Pay attention children – it’s time for a little history – in a manner of speaking!
Twenty-five whole years ago this week I was attending my last ever fortnight long course with the now long defunct Tax Department of Barclays Bank Trust Company. It was called the “Senior Taxation Course” and was unique amongst all the courses I attended with them in that in that it imparted absolutely no technical taxation learning at all!
It was assumed by that stage in our careers that those attending it either knew everything there was to know about UK income tax or, at least, were competent enough to know how to find it out for ourselves. So this course was designed to equip us for approaching management levels and contained items to give us skills in negotiation and conflict resolution, introduced us to the wonders of something called Transactional Analysis (Google it! I’m not even going to TRY to explain it) and finally, attempted to impart to us what these days would be called “Presentation Skills”.
It was the latter part that filled all eight of us attending the course with dread!
We had been told well in advance to prepare a 15 minute presentation on a subject of our own choice using any current display technology (e.g. overhead projector slides, flipchart sheets and most emphatically NOT Microsoft PowerPoint – Microsoft itself had barely been invented in 1987, let alone any MS Office applications!).
That was bad enough, especially for someone with my dread of public speaking, but we were told on arrival that we had most of the two weeks to apply what we had learned to polish up our performance which would be given on the second Thursday and VIDEOED for later analysis and criticism by the rest of the class! Horror!
Fortunately, and typically, being a bunch of blokes in their 30s or 40s who had been through the Barclaytrust Tax course system we did not waste our evenings on anything as unimportant as updating our presentations – not when there was the cheap bar at the Parkway Hotel (the Barclays “staff residence” that we were billeted in) to frequent and the current crop of young trainee Personal Bankers to take an entirely academic interest in!
For information this batch of petite young ladies had, for reasons of their own which we did not attempt to explore, all decided to wear whilst off duty t-shirts advertising Jaffa Oranges and bearing the slogan “Small ones are more juicy”!
I think that I did have a go at some small revisions to my talk during the “half time” weekend although not to the content given that the subject was historical in nature and the outcome remained the same whatever I might have learned about how to present it.
After taking into account the date I had decided to enlighten my audience as to the causes, course and outcome of…… The Battle of Agincourt which took place between the English/Welsh army of King Henry V and the vastly larger French army on 25th October 1415. And which, of course, we won against all odds.
Obviously, to prevent my audience from dropping off during this exciting illustrated account of a glorious moment in our history I needed some sort of “twist” to the performance. I eventually decided to do the whole thing in character – as King Henry. I manufactured a crown from cardboard covered in tinfoil and used similar materials for a sword to use as a pointer to my wonderful, colourful flip chart drawings. For obvious reasons there are no recordings of KHV’s voice in existence so I decided to model THAT on the much more recognisable deep, fruity tones Sir Winston Churchill.
I began by reciting a big chunk of Shakespeare’s version of Henry’s pre-battle speech, thus:
“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.
I have to say that learning that verse verbatim was the hardest piece of memorising I had been required to do since school when “Max the Molester” our English master made us learn by heart Mark Anthony’s funeral oration for Julius Caesar from the eponymous work also by the aforementioned Mr Shakespeare.
Needless to say, despite my considerable fear at having to stand up and deliver it, my entire account of the battle was well received by my colleagues (as, indeed, were all of theirs by the rest of us)! Well, they didn’t seriously think we were going to turn in critical fury on people we’d been drinking with for the last two weeks, did they?
I do wonder, however, what happened to those highly embarrassing but valuable video tapes. I will be driving the bloke who was in charge of that course down to Cardiff for our annual fishing match in a couple of week’s time – I’ll be sure to ask him!
Anyway, as you’ve probably realised, my purpose in writing all this is to point out that today is the 597th Anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt and I feel that I would be most remiss if I didn’t include the often overlooked opening lines of Henry’s speech which I take as an instruction to remember it:
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember’d;
So – Happy Saint Crispin’s day everyone and if the government ever wants to create a new Bank Holiday between August and Christmas…………