Thursday, 13 August 2009

Welcome To My World

Everything was a bit of a rush last night. Firstly I was late getting home, then I had to go and pick up my friend and then drive swiftly over to Toastmasters. Fortunately my partner was not requiring her car for work, but sadly was not feeling up to attending on this occasion. We had discussed this a few nights previously on a “see how tired I am” basis, so we barely had time to recognise one another before I left her to babysit the cats. Ironic, because it’s usually she that has to disappear back home or off to work!

As I believe that a related post will soon be visible on Delusions of Adequacy I might as well come clean and admit that myself and Argent have been friends for about four years now and, as some of you have already guessed, it is she that can be heard singing on “Bears”. We met when I advertised for band members in our company newsletter and I am very happy to call her and her husband friends.

As I knew that she was well versed and interested in words and language I had previously told her about Toastmasters - but this was the first week she had been free to visit.

So anyway, I picked up Argent and we got to Toastmasters just in time for the general chit-chat and perambulations that surround the start of the meeting. It was a slightly lower than usual turnout due to everyone being off on their Jollies (slang here for holiday – as in “aww eets a jolly ‘oliday wiv maaary’ – NB that was a feeble attempt to get Dick Van Dyke’s cock-er-ney accent from Mary Poppins in type) and, as usual the Ultra Keen President had volunteered for every empty job going.

We started with the warm up – which in itself was a bit odd, because the woman running this couldn’t have chosen a better week to ask everyone to sing a bit of a song that reminded them of summer. We had Summertime (and the livin is easy), In The Summertime (Mungo Jerry), Summer Holiday, Why Does It Always Rain On Me – and of course Argent with her amazing vocal abilities!

Next up were the pre-prepared speeches, with myself slotting in at the number two slot for my first speech proper – which is the Ice Breaker.

How Toastmasters works is that you have a booklet with ten speeches to perform. Each one has a different title like “organise your speech”, “using props” and “body language”. Within this arc of interest you can pretty much talk about anything you want as long as you meet the objectives of the speech.

Speech one – The Ice Breaker – has to be purely about yourself: something that I was dreading as I’m a fairly private person and tend to assume that other people would probably find my life quite dull (which is why I don’t ramble on about it too much on here)

Also – I have no memory whatsoever. So what I decided to do was to have a piece of paper with a series of one or two word prompts to remind me what areas I wanted to speak about – with three “definates” and a couple of extra bits if I was running ahead of time. I also wrote down a couple of reminders about jokes. I won’t repeat the whole thing here, but will provide you with a few of the highlights:

Intro: How did Darth Vader get planning permission for the Death Star? How does Prince Philip feel when he looks at a stamp? (This was meant as an overview of how my brain works)

On family: My granddad was a very talented piano player – he could play by ear…which if you’ve ever tried hitting a keyboard with the side of your face you’ll know is very difficult

On creativity: you can’t control when it happens – you can be in the middle of a field somewhere and suddenly think “why is abbreviation such a long word?” – what are you supposed to do with this thought?

On conversation: I’m actually quite quiet – even if our building had survived a nuclear attack I’d still come home and have the conversation:
“So how was your day?”
“Not bad”
“Anything much happen?”
“No, not really (pause) oh there was a nuclear attack”
“I bet that was interesting?”
“(shrug) Suppose”

On art: I bought a book in 2003 called “How To Draw Anything” – though really it should have been called “How To Draw Anything – So Long As You Like Sheep”

(sadly I forgot one of my jokes here, borrowed from Douglas Adams, that my recent painting was currently on display…

…at the bottom of a locked filing cabinet behind a sign saying “beware of the leopard”)

On photography: my dad is a professional wedding photographer…very reasonable prices if anyone is thinking of getting married…and built me a wooden winder for my first camera (a box brownie)

On writing: I once had a play performed, called “Murder In A Village Convenience” where a notoriously cheesy TV star got stabbed…it seemed fair at the time

During the speech you get three lights – a green one when you hit the minimum length for the speech (in this case 4 minutes), an amber one for the next marker (5 minutes) and finally a red one (6 minutes) – and finally, just as I finished speaking about photography I got the amber light: meaning that it was time to move onto my conclusion – a poem that I wrote some years ago (and have re-produced below)

Lacklustre Rebel

I think I missed out on my rebellious phase
A cause without a rebel, that’s me I’m afraid
No wild sex parties or all night raves
And my memory’s only slightly blurred with alcohol daze

My parents were helpful when I were a lad
My dad gave me pot, me mum sold me fags (cigarettes)
But I just wasn’t into the having fun scene
And as for all the sex, well I was never that keen

But now I’ve passed my sell by date without leaving the shelf
I wish I had done something that was bad for me health
I get pulled over by Police for not wearing my tie
It’s the best I can manage: my parent’s still cry

But I tried to rebel, honest I did
Missed out on school, hung around with Vicious Sid
Ended up at Tesco’s for a few lousy quid
Having rebellious tea-breaks with biscuits that I’ve hid

And that was it – I was back in my seat and the next speech went completely over my head. In the break everyone was very positive, calling me a “dark horse” and saying how much they’d enjoyed it – in fact the President suggested I should submit myself for the Humorous Speech competition in two weeks time.

I did enjoy it, but was aware I was rocking a bit on my feet and sometimes speaking too quickly – but generally it went well. I’m still thinking about the speech competition, because having only done one speech with the group I do feel like a bit of a newcomer/interloper and would prefer to earn my keep for a bit first.

The rest of the evening frittered away – Argent got picked on to take part in Table Topics (see her site for full details) and won a prize for Best Table Topic Speaker on her first visit (and here am I still to win anything more than a bottle of wine in a raffle!) – then it was back to our respective homes, partners and cats


Argent said...

You definitely MUST do the competition. (Verification word sornob - which sunds rather painful if you ask me).

the watercats said...

Ah haaaa!!!... I'm so clever....! I often thought about toastmasters... (briefly.. about twice..) There is one locally over here, but I get the feeling it might be taken a bit too seriously and also be full of ex-pat english types.. (the ones that huddle together in ex pat groups for fear "the Oirish" might eat their children while burning the union jack)...

the watercats said...

Just re-read that comment and it could be read as incredibly offensive!... none meant!.. Just me having a blatant numpty thought.. hope you know what I mean!!

English Rider said...

I would be expecting a full glass with which to toast. Would I be disappointed?

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Argent - certainly looking into it!

Watercats - i think it depends on the group. There is a lot of formality within the structure of the evening (intros, timings, evalutations etc) but the group is very friendly and there's a great sense of fun.

And when did the oirish stop eating kids? (Joke!)

English - it's more aimed a speech making skills, but once you get experience you can go and do the whole toasting of the bride thing elsewhere. Sadly no spirits are imbibed at meetings

Lydia said...

This was a gloriously put-together post and it sounds like that describes your speech as well. I am SO impressed that you are doing toastmasters, as I'd be too scared. It seems that you were made for this stuff, even if that is a surprise to you!

india said...

go for it, laddie!

pohanginapete said...

Well, if your speaking's half as entertaining as your writing, I'm not surprised it was so well received. Moreover, I admire your courage — I once heard a claim that some survey had showed that, of people's worst fears, public speaking came number one, with dying in third place, which suggests most of us would rather die than speak in front of a crowd. :^)

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

lydia - thanks. Don't get me wrong, i do get nervous: but i think if you didn't you'd be a robot and your speech wouldn't be any good

India - thanks (lassie!)

Pete - thanks for that comment. Of course that doesn't take into account the people who have, metaphorically speaking, died on stage!

Anonymous said...

What's wrong with winning a bottle of wine? I'd be writing for that prize only.

So that really is you singing in the acoustics, huh? Interesting.

Word verification is:shinedgi

Hope you win them over with the Humourous Speech.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Samurai - just seen your response. Thanks xx