COLUMN: The Ely Grumpster talks public speaking

The Ely Grumpster

The Ely Grumpster - Credit: Archant

• This week’s meanderings centre on public speaking. Trigger for this was the BBC Radio 4 replay of Enoch Powell’s 1968 infamous “rivers of blood” rant. It makes one appreciate that powerful speakers can be a force for bad as well as good. Churchill, JFK, King: inspirational. The great Shakespearean soliloquies – Henry V, Julius Caesar (I wonder if he ever gave those ears back)? Flip-side? Hitler, the aforementioned Powell, Mosley (with his pathetic moustache and girlie voice), disgraced American evangelists pleading with gullible fools to dig deep “as the Roller needs replaying”.

• I witnessed a speech on a sunny afternoon in April 1997, at the Paddock Wood hop farm (Kent). One of those truly seminal, game-changing moments. Tony Blair, young, powerful and convincing. The crowd convulsed by excitement, applauding every word.

• This was solid Tory territory, where you would confess to being a serial killer before admitting voting red, so I knew then that we were about to embark on a long journey with New Labour. I penned an editorial for my local church magazine, recounting my experience and encouraging readers to put their house on a 100 seat Labour majority (I was subsequently admonished for political bias and encouraging gambling).

• I too have been drawn back into the public speaking arena of late. A talk on what I do at work to a bunch of interns, who frankly only turned up for the sandwiches, plus a presentation to the Design Council (where one of Peregrine’s pasty-faced buddies tried and failed to trip me up).

• More to my taste is having been asked to give a talk to a church breakfast group on any subject upon which I cared to ruminate. I chose the Wars of the Roses and have spent weeks pulling together relevant and hopefully interesting material.

• I decided to try it out in Doris. She sat in pained silence while I recounted the blood, guts, intrigue and betrayal of that brutal period. “What do you think?” She looked at me pensively and scratched her chin. “It was all Richards, Edwards, Marys and ‘Enries. Who killed them Princes? Who was that bloke what made Kings? Didn’t understand a bleedin’ word”. She walked off, leaving me utterly dejected. Back to the drawing board. Perhaps I should try something simpler. Maybe “how to win at noughts and crosses” or possibly “my favourite socks and underpants combo”. Well it’s a thought! Cotnact: