We were greeted by the piteous spectacle of one of the All Black's most fervent supporters - Toastmaster Stephen East - bemoaning the loss and sporting a black armband. He was in mourning and he milked this theme throughout the evening, which served to remind me that pathos garnished with humour is an effective combination (and vice-versa).
Buck Buchanan's after dinner speech was, by contrast, unabashedly humorous. He skilfully spun out a joke involving St Peter, a blond and the "Pearly Gates" - yes, that one. En route he defined Hell for us - watching Tom Cruise movies, or Coro Street repeats, every day for eternity. It was a relief to know that the blond passed the three-question test (on dubious grounds) and who could forget that the Jolly Swagman's name was Andy?
Helen Peate's speech, "For the Sake of Science" focused on her favourite scientist, John Scott Haldane. Haldane was an eccentric nineteenth century Scottish physiologist. He was the "father of oxygen therapy" and famous for his research of respiratory conditions - in particular pertaining to mining, diving and mountaineering. This was a lucid, entertaining and well researched speech and Haldane an ideal subject, especially given his proclivities for intrepid self-experimentation and bouts of absent-mindedness.
This was a well-attended evening and everyone present had a chance to speak. Vita Tasman managed a busy table topics session and her seven victims participated admirably, among them our two guests, Simon and Ella. Their full names will, I hope, appear soon on EasySpeak.