Some years ago I went on a package holiday and tried to save money by sharing a room with another single traveller. I soon regretted my penny-pinching because my roommate talked constantly. She provided a running commentary on everything she saw and I soon knew far more about her family than I do about my own. Most of the others on the tour were couples who naturally sat together at dinner and on buses and trains, leaving me with no escape from Ms Verbal Diarrhoea. No amount of monosyllabic replies or fixed concentration on my book deterred her. Lacking the courage to tell her to STFU, I ran away from the group as much as possible, on one occasion missing a flight. I learned: 1) beware of package holidays 2) there’s no guarantee of like-minded fellow travellers – if you don’t speak up you have to put up.
“What we learn when we travel” was the theme chosen by Toastmaster Deb McAlpine for the meeting on 27 January. We were all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed on a beautiful, sunny morning as Sergeant at Arms Alan Calder got us off to a flying start at 6.59am. The theme was inspired by Deb’s recent travel in Vietnam and Cambodia and she kept us entertained throughout this fast-paced and amusing meeting with snippets of her adventures abroad and the wisdom gained from them.
Our first speaker embraced the travel theme. In her icebreaker “Who Am I?”, Natalie Perzylo gave us the history of her unusual Ukrainian surname, spoke of idyllic summer holidays in Manitoba and brought the beauty of her home town, Ottawa, vividly to life. Her experience as a dog trainer and behaviourist with The Naked Dog clearly interested the audience, who appreciated the chance to ask Natalie questions at the end of her speech.
Mo Yakubu gave us a fascinating glimpse into how machines can be taught to think for themselves in his speech “Machine Learning: What it is and why it matters”. He used an analogy of choosing apples and mangoes to lucidly explain the concept of machine learning and how it will lead to greater efficiency and better decision making.
Rachel Walton addressed the objectives of a fact-finding mission from the manual Speaking to Inform, with her speech “An Economy for the 99%”. She presented some astonishing facts from Oxfam’s annual briefing report, showing that just eight men own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world. She told us about crony capitalism and widespread tax evasion by large companies who pay slave wages to workers while CEOs earn millions. This was a gripping though sobering speech about how the rich are getting richer while the poor are getting poorer.
President Mark Glanville’s Boaters’ Bulletin reminded us that we need volunteers for time-keeping, tally counting and Sergeant at Arms for the evaluation and international speech contest on 27 February. He offered the inducement of seeing him in his pinny, as he will be helping out in the kitchen.
As Table Topics Master, Terelle Hegarty chose an altruistic theme, encouraging us to think of the gifts we would give others in 2017. All four speakers rose ably to the challenge. Asked what special gift she would offer her partner, Denise Ford decided on a trip to India, since he loves the food. Brett Snow, tasked with finding a gift for his family which didn’t involve expense, unhesitatingly wished them all good health. Danny de Hek, asked what gift he would give a stranger who interested him, cleverly turned the question back on the audience, asking “Would you hug a random?” before making us laugh heartily with his demonstration of pick-up lines. Finally, Sandra Chatterton decided that a memorable gift for a famous or wealthy person would be to teach them how to cook a simple meal in her kitchen.
Time Keeper Alana Bogart gave a detailed breakdown of individual speech lengths, confirming that everyone had been admirably punctual to their times (Alana’s own contribution, of course, being the most perfect of all!)
The meeting closed with Mark Glanville’s farewell to Bee Bathish, who is taking some time away from Toastmasters to concentrate on other commitments, and David Clarkson’s presentation of the Evaluation Cup to Sabine Perry, following her victory in the recent contest. The final words were those of Toastmaster Deb McAlpine, who galvanised us for the day ahead with the injunction “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us”.