I have tentatively been invited to give a talk to an unsuspecting group of provincial woodworkers, which, if it does come to fruition, promises, for me at least, to be an enjoyable event. It’s been about twenty-five years since I last addressed a group (at Dillington House in Somerset if memory serves me) on some aspect of antique furniture. Being an infrequent speaker now is no defence against second rate oration, so I determined to brush up on my patter prior to the anticipated engagement.
While scouring cupboards and bookshelves for my old talk notes, I was briefly distracted by a copy of The Ulster Reciter in which the author urges one, ‘On the Declamation of Noble and Inspiring Verse in Public Places‘, to excite oneself with Missionary Zeal, assume an aura of massive confidence, and impress hostile audiences that you are not alone in your opinion. One is further advised to fix light-minded persons with a basilisk glare and enunciate the opening lines unusually loudly and with suitably striking hand gestures.
Whilst this advice is unarguably excellent direction for avant garde soirees or ribald repartee at the local hostelry following a game of Rugby football, a talk on antique furniture begs a more harnessed and courteous delivery with fewer, more considered gestures, viz.
Consequently this moderation sadly precludes any imbibition on the evening for fear of slipping into one’s customary manner of inebriated communication comprising frequent redoubtable expletives and copious enthusiastic flailing of the arms.
Captivating oratory aside, the highlight of any such occasion (and secretly, my primary objective) must surely be the boundless array of delectable homemade refreshments considerately afforded by the consummately capable bucolic women.
I shall of course endeavour to present an utterly mesmerising address on a thoughtfully selected topic befitting such welcoming and genteel folk, but when all the talk is done, if I’m not the first to be handed a plate and invited to break the skin on the trough, I may very well have recourse to much zealous declamation and corybantic arm waving!