Last Wednesday, I had lunch with St Austell Probus Club, its members having kindly asked me to talk about my work with Tindle Newspapers Cornwall Ltd, and indeed across three decades of journalism. 

It was a timely invitation. I entered the industry in 1997, just after Tony Blair’s triumphant election ended 18 years of Conservative rule. And the day after my presentation, it was widely predicted that an event of the same magnitude would come to pass. 

Life was coming full circle. And yet, I mused, I had never made it to an electoral count in 27 years, largely due to spending a sizeable chunk of my working life in glossy county magazines, which were more about lovely landscapes than party politics. 

So it was with a mixture of excitement and trepidation that I arrived at Carn Brea Leisure Centre on Thursday night, to cover the counts for the seats of Camborne & Redruth and St Ives. Both had been Conservative for many years; both were expected to fall, to Labour and the LibDems respectively. 

My most pressing concern was how to get through the night without nodding off at the worst possible time, waking to hear a sitting MP had been toppled … half an hour earlier. 

I’d spent no small amount of money on the stuff I thought would get me through the lulls with my eyes open. A former colleague and veteran of counts offered one word of advice: “Haribos.” Add crisps, Mars Bars, a sausage roll (Ginsters’ finest) and some hastily prepared cheese sandwiches, and you have a survival kit that needs its own trailer. 

Another friend sent me a handy BBC blog about how to power through election night. Tip one: “Lay off the junk food.” Damn. “Bananas are good for slow-release energy,” said another friend. I packed a token, lonely piece of fruit. 

In the event, I needn’t have worried – there were no lulls. From the get-go, there was a palpable sense of something really special going on. Papers were shuffled and carefully counted by 98 staff, including an entire family – parents plus grown-up offspring - and a couple celebrating their wedding anniversary (they couldn’t imagine a better way to do so).

First came the verification process – counting votes en masse to show the number on the box matches the number of papers inside - before the count proper. I was suddenly aware of how little I knew about what happens after I’ve put my cross in the box. 

Candidates and agents stalked the room, sizing up piles of papers in trays to get an insight in the direction of events – literally “reading the room”. An agent explained sampling: “You might watch 50 votes being counted, and work out a percentage from that which, if multiplied, could give you a feel for that particular ward.” 

A gaggle would gather round to watch “doubtful” papers – not quite spoiled, but not strictly legal either - being assessed and stamped by deputy returning officer Sophie Hosking (on her birthday, no less). 

There was always someone to speak to, photos to take, content to upload to our live blog. As chief returning officer, High Sheriff Sam Galsworthy seemed irrepressibly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed throughout the night, touring the room and engaging with vote counters, delivering with aplomb announcements such as voter numbers and turnout (65% and 69% - down on 2019) and, of course, the final declarations. 

I chatted with those hopeful of ending the evening as new MPs – a new face for Camborne & Redruth in Perran Moon, an extremely familiar one in Andrew George for St Ives; and also to Derek Thomas, now MP for the UK’s most westerly seat, who took the time to speak to reporters and was, I felt, genuinely and admirably gracious in defeat in the face of George’s thumping majority. “It didn’t come as a shock,” he admitted, suggesting the prevailing winds had given him ample time to adjust. 

It was a reminder that so many people, of all political colours, put themselves forward to represent the best interests of their communities, to the best of their abilities, and should be applauded for doing so. If they suddenly find themselves (and, by association, their staff) voted out of a job, that’s democracy - or, as one former PM put it: “Them’s the breaks.” 

Some know they have no chance of winning the seat at all – gaining three-figure tallies is an achievement. They do it anyway, because they are committed to a world view and wish to see it represented.

As first electoral counts go, it was a pretty special one to choose. I stumbled through the next day bleary-eyed, yet still grinning from ear to ear with the exhilaration of it all. 

In five years’ time, you can expect to see me at the front of the queue to do it all again.