Stephen East doesn't know it yet, but he did part of my job with the humorous "Lloyd's Itch" reminder he sent us last week:
"Just a reminder that this week is the week Lloyd has been yearning for, for months. Where we all turn up and get allocated a role on the night. I’m hoping Lloyd draws the short straw. But seriously there is no short straw, and it should be a lot of fun. If you are new please don’t be put off we will ensure you’re not thrown in the deep end with a role you’re uncomfortable with. Let’s have a big turn out and help scratch Lloyd’s itch."
So, how did it go?
I am pleased to say that it was a lot of fun. Lloyd Bathurst's reputation was riding on it and, as usual, he didn't let us down - taking on the dual roles of S@A and TM. We scrabbled in an icecream container to ascertain what task fate had delivered us. TTM for the evening, Stephen East, had come prepared, and had some testing newspaper clippings such as: "Man is fed to giant snake to improve TV ratings". Emma Garlick's first response to that was a, perhaps not unsurprising, "Far out" - before successfully flailing for Kardashian shores. Later, Lloyd "Small ad sets off cyberscream" was not too proud to follow in her wake. Our guest, Doreen, somehow managed to deliver a coherent and useful summation of all this flim-flammery; remarkable, considering this was her first time as TTE.
There were table topics for everyone, except the two who had drawn the speaker straws. This gave them time to prepare their speeches, and they each approached this sudden task from very different angles.
Ryan Chappell's valiant effort to read someone else's prepared speech off the tiny print of his smart phone will have convinced him that IT cannot solve all of life's little problems. Helen Peate, by contrast, drew on her twenty years of Toastmaster's experience. Speaking from the heart, she delivered an absolute gem of a speech about a stepson's drug addiction - from early teens to premature death. The sad image of a young girl at a funeral, beside the open coffin of her dead father, will stay with me. Helen capped her moving speech with a powerful concluding sentence: "I hate everything to do with drugs, I always have, I always will." She had the benefit of an excellent and sensitive evaluation from Carolyn Skerret.
I also have to commend Michael Shand who rounded off the evening as GE with his usual gusto. He is a pleasure to watch with his great vocal variety, flamboyant body language and there is always something to learn from his perceptive observations.