Meeting report

20 November 2017

John Hicks

Your reporter has been missing in action for the last few weeks. Only those who attended our meetings over that time are privileged to know what occurred – the high jinks and hilarity - and perhaps that is as it should be. (Stephen East’s take on garden gnomes was just one of many memorable highlights!)

I am moved to write about last night’s meeting because I feel I owe it to those who put in the work preparing for it and whose contributions ensured its success.

Toastmaster David Preston used “Gung Ho” as the theme, and after enlightening us as to its true meaning “working together”, it was well used. China featured quite a lot, so I would have been tempted to refer to David as our Toaistmaster had Taoism cropped up, but it didn't, so forget this sentence.

David is an intelligent and thoughtful presenter, and obviously a fan of Rewi Alley and we learned quite a bit about “the great Cantabrian” as the evening progressed. While there were undeniable political overtones to David’s presentation, I would side with our General Evaluator, Carolyn Skerrett, that it is better to express definite opinions, even knowing they are contrary to those of others, than to sit on the fence for fear of causing offence (Aha! another pun - quite inadvertant this time!).

Helen Peate spoke about her hero, Marie Curie: the brilliant physicist who won a Nobel prize twice for her research into radiation. Apart from the science, which she explained very clearly, Helen gave us interesting glimpses into Curie’s family life and her fiercely independent spirit. Helen obviously has a heartfelt admiration for Curie and she conveyed her passion for her very effectively to our (regrettably small) audience of nine. By the end of Helen's speech I was a convert and felt that Marie Curie could be my hero, too. (But - call me a pedantic sexist - for me, she would be my heroine!)

The second speaker was yours truly. This was a wonderful exhibition of a toastmaster dutifully completing a project (Professional Speaker Manual project 3: “The Sales Training Speech”) towards which he has total antipathy. Well, what do you think of salesmen? However, these are the challenges toastmasters must confront.

TTM Adrienne Malis placed a large bag containing random household objects. We were invited to blindly dip into this bag and explain how the object we had extracted had changed our lives. We learned all about Nicola Powell’s tea pot collection. A ceramic steer's skull jolted Carolyn into recounting a personal story about her wild days as a cowgirl. Helen tried to wax (what else?) lyrical about her sacred candle, red for the blood of Jesus etc., and was careful to avoid making any further sacrilegious pronouncements about it. David revealed his unhealthy obsession: knives make you feel powerful … and others afraid. He threatened to show us a scar from an old knife wound but, mercifully, we were spared this. Simon found it taxing to explain his likeness in an old photo and dredged up LSD as an excuse for his confused state of mind ... and suddenly, he was busking outside Ballantynes. Stephen East - lucky last - dredged Pinnochio’s funnel out of Adrienne's fateful bag … don’t ask!

If this report has made you feel you are missing the fun, I will have done my job. Make sure you attend our next meeting!