Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

English Yarns Hard to Beat

Newspaper article The Chronicle (Toowoomba, Australia)

English Yarns Hard to Beat

Article excerpt

I LIKE the way that surprising coincidences occur just when least expected.

I was over the jet-lag in time to attend the local branch of the English Teachers Association Queensland annual breakfast. What an enjoyable occasion it was. Had it not been for the bloke that was talking, it could have been even better. Still, they can't have everything and listening to me was the price to be paid for an excellent Gips breakfast and good company.

Armed with some examples of the small selection of English literature that have come my way over the years, I rattled on about things that amuse me or cause me to believe that "You don't have to play with words, words play with themselves". This has been a theme of mine at far too many breakfast, lunch or dinner talks undertaken over a long and tedious public speaking career.

Like most people who talk at dinners, I plagiarise anything and everything necessary to fill the awkward time between standing up and sitting down.

I shamelessly pretend to know everything about a subject by the careful use of snippets of superficial knowledge, manipulated, delivered and forgotten before the audience realises.

One of the few merits of having a reasonably good memory is that you can dig up the most unlikely things from your past and, with a bit of luck, surprise the audience even more than yourself.

This is particularly effective for someone like me, thinly disguised as an engineer and, therefore, generally not expected to venture into "the arts" without prior warning or a local anaesthetic.

My ETAQ audience was given a dose of things I had acted in and/or found amusing/challenging and/or self-indulging from earlier times. One such thing was an appearance I made in Harold Pinter's amazing ground-breaking play The Birthday Party back in the early 60s.

I explained how I had the good fortune to meet and be directed by a young playwright called David Rudkin who had, at that time, recently won the UK Evening Standard's Young Playwright of the Year Award for one of his own plays. …

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