Speak to me!

22 Apr

Something rather odd has happened to me!

Actually that’s not the first time THAT has been suggested – my mother said something similar when I simultaneously obtained a sense of humour and discovered the pun as an expression of it! She probably said it not in a good way and in association with the expressed view that she and my father now had to examine every word they said in case I found a way of misinterpreting them!

I cannot argue with her about that even if I am not entirely sure what caused that particular change within me.

Whatever it was that got turned on within me at that point seems also to have turned another part of my persona OFF!

If you refer back through the archives of this site to you will find a story of the 10 year old Alfie doing daily performances on an improvised stage in the playground of Luther Road Primary School in Ipswich as part of a Beatles tribute band comprising two 10 year olds.

Plainly, at that point, performing in public held no fears for me – indeed I rather enjoyed the adulation and being chased across the playground by 8 and 9 year old girls who couldn’t get the real Beatles but were happy to make do with us! Regrettably, for reasons that now elude me, we never, ever, let them catch us!

Be that as it may, at that time I WAS able to perform in that way without being particularly bothered but if we fast forward a couple of years we find me at Secondary School getting stage fright about performing in a seated position as an anonymous noise among many when the school recorder group provided the “music” for a school assembly!

And it got worse after that! At some point during my 5 year incarceration school plays were decreed and I wound up with a totally insignificant walk-on part in one of them. Even with no lines to speak, I was almost paralysed with fright! They did similar plays again a couple of years later and I managed to wangle a job up in the lighting gallery – I was the menial who turned the big wheel that dimmed the house lights. Anything other than performing!

And finally on the school front our headmaster Ken Armstrong decreed that once a week a different Class would take one of the daily assemblies – this involved planning something on a theme set by Ken with our form master and “performing” it on stage! The mere thought of that resulted in me actually going off sick on the day the “casting” was done.

The world of work then loomed and I remained free of any necessity for “public speaking” for the next 18 years until the Barclays Bank Trust Company, Senior Taxation Course in October 1987. I mentioned this in my piece about St. Crispin’s Day (

That brought home to me (and several others on the course) that delivering a talk for 15 minutes to a group of 9 other people, some of whom had actually been known to you for years and with whom you had been eating and drinking for the previous two weeks was still going to produce mind-numbing dread and fear! Several other members of the course were, along with me, almost sick with nerves and so relieved were we all to get through the ordeal unscathed that we got even more plastered than normal at the end of course dinner that took place at the hotel that night!

And then……

After another 26 years or so, my younger daughter announced that she would be getting married on 1st March 2014 and that I would be required to deliver a “Father of the Bride” speech to around 150 people, the majority of whom would be complete strangers to me!

“OK” I said, “no problem!”

And it wasn’t! I felt no fear as the build-up commenced, not a glimmer of dread on the day and when I was announced to give my speech I just stood up and did it! Quite brilliantly too, it must be said.

I have no idea where the 50 year fear of public speaking went but gone it has and I just KNOW that it will remain gone should I have to do it again!

Can I go back and do my life again without this problem, please?

I haven’t had a really long posting lately and as the previous sentence isn’t a brilliant ending I shall make you a gift of the full text of that Father of the Bride speech including my directions to myself in bold text.

Here it is:

Good afternoon everyone. I am David Searle, Carla’s father and my wife Faith and I, along with David’s parents welcome you to this, the less formal part of the ceremony.


This short speech has been certified free of off-colour jokes, embarrassing anecdotes about my lovely little girl and any puns, however brilliant!

I have to warn you all that my last attempt at public speaking involved wearing a tin-foil covered cardboard crown and delivering a talk on the Battle of Agincourt in character as King Henry V using a toy sword as a pointer. So if I start going all Shakespearian on you – it will probably be time to stop!


When Carla graduated from Lancaster University in July 2006 on what was then the hottest day of the century I had to wear a suit! On one of the hottest days last summer I had an interview and (Pause) had to wear a suit. So, you see, if you want to have a nice sunny day like this…….put me in a suit!


In preparing this little speech I went onto the Internet to pick up some tips.

The first of these was……..GET THE NAME OF THE GROOM RIGHT!

Well there’s no danger of me making THAT mistake! There are two David’s on this table alone and possibly as many as another TEN out in the audience. So, if you fail to catch someone’s name, DAVE is probably quite a reasonable guess.


The second suggestion for the speech was to come up with some embarrassing anecdote about the bride.

I decided NOT to accept that piece of advice – mainly for health reasons but also because I could not stand to do anything that might in any way spoil her remembrance of the day! (look to Carla) You owe me one for that!

If there do have to be anecdotes, however, you can have this one:

Faith and I first heard of Carla and David’s engagement whilst in the china department of John Lewis in Cambridge, just seconds before the rest of the customers in the china department of John Lewis found out about it!

I did the usual embarrassed male “She’s not with ME” stuff while Faith and Carla squealed excitedly at each other for about ten minutes. I think it was very soon after that proposal picnic on one of the high bits of Essex that we found out that the wedding would be on 1st March. Given my earlier comments and the fact that this is Saint David’s Day I have to say “When else could it have been?


The third piece of advice I got from the Internet was to “relate the event to the day”.

Well, we already know this is Saint David’s Day but I looked around to try to find some more obscure facts about 1st March

    • For fans of Blackadder I can inform you that a gentleman named Balderik became Bishop of Utrecht on 1st March 918
    • For Carla because of its relevance to her University studies; on this day in 1692 the first arrests for witchcraft were made in Salem Massachusetts.
    • For David and Carla in connection with one of their mutual interests – a person called E Kidner opened the first known cookery school in the UK in 1784. Strangely there is no other information that the normally infallible Internet could tell me about that other than the name and the year. Perhaps they ran classes HERE.
    • For this lovely couple who we have just witnessed having the courage to set off into an unknowable future together – on this day in 1912, Captain Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from an aeroplane – that was something of a leap of faith too!
    • And finally, just to show that some things never change – on 1st March 1921 the Australian Cricket team completed a 5-0 drubbing of England.


As we all know, Carla is a historian by nature and we should not therefore be surprised to find ourselves here in the only remaining, functional Assembly Rooms in the UK.

This would have been the equivalent of a nightclub in Jane Austen’s day – people have been enjoying themselves here since 1727 – so let’s keep the tradition going!

Whilst enjoying yourselves please also keep in mind how grateful we should be that Carla did not succumb to other local historical attractions – instead of the excellent bangers and mash we have just enjoyed you might have found yourselves squatting in a Bronze Age roundhouse at Flag Fen choking on the smoke from the sheep roasting in the pit at the centre!

I think the right choice was made.


And finally……..

Before I do the toast and hand you over to much better speakers I would just like to offer these two lovely young people one small piece of advice each.

CARLA: I know how much hard work you put into organising this wedding but it’s all done now – so relax and enjoy it!

DAVID: Please, Please, PLEASE! Do NOT forget your passport when you go on your honeymoon!! I won’t be responsible for what Carla will call you if she has to go abroad by herself AGAIN!

Propose toast to Bride and Groom / handover to next Speaker.



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Posted by on April 22, 2014 in Uncategorized


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