Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Thursday, 6 September 2012
Unaccustomed as I am
Donna the Mid-Life Farm Wife has just mentioned how easy she finds speaking in public. She says that she thinks she was born with a microphone in her mouth. I am - like most people - just the opposite, though I sometimes think I was born with a bull-horn up my arse.
It takes a complete lack of egocentricity to make a good speech and - if the speech is worth listening to - a strong commitment to, or knowledge of the subject. This is why most 'Best Man' speeches at weddings tend to focus on the past sexual exploits of the bride, and the absence of any self-concious inhibitions during the delivery can be put down to the 6 pints of beer that the speaker downed in the 20 minutes leading up to it.
You need to be able to focus when addressing an audience too, and you know from past posts that sticking to one train of thought has never been my strong point. It is only a matter of time until I change the subject completely, and you won't even know it has happened until it's too late, because you will have lost concentration as I ramble on... and on... Look into my eyes. Not around my eyes, straight into my eyes. You are feeling sleepy... very sleepy...
Hypnotism. I have always believed that successful hypnosis needs the cooperation of the subject, and this explains how Margaret Thatcher (yes, her again) wooed the crowds that attended her after dinner speeches that she made so much money from.
She would often give literal instructions to her audience as to how to react to a particularly controversial point that she was about to make, and they would be delivered in a slow, monotonous voice, as in "Now. We are going to be very, very calm and level headed when we take the decision to reinstate the tried and tested institution of public execution, aren't we children?"
She didn't do humour - at all. All the little jokes written into speeches for her went right over her head, and sounded very, very strange when coming from her Marylin Monroe lips. She didn't even see the funny side of it when - referring to her closest advisor at the time, William Whitelaw - she said, "Everybody needs a Willy in their lives."
When I was young, I used to tell people that I was impossible to hypnotise, and I think that this was probably almost true, but doubted it when a landlord of mine challenged me. This man was about 60 years old and a dead-ringer for Alistair Crowley. He lived with his taciturn, war-time batman, who was a dead-ringer for Dracula's butler.
He asked me what I found most difficult to do, and I said 'press-ups'. He then got me to stare at his swinging watch for a while, and ordered me to do as many press-ups on the carpet as I could. I managed the usual 5 or 6 before collapsing in exhaustion and he eventually gave up.
Later, he popped a little white pill into his mouth and I asked him what it was for. He said it was for a heart condition, and said it was harmless to any healthy person, but gave them an immediate headache if placed under the tongue, then gave me one to try. I put it under my tongue and had an appalling and instantaneous headache.
He said that my headache would go if I spat it out into the fire, which I did. Like turning off a switch, the headache disappeared completely.
I was convinced that I had been hypnotised, but I have later found out that these tablets do exist for heart conditions, and do give people immediate, temporary headaches. The point was that he had managed to convince me that I was not - as I always maintained - impervious to the power of hypnosis, even though he had not succeeded, but I still don't think anyone could get me to drop my trousers during a wedding speech.