Bratislava, however, went better than I might have feared. It helped that the relatively intimate gathering that is Council allows more time to catch up with old friends and colleagues and that the lobby bar at the venue hotel was actually rather nice, with comfortable armchairs and sofas, and not too brightly lit.
That meant that, as the evening passed, I found myself in conversation with some familiar faces, with the time to catch up on the rest of our lives, rather than talking politics all evening. And I accept that this seems a bit strange, given the reason we've all gathered, but I still find people fascinating, and as I have no ambition other than that of competence, it makes for a much more enjoyable, relaxing time.
Turning to the politics, I have found, I think, a niche within our delegation, and there were enough things to engage me to give me the impression that my presence was useful. And that matters because going all the way to Slovakia for a relatively short event is not without cost.
Whilst I occasionally kick back against the idea of being pigeonholed as a bureaucrat, there is a role for someone to hold the ALDE Party Bureau accountable, rather than just focussing on the policy and campaigning elements. As I've said before, a political party is better at winning elections if it is well-run and well managed. Without a strong base, all of the policies in the world mean little if you don't have a machine by which they can be communicated to voters. The trick is to balance the various demands of campaigning, ideas generation and compliance.
Reassuringly, the current Party delegation seem happy enough to trust me to fulfil my role in such a way as to not upset too many people and, in return, I make sure that they understand what I'm doing and why. That reassurance is a two-way street, in that knowing that I have their confidence makes me better at what I do.
With that confidence comes a greater ability to chip in on policy making. I'm not an expert, unlike some of my colleagues, but I'm well-informed, bring the viewpoint of someone with a South Asian background, plus a degree of gentle cynicism about the glories of Western democracy. That means that, when we're debating something within the group, I can perhaps tweak the language of a resolution or amendment or judge the efficacy of an idea and occasionally convince my colleagues to change tack a little.
And, given that I've been around rather longer than many, especially within the ALDE Party, I can find solutions to problems that might otherwise be complex. I know who to talk to and when, I know how the Statutes and Internal Regulations work, and I have a comfortable relationship with the ALDE Party Secretariat. Sometimes, that can be very useful.
I think, therefore, that I can look forward to three more years as a member of our delegation with a degree of confidence. Not too much, because I'm not that kind of person, but enough to allow me to be a little more relaxed, a little more "me". The first test of that will be Stockholm at the end of May. Let's hope that I pass...