Speaking out of turn

The story I started with yesterday, about a WI speaker whose talk did not go down at all well reminds me of another occasion, some years ago. It was very funny, but not quite as intended.

I’ve been going to a lunch club for many years, which I’ve mentioned before. As I’ve said, I was the youngest there thirty years ago and I still am now and I joined to keep my mum company on the way.

We didn’t normally have speakers, it was purely a social club, except at the pre-Christmas lunch. I can only remember two of those, one because it was so good (one of our number who could do a broad Norfolk accent and told hilarious anecdotes) and one because … well.

She was American, in her forties, an exuberant and friendly lady who had a reputation for giving entertaining talks on her life. One of our number had recommended her, poor woman. I suspect she got a Talking To later. Our Chairman, Marian, was a wonderfully formidable ex-Headmistress of a boarding school in Surrey. She was tiny, under 5 feet tall and slender, but had a commanding presence and personality and very high standards of behaviour.

The American woman, whose name was, I think Barbara, was married to a man in the US Air Force and was stationed over here. They’d lived in many places and she had a tale to tell about all of them. It was quite thin stuff and she laughed rather more than we did, but it was rattling on good-humouredly until she mentioned a visit to Washington DC, with an English girlfriend who was visiting the US for the first time. Barbara was showing her the sights, of course. And they were approaching the White House and decided to cross the road.

You’re not supposed to jaywalk in America, I gather and, if you want to do it, near the White House probably isn’t the most sensible place; and they were stopped by chunky, armed police officers and given a lecture and a warning. And Barbara got the giggles. And then she wet herself, which she cheerfully described in some detail to this roomful of rather proper, retired English ladies, who were mostly around 80 years old and this was twenty years ago. The microclimate around Marian, who was sitting next to Barbara, chilled and froze. Lines deepened around Marian’s mouth. Her reaction was the funniest thing of the whole day. I’m sure Barbara was thanked very politely, but we never had another ‘outside’ speaker again.

4 comments on “Speaking out of turn

  1. Kestrel

    Hello, dropping in and the post about public speaking caught my eye. I am not one to speak well in public but with practice I am much better. We have the same routine where we get some one to pick up something and just talk about it. It is amazing how the younger ones in school today are so confident and can ramble on without preparation.

    1. Z Post author

      When I was at school, there was no question about it – it would have been impossible. I’m glad that children are more confident now. Thanks for calling in and leaving a comment, Kestrel.

    1. Z Post author

      She only died five years ago, so she’d certainly have known of both the stage show and the film. I doubt she’d have seen either, though.


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