I kept looking up and I could not see the sky',this was how Valerie Murphy described the culture shock she experienced when setting foot in Tokyo for the first time.
Last week's meeting of Speakeasy Toastmasters was a night of culture and travel - from Japan to the early days of Transatlantic flight, and from the vineyards of Alsace to the ski slopes of Austria.
It was a meeting where the common theme was travel and mobility. Valerie Murphy commenced proceedings with a speech entitled 'Preparation for my first week in Japan'. She recalled her experiences as a 22 year old student in Japan, setting off on a year long term of teaching English in Konin City. It all began with an orientation course in Tokyo where Valerie was awe struck by the sight of the new and exciting Neon lights and skyscrapers that seemed to sway in the breeze. And that was just the start of a fruitful and challenging year in Valerie's life.
Theresa O'Reilly kept the theme breezing along with 'Smooth Driving'. This was a sales presentation on the art of 'Cold Calling'. With the willing participation of Marie Fitzpatrick, Theresa deftly demonstrated the skills required to successfully develop a rapport with a potential client and how to close the sale. The items on sale - a fleet of Volkswagon vans.
Jillian Harris artfully presented 'A great expectation'. She bought us back to 1980s, when German wine exporters targeted the Irish market with labels like Blue Nun and Black Tower, wines of dubious quality. Great German wines were considered too good to export. They were kept for the home market and inferior quality plonk exported. A huge mistake as the German wine industry still hasn't found favour in Irish hearts. Gillian spoke glowingly about the charms of the Riesling grape and it's aromatic dry wines, a warm companion on a cold night. She outlined it's aging qualities and described wines with a vintage of a century or more, which seemed rather sad for those of us in the audience who wish to enjoy a wine in our own lifetime!!
Don McSweeney took us on a journey to 'Foynes and Beyond'. He recalled the days when flying was in it's infancy and when Aviation's biggest challenge was to cross the Atlantic. It was the era of the flying boat and the village of Foynes in the Shannon Estuary became the hub for Pan American flights into Europe,becoming one of the largest Airports in the world. The luxurious Yankee Clipper took to the skies, carrying 70 passengers including Hollywood superstars like Humphrey Bogart and members of the Royal Family. Alas, it was surpassed by technology and the land to land aeroplane but the Foynes legacy endures to this day in the form of Irish Coffee.
Liam Jones closed out the Speech Programme with his outlandish tale of 'Séamus with a Fada'. He flew us to the Austrian Alps, with the flamboyant Limerick man, the maestro of the belly-dance and a dapper dresser who deemed it appropriate to wear his all white ensemble on the piste. Needless to say that all forms of mayhem ensued with the irrepressible Séamus sliding backwards down the 'Mercy Slide' to earn his place in Austrian folklore!
The Toastmaster of the meeting was John Brennan. Though new to our Club, he performed like a seasoned professional, introducing each speaker with style and creating a positive, friendly environment. Chairing meetings is a vital skill and Speakeasy provides an opportunity to master that skill.
As always, each presentation was thoroughly evaluated by the assigned evaluators, Helsa Giles, Marie Lynes, Ray Ryan, Mary Buckley and Pat Sexton. Evaluation is a hugely important aspect of our Meetings, providing all speakers with feedback and guidance on how to acquire the competency skills and the confidence levels for future development. It is somewhat like 'Operation Transformation', without the humiliation!
Topicsmaster of the evening , Bridie O'Connell challenged our impromptu skills with provocative questions on the negative impact of Facebook, temptation, first impressions and the future of electric cars. We learned that Facebook is like a fridge - you know that there is nothing in there but you look anyway. A new affliction is taking hold - 'Range anxiety'. That is what drivers of electric cars feel as they fret about reaching the next charging point!
Our General Evaluator, Sean Corcoran appraised the meetings strengths and awarded prizes to Marie Fitzpatrick (Best Topic), Mary Buckley (Best Evaluation) and Jillian Harris (Best Speaker).
Our meeting season continues on Thursday, 16th November. It will be an opportunity for another broad range of speeches, some education, a useful exchange of ideas and lots of fun! As always, guests are always welcome. You will always be entertained but never coerced into speaking unless you choose to do so. So, put your TV on record and drop into The Hibernian Hotel, Mallow at 8.00PM.
For more information about our Club,please visit our website speakeasytoastmasters.com or follow us on Facebook. Alternatively, contact Helsa Giles 083 8858848.