Report by: Kevin Walsh.
On the evening of March 27th, the Tuesday of Holy Week, Fermoy Toastmasters enjoyed a memorably pleasant and delightful meeting at the riverside Youth Centre. Like so many of the best of things in life, the beginning was a little unpromising as two out of our three speakers on the programme were obliged to cancel at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances. This posed a significant challenge to us but as has happened previously time and again the character, the commitment and the indomitable spirit of this club rose to the occasion and shone through with success and distinction. As ever our Club President, Kevin O’Neill, bid the members and guests warmly welcome and set a relaxed and easy tone for the next two hours.
Thereafter the task of chairing the meeting falls to the Toastmaster of the evening who takes control of proceedings and guides things along, moving from one phase to the next, introducing the speakers and maintaining a natural and smooth continuity and explaining helpfully with particular emphasis for the guests present the purpose, role and function of each participant and ensuring a warm and genial atmosphere. In this capacity our Toastmaster, Mary Whelan, once again turned in a performance that was smooth and assured, enhancing the meeting with aplomb and ready efficiency together with all of her ever winning charm and grace.
I have spoken here before on the pivotal role that the Topicsmaster plays selecting themes on which speakers and contributors are asked without any prior notification to share the fruits of their quickness of mind and readiness of response. Topics are wonderful because of their immediacy and freshness and ever so wonderfully stimulating. They can be about virtually anything but of course as the word implies matters that are to the forefront of news and current interest are often chosen. For instance our Topicsmaster on the evening, Kevin Walsh, began by presenting an item featured on that evening’s television news, namely the closure of Cork’s principal thoroughfare Patrick Street to regular traffic for several hours each day, an arrangement that had just then been put in place. Even on that initial topic, from the very outset so many people wanted to get involved offering a most engaging and fascinating variety of views and opinions, many expressing doubts about the whole project fearing it will lead to intensified gridlock in the city centre; others welcomed the new initiative recalling the acute difficulties with parking experienced especially by commercial truck and van drivers over the years. Some looked forward to a new era of a relaxed and placid civic space and shopping area; others believed the whole venture will end in utter failure. Tim as ever will tell.
We then moved onto the issues surrounding the expulsion of a diplomat from the Russian Embassy in Dublin: while the need to act was understood after the recent disturbing events in Salisbury, England, an air of caution was also expressed that international tensions needed to be contained and that as diplomats are a vital source of communication between states, that any further expulsions should be avoided so that dialogue can continue unhindered, calling to mind Winston Churchill’s famous maxim that ‘jaw jaw is better than war war’.
Later after the tea break on a not unrelated theme we had an hilarious response from Frank O’Driscoll when asked on his being cast as the next James Bond, looking forward to how 007 always ensures the bad guys get their comeuppance and the glamorous girl at the end of every movie into the bargain! Then too the saying that a broad mind and a narrow waist exchange places in middle age, drew the thoughtful and measured response from David Walsh that while physical appearance may adapt to the passage of years, minds do not narrow so much as deepen with the enriching wisdom that only the experience of life can teach. Everyone was having and enjoying so much fun and really getting behind this topics session both before and after the tea break, so much so indeed that despite the additional time available, the Topicsmaster did into have opportunity or need to ask each individual member a separate topic as the profusion of add-ons from all present showing an eagerness to get involved and to actively participate with such enthusiasm and zest which sums up the spirit of this great and wonderful club in Fermoy that brings so much pleasure, satisfaction and happiness to all.
We had just one prepared speech that evening but it was a very fine one indeed from Tim Fitzgerald. The challenge of his assignment was the use of vocal variety, of rate, pitch and tone of voice to amplify and underline meaning and to reinforce the clarity of the message. What followed was a salutary tale from Tim who engaged fully with his listeners on the recent difficulties and hassle that he encountered while doing a little online shopping. He was attempting to obtain a small consignment of a certain brand of shampoo which is not available in conventional retail outlets. He paid for the item which had to be shipped from America and awaited delivery… And he waited…. And he waited…. And he waited for weeks on end before finally having to contact the supplier who then after further delay and confusion admitted the package was mislaid and had to resend it. Later he was contacted by the Customs & Excise Service incurring yet further costs. All of this involved a lot of contact by email and through the phone network what should have been a fairly simple and routine transaction became endlessly prolonged and complicated.
But Tim took it all in his stride and with his relaxed affability and inexhaustible patience that goes with the best and most understanding of natures, saw everything through to the end while appreciating its magnificently funny side. It was such a lovely and very enjoyable speech to listen to, expressive of frustration but above all showing an awareness of how when seen through the lens of humour so much of life’s everyday difficulties are seen in a smiling light. Later his evaluator David Walsh praised him for such an admirable achievement where vocal variety had been used so readily and effectively to make the story come alive and emphasising that direct personal experience is always the richest mine of speech material and inspiration.
There is of course no substitute for the warmth of human interaction and personal encounter which lies at the heart of all our activities. That is what we celebrate and affirm at every Toastmasters meeting throughout the year, a fact that was well stated by General Evaluator Jerry Hennessy in his concluding assessment of the meeting where the club had shown brilliantly how when challenged had put its best foot forward and scored a truly remarkable success. And now we look forward to the biggest highlight of our year with the annual Club Speaking and Evaluations Contest that forms part of the great worldwide Toastmasters competitive pursuit of excellence in the use of the spoken word with great fulfilment and enjoyment. We look forward to welcoming you all to a very special evening on this coming Tuesday, April 10th, in the Fermoy Youth Centre at 8.15 pm. For further information, please contact Mary Whelan at 087 7971006 or Kevin Walsh at 058 60100 or log on to our mobile-friendly website toastmastersfermoy.com or find us on Twitter @ FermoyT.