is funny what life holds for us.