To inspire your contributions to our shame confessional, here are some stories of
error, shame and mistake already committed.
Last week I spent a good 90 seconds trying with increasing
desperation to unlock someone else's red Brompton. Then
noticed that mine was right next to it.
I applied for funding for my organisation from a large charitable
foundation. I met with someone from the foundation, who told
me not to apply under all of their funding prioritites, but to pick
just two to focus on. So we did, applied and got the funding
we had asked for. Everything seemed fine.
I found out afterwards that this wasn't the correct advice at
all. In fact organisations were encouraged to apply under any or
all of the priorities they met.
The excruciating bit is that in my usual gobby way I had passed
that advice on to other people. And more than just 'passed it on',
I had strongly advised people to narrow down their
applications. I worked very closely with my best friend, who
was also applying: she adhered to my advice, and didn't get the
funding she asked for. She now knows that the advice was wrong and
whilst I don't think she blames me, I still feel responsible. We
don't talk about it much, but it's there, in my conscience at
I'm often very confident of my own opinion, probably too
confident, and share it widely - and this experience made me
realise that sometimes it is based on shaky foundations.
The whole thing is heightened by the fact we got what we asked
for and others didn't. Maybe I wouldn't feel so bad if it was
the other way round.
Secretly I am dreading the next time we both apply for funding,
as I feel it will be difficult for my friend to trust me to comment
on their application, and yet usually we discuss and share
everything. So it has had a longer term impact - in my head at
I wrote an extremely shirty email to my publishers, saying it was
completely unacceptable that they'd left my chapter out of the book
they'd just put out, without even having the courtesy to let me
know. I got an email back, much more polite than I deserved,
saying 'Um. That isn't your book. Your book isn't out
Age 7, Gary Foster says:
"Clare, you know all the words. Is f**k a swear?"
So he said it to his mum.
I had to pretend I'd lied on purpose to get him into
trouble. I didn't want to admit I didn't actually know all
Straight after my PhD I was employed to carry out some clever
science involving trace metals in insects. This involved a lot of
hard graft, growing wheat so as to limit the amount of zinc in the
grains. After a few months I was very proud to be able to say that
there was a nice clear correlation between the amount of zinc in
the wheat and the amount that made it into the insects that ate the
wheat. Only after I had left did somebody look at the data and
discover that, when converting zinc per dry weight to amount in the
actual insect I had divided instead of multiplying. Basic maths. I
hadn't shown anything really.