When my Toastmaster’s advanced humorous speaking handbook arrived I wondered where on earth I was going to begin. Then I thought about all the great comedians and their starting point seems to be themselves. Our own lives are full of comedy, if we look at all the daft things we say and do. The person we know the best is ourselves and there is so much material we can use based on our own misfortunes and mishaps. So I’m going to make my starting point for this project my own life.
I was born in Tunbridge Wells. Or rather Royal Tunbridge Wells. They call it disgusted of Tunbridge Wells because of the conservative views people hold. That meant I was born a blue baby, a baby with a royal blue spoon firmly rammed down my mouth, a card carrying member of the Tory party even though my parents were in fact staunch Labour voters from the north. There was nothing they could do. My future was written on the street pavements.
I was 50 last year. Some of us hope to come into a bit of money by the time we reach 50. Some have pipe dreams about winning the lottery. But the only money I’ve ever won was due to a pile of poo. Quite literally. I was awarded £1600 in a claim against Sainsbury’s when I got dysentery from eating their fruit salad.
50 is a scary age. It looks scary when you see it written on birthday cards. I didn’t keep mine up for long. Everything starts breaking down at 50. These days I’m lucky if I don’t wake up with cystitis. At 50 you can go without a period for months and think oh good the menopause has finally arrived I don’t have to worry about contraception anymore and then like buses 3 come along usually at the most inconvenient time like when you’re on holiday and don’t know the foreign word for tampon. I went to the doctor recently. I said ‘doctor I think I’m getting early onset dementia, my memory’s dreadful these days.’ He said let me do a test. ‘What year were you born?’ I said 1965. He said ‘You’re not supposed to remember the nineteen sixties.
He told me to ‘go home and dig out my childhood diaries, they’ll soon reconnect me with the past.
I thought great idea. Diaries are supposed to be windows into our souls, our best friend, I can get in touch with my inner being and try and fathom out why I’ve made so many whooping big mistakes over the past 50 years. Let’s see…failing my 11 plus, failing my English O level 5 times, failing Maths six times, getting a grade 5 CSE in French, failing my driving test 4 times, one divorce, countless failed relationships.
So one morning I got up ready to hunt the diaries. I kicked the hot bottle out. I have a hot water bottle every day in my bed by the way, 364 days of the year even during a heat wave. I think this is the reason why men don’t stay with me very long. This is the bath hat I wear. Very elegant I’m sure you’ll agree. I’m not a high maintenance woman. I buy most of my clothes from Oxfam and I use a baby’s botty cream on my face. I head downstairs and the first thing I think when I see my children is ‘surely it’s time you lot left home.’
I was over the moon when I pulled this lot out of the loft. (my diaries) I can piece everything together now and talk about my past with clarity. Let’s see what’s inside:
Well this one hasn’t even got a date on it. Not a single date. What a waste of time that was. This one is the oldest one: 1974. I was 9. Oh wait. Nothing appears to have happened in January it’s all blank. I wonder why. Maybe I was recovering from new year’s eve, a massive hangover lasting a whole month. Our generation obviously started drinking early. Probably gallons of Martinis or Cinzanno or Blue Nun. Let’s see what the first entry in February says: ‘in the morning I went with mummy to the doctor because I had a headache and tummy ache and he gave me a pink medicine that tasted of licorice all sorts.’ Well, that confirms it, a hangover.
There’s bound to be something interesting in this diary. February 28th 1974. ‘We went to the polling station at 8 o clock and we voted for Jeremy Thorpe.’ Whose we? I was 9 years old. This is a blatant lie. I did not vote for Jeremy Thorpe. I did not vote. But the diary doesn’t lie. It’s the one certain piece of evidence. Maybe I sneaked a ballot paper into the booth. Now I’m really muddled. And why did my parents vote for the most scandalous politician of the 20th century, on trial for a plot to murder? They were Labour voters. What happened?
Let’s go a bit further on. March 21 1974. There’s a picture of a man with a gun attempting to kidnap Princess Anne on Pall Mall. I’ve drawn a carriage. Looks like I thought the royal family always drive around in a golden carriage rather than a black Daimler.
Sadly these two entries: Jeremy Thorpe and the attempt to kidnap Princess Anne are the most interesting entries in this diary. Why is it that childhood diaries contain endless lists of food we ate? I don’t want to know the I had 2 pieces of toast for breakfast, or that my sister had Weetabix and I had Cornflakes or that we sang 4 hymns at church on a Sunday and made 16 soggy pancakes on shrove Tuesday or that my dad bought new white blinds for the windows. Or that I gave my mum a daffodil for Mothering Sunday. I’ve never read so much drivel.
What about this entry: ‘Mrs Hogg came for coffee. (She was a little old lady who lived round the corner) ‘Mrs Hogg told us she saw Jesus in the night and he cured her bunions. For goodness sake. If you have bunions you don’t wake up to find them miraculously gone.
I can’t trust any diary written by me as a kid. Maybe my hormonally charged teen diaries would be more reliable. This one is dated 1978. Let’s turn to February 14th and see what I got up to. I sent 14 valentine cards that year and received none. The rest of the diary is all in code and there’s no guide to the code.
January 27th is the most interesting day. ‘We went to Harrods and it was a super day.’ (who uses the word super for goodness sake?!) ‘I thought Harrods would be carpeted but it wasn’t. In the food hall a delicious smell filled our lungs. I bought some felt tip pens. They were 75p for a pack of 10. I wanted biros as well but they were £1.99 each.’
So folk if you want to develop your humorous speaking skills take a look at your own lives and look for the mishaps and misadventures. You’ll find there are plenty of them.
I am a member of Toastmaster’s International, a non-profit organization training in public speaking and leadership skills. I have gained my competent communicator award after my first ten speeches and I’m now working on my advanced project – humorous speaking.
If you like reading funny books my novel ‘The Catholic Woman’s Dying Wish’ has been described as laugh out loud funny. Here’s the link:
I’ve also written: