A couple of years ago I allowed my name to appear on a 'speakers available' list. Vanity got the better of me though I had no previous experience outside school so to speak. Around a dozen sessions later, much chastened what have I learnt.
I'm down on the list as the man who gives a talk entitled, 'There's Nowt so strange as Folk' though I doubt the subjects important. "Was it ok?" I enquired after one session. "Oh fine" the chairlady assured me. "They didn't react much" I somewhat anxiously replied.
"Oh don't worry about that" the lady replied dismissively, "they're all deaf."
I must confess the average age of my clientele is rather high and usually female, WI's a speciality. If its mixed and dinner time, watch out. Sleepers, snorers or mere dozers, you get them all, mainly male and nearly always on the front row (they're last in and the only seats left unoccupied are always on the front row.) Plus they've usually had a little drinky or two and some wholesome pub grub. Not exactly compatible with an hour in the warm listening to some boring old fart rambling on about heaven knows what.
Nor are the elderly adverse to telling you in no uncertain terms if you are not exactly scintillating. A bit like the Glasgow Empire in Music Hall days. A fellow speaker was less than five minutes into his speel when he was interrupted by an aged ladies "We don't want this rubbish" as he attempted to explain the complexities of the inner working of a computer. Exactly what they did have in mind when they booked him I dread to think. I'd have taken the money and ran. On second thoughts I'd have just ran for the money is not exactly mind bending.
I talked recently to a charming group of village ladies who had very professionally negotiated the minimum fee possible, any less and I'd have been paying them.
You often sit beforehand listening to the 'business' of the group, (plus hymn, prayer, hymn, even sometimes a talk almost as long as the one you've prepared.) In this particular instance the chairlady (again) bemoaned the fact that costs were rising, including speakers (I had been negotiated down to fifteen pounds and no petrol money). I couldn't help but hear they had only nine hundred or so in the bank. Then blow me, a future speaker was suggested, an excellent lady evidently, who apparently does the Queens flowers, very good and charges one hundred pounds. Lovely ladies, posh village but you live and learn.
The opposition is talented and wide ranging. Subjects ranging from homeopathy, acupuncture and the history of Christmas Cards. One, couple, two for the price of one offer thirteen different talks and, note, also play the keyboard. Yet I'm still around, still available, Derby County home games excepted. (How sad is that.) I have been asked back thereby entailing another talk. Entitled 'Is the Whole World going mad or is it me' it's well on the way. I look forward to trying bits of it out in the near future. Any suggestions gratefully received.
By coincidence the front page story of the local newspaper concerns a book keeper who has embezzled over £90,000 from the Derbyshire Women's Institute. No one seemed to notice it was missing; my fees are definitely too low! The lady in question lives not far from me and obtained a paid book keepers position with a local auctioneers whilst awaiting sentence for her misdeeds. I have helped out at the aforesaid auctioneers, for nothing I might add for the past five years. Would it be fair to say I'll never be a rich man the way I'm going!