Meeting report

25 September 2017

John Hicks

Mahima Rastogi was born in a small town in the North of India, a town with only 35,000 inhabitants – so small, by Indian standards, that Mahima told us we would never find it on a map. She gave us some fascinating insights into her very happy childhood and painted a delightful word picture of camping on the banks of the Ganges and gazing up at the stars, while her doting grandmother fed her the great stories of Indian mythology. Mahima excelled in maths* and the sciences at school, but was poor at English. She worked hard because she wanted to be an engineer and eventually attained qualifications in information technology, landed a good job, got married, had a daughter. Everything was going well in India but … And that is where Mahima, quite deliberately, left us dangling! I am sure everyone who heard the first part of “Made in India”, will want to hear the next episode of this intriguing Icebreaker speech.

Never say that a Shoreline meeting lacks interest and variety! Emma Garlick, our second speaker, chose African Giant Pouched Rats as the topic for her talk “Hero Rats”. These large rats (the size of a cat) from sub-Saharan Africa really are heroes. They have an acute sense of smell and can be trained to sniff out the TNT in landmines. They are light (about 1 Kg), and don’t trigger them to explode. They also work very quickly and can cover 200 square metres in 20 minutes – an area that would take humans four days with metal detectors. It takes nine months to train these rats, but they have a lifespan of 8 years. Large areas of Angola, Thailand and Cambodia have benefitted from these amazing animals, with large tracts of land returned to agriculture. They are also trained to detect people infected with tuberculosis. Emma’s speech was well-researched and full of amazing statistics. If you have time I can recommend the website she gave us: www.apopo.org 

Craig Hickford was Bard for the evening. He has recently visited his home province (Taranaki) and he read from a newspaper article which featured him, and focused on his interest in coaching basketball. Craig’s reading gave us some insights into his recovery from traumatic brain injury. To quote: “Craig is now coaching the top girls’ team at Cashmere High School, which is allowing him to not only get a taste of the coaching game again, but improve his communication. ‘It’s all about learning and re-teaching myself. It’s showing me that I’ve still got it.’” It is an honour that Craig has chosen Shoreline Toastmasters to play a part in his recovery. We will watch his progress with interest.

Spring is in the air, so Table Topics Master, Michael Shand, exploited this vernal theme. Buck Buchanan, fresh from his victory at the area Table Topic competitions, stamped his authority all over "birds on the wing", or was it "wings on the bird"? Nicola Powell was disappointed to discover that moving the clock forward had reduced her birthday by an hour, whereas Simon Mortimer was totally unfazed. He sleeps when he sleeps and has no trouble waking up. There were six (or seven?) Table Topics and all those selected acquitted themselves well and had the undeniable pleasure of being skilfully evaluated by Carolyn Skerrett, who somehow managed to dig out useful recommendations for all concerned.

Alison Scott turned up to the meeting just in time to be appointed General Evaluator and grabbed the opportunity. She did an excellent job of demonstrating how her recommendations might be implemented. Good evaluations are as much a key to a successful evening as good speeches.

* I was in a good mood until the spell checker on this web page suggested I change "maths" to "math". See how many other fictitious errors you can spot! Grrrrrrrr!