Unaccustomed as I am…. – Guest Post By Merlin Fraser

Recently on social media, I’ve been shouted at, again, for being too serious…  ME ?

After the usual accusations of being the devil or anti-Christ I was told to Lighten Up and get a Life !!! That and to stop picking on the poor Christians who apparently are still traumatised, something to with Romans and Lions apparently.

Of course, I suppose they’re right, I can’t remember when last I did a light hearted Blog so perhaps now is as good a time as any to relate my efforts and experiences as a Public Speaker.

As writers, we all assume that one day we will be famous and rub shoulders with the social elite, to be admired by our peers and invited to all the best parties but like everything else in life you have to start at the bottom and work your way up… Right ?

We can’t all know Beyoncé or Simon Cowell for Heaven’s Sake !

Anyway, any event organisers that know their salt and expect to get the unwashed hordes to beat a path to their function know they need a top Name to Tweet about or plaster all over their Facebook Page.

They also know that anybody who is anybody is on what is known as the ‘A List.’ These are the celebrities that most people want to sleep with or just to take a ‘Selfie’ inches away from their hero, who has that ‘They don’t Pay me Enough to do This’ look in their eyes… but they manage a toothy grimace anyway.

Therefore, if you have an important event up and coming the greater the celebrity you get to attend then the better the publicity you can attract and the number of punters who will hand over the readies to get up close and personal with the celebrity.  This is of course irrespective of whatever you are promoting or trying to sell.

However, this takes money and bags of it, sure you can dumb down a bit and go for a ‘B Lister’ but you’re taking a huge PR gamble here. Any lower than‘B’and you’re really on shaky ground, I mean by the time you get down to the ‘C’s’ then you are highly likely to get a ‘Has been a Neverwas or a Neverwillbe’. You know the type, they’re the ones who will usually turn up for free to the opening of an envelope or a Kitchen Drawer !

So you can imagine my surprise to receive an invitation to speak.  What list am I on for Pity’s sake… Are there even enough letters in the alphabet I hear you ask?

‘Dear Mr. Fraser’, (Good start, at least they spelt my name right that and I saw no immediate demand for payment). It continued :

‘As a more or less famous local author would you consider coming to St. Catherine’s Day Centre for the Terminally Incontinent and Permanently Bewildered next Wednesday and give us a short talk on the subject of your local history book ?

We apologise for the extremely short notice but the woman who comes to cut their toenails is off sick and cannot make it that day.  Everyone so looks forward to her visits and we desperately need someone to step in and help avoid disappointing the inmates.

If you can come after their lunchtime nap you can entertain them before afternoon tea, Wednesday’s is Walnut cake supplied by the local Women’s Institute although we have asked them not to put walnuts in the cake because so many of our guests wear dentures, so it will probably be jam sponge’.

Of course, I could have said No!  Local celebrities such as myself… Busy Schedules you Know.  Meetings with Agents… Need much more Notice Etc. Etc. Etc…. But there again one never wants to disappoint ones public does one ?

Plus with such a warm invitation how could I turn it down.  That and the promise of cake …I mean how often does one get offered such reward in lieu of actual money ?

Anyway I, digress, as the appointed hour approached I made my way to St. Catherine’s,  having to wait for the ambulance, blue lights flashing to exit the  parking area was not a particularly good omen but we Fraser’s are made of sterner stuff…so in I marched.

I was shown into a room that had the sign DAY ROOM above the door. I must admit that it seemed a superfluous title since the whole place was a Day Centre… but Hey ! What do I know ?  

More confusion was to followed as the nurse who guide my path through the maze of Zimmer frames, wheelchairs and trolleys carrying oxygen bottles, announced that it was also the games room and TV lounge so I might have to speak up a bit to my audience.

“Are they hard of hearing ”?   I asked and immediately thought what a bloody stupid thing to say given the average age of my impending audience.

“No,” she replied, “but you will have to compete with the John Wayne War movie on the TV they don’t want it switched off”.

“They not interested in local history then ”?

“That lot over there ?  They were probably there and helped make it”! She smiled sweetly, like Day Care Nurses do, she wished me luck and disappeared.

So there I was alone, abandoned by the staff who in all probability had buggered off to put their feet up for half an hour while I held the fort.

I looked at them and they looked back…Tough Crowd, I thought. It’s times like this I wish I had a song and dance routine or could do magic tricks like making dumb author’s disappear in a puff of smoke !

Too late to back out now, here I was, I had an audience of ten hearty souls, well eight anyway, two had already nodded off, or at least I hope they were asleep, difficult to tell in places like that especially if you are not packing a mirror.

Anyway with John Wayne saving the world in one corner and me in the other things got off to a slow wobbly start, “Good afternoon… my name is Merlin Fraser and I…..”

“Who is it ”?

“Somebody called Madeline Frey something …”!

“Does she want to see our Feet”?

“She’s not seeing my feet she looks like a man…”

I coughed to trying to bring the focus back to me, “ I AM a man and I don’t want to see anybody’s feet…alright”?

“Is it Thursday..? Don’t we have Bingo on a Thursday ”!

“And Fish on Friday’s …”

“We had fish today…!”

“They told me that was Chicken”.

“Tasted like Fish…”

“Yeah always does… That was chicken… I think they put vinegar on it makes it taste like fish”.

“Ladies…” I tried to bring the room to order, “Actually it’s only Wednesday…”

“What is ”?

“Today Is…”

“So you  ‘Ave come to see our feet then….?”

Already I’m ready to give up, “Would you prefer to watch the John Wayne film ”?

“Who”?

“John Wayne ”!

“I thought you said ‘is name was Madeline something or other….”

I coughed for silence, deep breath one last supreme effort, “I’m here to talk about local History, I have written a book on the subject”.

“What ”?

“A Book…”

“What about it ”?

“Did he leave it here ”?

“Tuesday is book day…. That big Van comes…”

“Is that the one that smells of Pee ”?

“No…! That’s the Mini bus ”!

“Ladies , Ladies… I- W-R-O-T-E  T-H-E  B-O-O-K ”!

“What about ”?

“Local History …About our town.”

“What’s he sayin’ ”?

“He asking about local history….”

“OH That ! What does he want to know?  I can remember the German’s dropped a bomb what killed a Cow during the war… best stew we’d had in years…”!

My heart sank, if nothing else I know when to quit….“I’ll just pop out and see if the tea is coming!”

“Who was that ”?

“Said his name was John Wayne I think”.

“You sure ? Though John Wayne always wore a big hat… hope his horse isn’t crapping on our lawn”!

Ya know those dangling cords that you are supposed to pull only in an Emergency ?

Well I pulled it….Twice !!

But what the Hell ! I Don’t Care !   I’m still putting Public Speaker on my CV…. !

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