Monday, December 08, 2014


More Quotations on Wine

One more drink and I'll be under the host. (Dorothy Parker)

A longer version which casts more light is this account of a conversation:

Enjoy? One more drink and I'd have been under the host!
Dorothy Parker

Angela Lansbury
Author of
Quick Quotations (Paperback
Who Said What When? (Paperback

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Why quote quotations in speeches?

Author Eric Webster started every chapter of his books with quotations. I remember typing them out for him when I was his PA in the last year of his life at Pembertons Advertising Agency which became Colman Prentis and Varley. I sat typing in an office overlooking Baker Street station and the spot where a statue of Sherlock Holmes now stands.

Sherlock Holmes was a fictional character but based on a real person. Why do we quote him? What does quotation do for us?

'Elementary, dear Watson,' we would have said, laughing, if we had seen the statue. Eric was the author of a best-selling practical book, How To Win The Business Battle, which is alliterative.

What does this quotation do for us? It is short, succinct, easy to remember. It makes us feel confident, superior, successful. The detective has been faced with a problem and he has solved it, for himself and others. He has established his credentials.

By quoting another expert, we appeal to a higher authority, somebody more famous. We can quote an unknown person, somebody we value, such as our mother, somebody older and wiser, our grandmother who taught us a memorable lesson when we were a child.

What have other famous people said about quotations?

I often quote myself. It adds spice to my conversation.
George Bernard Shaw.

Angela Lansbury
Author of
Quick Quotations (
Who Said What When? (

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Tuesday, December 02, 2014


Evaluating Ruth's Speech on Medieval History

 The purpose of Toastmasters International is to train you to give speeches outside Toastmasters and Ruth's advanced speech fulfilled that ultimate purpose when she rehearsed her speech on Medieval History. Her speech was to be given to the history group of the U3A, the University of the Third Age - mostly retired people with time to indulge in researching their interests.

When I listen to a speech I ask myself:
What do I know about this subject?
What does the speaker know and is the speaker on expert? and
What do I want to know - what's in it for me?

I know very little about medieval history so I expect to get information. But that might be dull or confusing, so I hoped it would be easy to understand and entertaining.

She began with an overview. The main events of the periods were famine, the plague and the peasants' revolt. I'd heard of the latter two, especially the plague. But the subject of this summary or excerpt was something jollier, food. Ruth as a retired tea-shop owner has food running through many of her interests and speeches.

She started by explaining the middle ages or Medieval period, 5th to 15th centuries.

My first recommendation, or suggestion, was that she might have related the period to a well known person, the king or queen or kings and queens of the time.

Or the common people. Were they post-Roman? Celts? Vikings? Before Henry the Vth and Elizabeth Ist? William the Conqueror and Harold in 1066 when the word boeuf came into the language? Who were these poor people and rich people?

She enlisted our sympathy by saying they were like us. She involved our imagination by suggesting we walk through the door of the cottage or the castle and look at what is cooking or what is on the table.

The poor people had potage, a thick soup or casserole, kept on the go from the vegetables in their garden. (I wonder when the fashion for flowers and lawns started? In those days the kitchen garden was the normal garden, like the allotments of modern times.)

Everybody in the Harrovian Toastmasters audience winced at the description of blood taken from living animals to make blood pudding. Yet, she could have pointed out that leaving the animal alive is kinder than killing the animal for meat. Blood is still taken from living animals in our times by the Masais (in East Africa, in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania).

(Ruth described the lord's house where we would see the use of bread as a trencher or plate and water scented with rose petals.)

I said that Ruth ended by answering what's in it for us by ending, how happy she is to be living not in medieval times but today.

I suggested she could have gone one better, by making this her title. She could make her start and end more memorable and dramatic by picking a quotation about medieval times, or a quotation from somebody in medieval times to start and end the speech.

Here's Ruth again, looking very happy and relaxed now her speech is over and has been evaluated.

I was surprised and delighted to be awarded the ribbon for Best Evaluator. Thank you Ruth for the opportunity.

President Indra Sikdar presents ribbon for best evaluation to Angela Lansbury.

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