Friday, 23 March 2012

Gangs of Smurfs invade Causeway Bay!

The shopping heaven of Causway Bay has been taken over! The usual marauding gangs of trolley wielding shoppers have to play second fiddle to shoals of Smurfs, gaggles of Greek Gods and a whole legion of Romans. It's Sevens time.

Brandon Learning Centre on Leighton Road is right in the middle of the action and we have a bird's eye view of the carnage as it unfolds. It is fascinating to see which children have realised that something unusual is going on (very few) and how many take the squadrons of cross-dressing Rugbymen in their stride.

Does any of this have a connection to public speaking? Not really but it is great fun!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Revision starts after this... The fine art of prevarication

I can't revise until... I've tidied my desk, sharpened my pencils, made a cup of coffee, rearranged my notes (continue ad infinitum) As Easter revision panic looms, the excuses build up, creating a wall between you and exam success.

To misquote The Art of War; know your enemy. Identify whatever you do instead of revising and build it into your revision timetable. In scheduling your prevarication, you avoid running behind time which creates additional panic. Admittedly, a twenty minute block marked "tidy desk" looks less impressive than one marked "advanced mathematics" but this is the reality so name your demons!

Friday, 16 March 2012

My favourite Irish "party piece" poem

We had some wonderful parties when I was little. Everyone would take it in turns to entertain; to sing, to recite or to dance. You don't have to wait until Saint Patrick's Day to start this tradition in your own families and, when you do, consider something by WB Yeats. The wonderful lyricism of the language appeals to every audience and the simplicity of his visions will delight.



The Lake Isle of Innisfree




I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,
And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made.
Nine bean-rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,
And live alone in the bee-loud glade.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,
Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;
There midnight's all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,
And evening full of the linnet's wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day
I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;
While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,
I hear it in the deep heart's core.


Whether it is Innisfree, Indiana or Italy that you dream of, this poem will resonate. A moment of calm and reflection within a sea of sparkling shamrocks, green hats and plastic shillelaghs!


The photo is of the place I remember when the chaos of Causeway Bay is too much...

Happy Saint Patricks Day... Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig! Slán.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

A poem by a patriot for Saint Patrick's Day!

Robert Emmet (1778 - 1803) has the dubious honour of being the last man to be hanged, drawn and quartered by the British for his leading role in the 1803 uprising. An incredible character who combined bravery and romanticism, he is one of the greats of Irish history.

Outside Ireland, anyone who lives in San Francisco, Washington or Iowa can see his statue. For people living in Emmet County Iowa, Emmet, Nebraska or Emmet County, Michigan, you are living in towns named to honour an inspirational man. To bring Emmet's words into your house, how about reciting one of his poems this Saint Patrick's day?

My Own Land - Robert Emmet

This world hath many a glorious land,
Where beauty ever dwells,
Old snow-crowned hills, and rivers grand,
And happy summer dells.

Of these the Poet in his lays,
Loves evermore to tell,
Where heroes died in former days,
Where Freedom's martyrs fell.

But my own land is dearer far,
Than all, where'er they be,
My own land - my own land -
Is all the world to me!

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

To find out more about Robert Emmet, have a look at www.robertemmet.org

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

More Poetry for Saint Patrick's Day

At this time of year, on the Feast of Saint Patrick, we should be celebrating everything which is good about our country. My favourites are: our family ties, our incredible contribution to literature and our relish for and resilience to the absurdities of life.

Everyone will have their own memories and recollections of growing up in Ireland; running along a beach in the rain and returning home to the scent of the peat fire and warmth. For me, this poem encapsulates our childhood joys and dreams and the experiences I hope to pass on. For children or the diaspora who are living outside Ireland, read this for your parents or grandparents and share in their memories and love of our land.

Irish Children - An Dara-Leabhar (Gaelic League)

Happy Irish children,
In your home below,
Sheltered when the rain falls,
Safe from winter's snow.

Sing your songs of gladness
In your grand old speech,
Climb the sunny hillside,
Race along the beach.

Nowhere greener pastures,
Nowhere browner hills,
Nowhere bluer rivers,
Fed by sparking rills.

This is holy Ireland
Where our father trod,
This is the land where Patrick
Told them first of God.

Love her, do not leave her,
O'er the world to roam;
Ireland needs her children -
Work for her at home.

Beannachtaí na Féile Pádraig oraibh!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Mind like a sieve? Memorising speeches

Relying on written aide-memoires can be hazardous. I started trying this technique after dropping my notes as I walked on to the stage at a conference...

Divide your speech into sections. As you rehearse each section, choose either a different part of the room or of your body to associate it with. I normally use my fingers. Typically, your speech will have an introduction, three main points and a conclusion and, even with my maths skills I can manage to count to five.

If you get access to your room before the presentation, use the same technique but associate with different parts of the room.

This technique takes some practice and won't replace key cards but it will mean that you have a back up plan and won't be reduce to scrabbling around on the floor for your pages as the audience enjoys the spectacle!

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Looking like the back end of a bus?

Utterly unrelated to public speaking! We have just opened a second centre in Jordan (the Kowloon version, sadly not the Middle Eastern!) To celebrate the event, we have commissioned a series of adverts with the Kowloon Motor Bus company.

Years ago, I had a student for one of the Hong Kong Speech Festivals whose poem described his heaven as travelling on top of a bus. I suspect that the poem was inspired by the following quotation from scupltor, Henry Moore; "I was in a dream of excitement. When I rode on the open top of a bus I felt that I was travelling in Heaven almost. And that the bus was floating on the air." (accessed at artarchive.com)

Travelling on buses is incredibly relaxing. You have a bird's eye view of the world and there is nothing you can do to affect the speed of your journey. We dash, panic, and bumble our way through life. Sometimes it is worth stopping to savour the moment and what better way that by Brandon Bus?