BY the time this column appears in print, I’ll have faced one of my biggest fears - public speaking.

Yesterday I was due to attend the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Awards in London, to present trophies for the national and regional journalism categories. I was honoured to be a judge for these categories, and it was a lovely surprise to be asked to present the awards - but I’d be lying if I said my palms didn’t go clammy when I read on the invitation: “We’d like you to say a few words”.

A few words? Does that mean an actual speech? Will I have to throw in a few jokes? Will it be like the Baftas? Will I burst into tears, trip up or freeze with stagefright and make an almighty show of myself? And they mentioned something about a ‘roving microphone’ - will I be expected to wander around the stage like a motivational speaker? To say I got a bit carried away with the hand-wringing about this would be an understatement.

Truth is, public speaking puts the fear of God into me. The prospect of standing on a stage, with a microphone, and “saying a few words” to a room full of people is the stuff of nightmares.

For some people, it’s a breeze. One of my best friends runs a PR company and does regular business pitches, I’m full of admiration for the way she can address a room full of people, self-assured, relaxed and oozing confidence. And my partner, who was once in the police force, said giving evidence in court made him fearless. He later landed a regular slot on a radio show and interviewed high-profile sportsmen on stage in front of hundreds of people - both things which would paralyse me with fear.

A few years ago I faced my fear when I was invited to a prize-giving ceremony at my old school to give a talk about my career in journalism. It was suggested that I give a power point presentation, featuring some cuttings of my work. Power Point Presentation - three words to turn my blood cold. It didn’t help when I learned the previous year’s guest speaker was a mountain climber with “exciting visuals”...

The event took place a couple of days after I returned from a holiday. Needless to say, throughout that holiday I had hanging over me the dread of giving a presentation to an audience of pupils, parents and teachers - including some teachers who had taught me.

I wrote a speech and, thanks largely to the aforementioned friend who takes business pitches in her stride, I put some visuals together to go with it. When I did a dry run before the event started I looked out to the vast, empty school hall and pictured it full of bored teenagers. My brief was to inspire the pupils. Could I hold their attention, or would they struggle to stay awake? Or would stifled giggling ripple through the place if I got my power pointing mixed up? “I think I’d rather jump out of a ‘plane,” I said to my former Communication Studies teacher, who helped me set up the equipment. “And here I was, all those years ago, thinking I was sending you all out into the world, fearless and confident...” he said, looking a bit crestfallen.

Of course it was fine in the end, as things that we dread often are. Once I’d presented 200 prizes to pupils, I felt more comfortable on the stage, and when I delivered my presentation I was quite relaxed and it all seemed to go well.

So how did my “few words” with the roving mic go at yesterday’s Dementia Friendly Awards? At the time of writing this, I’ve yet to find out. But, hey, sometimes we have to do things that frighten the life out of us. It reminds us we’re still alive.

* "WHY is this such a big deal?" yawned my 14-year-old nephew, after five minutes of news coverage of Prince Harry's engagement to American actress Meghan Markle this week.

In the scheme of things, it isn't a big deal. And like many people, I'm probably going to tire of it all pretty quickly. But for now, it's happy news. And this very modern Royal romance brings something fresh and new to a bloodline so steeped in tradition it hasn't always allowed true love. Something Edward VIII, Princess Margaret and even Prince Charles have been all too painfully aware of in the past.

* IT'S integral to ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here that the contestants end up hungry and irritable. Leaving them to slum it in a jungle camp, with basic facilities and meagre food rations, is designed to strip back D-lister airs and graces and make them so hungry and bored that they will: A) cry and B) turn on each other. It's the hunger that gets them most. When they're each booted out, the celebs' usual gripe is their jungle diet of rice and beans.

I like rice and beans. I'd much prefer to eat that to emu, possum or crocodile, which is what campmates often get for dinner after winning tasks. Then there are the unmentionables on the menu in some bushtucker trials...

The amount of creatures killed for this show every year leaves a nasty taste in the mouth.