Chinese New Year in Maidenhead


With special guest blogger Julie Farrell.

The 25th of February meeting had a Chinese theme, in honour of the recent Chinese New Year.  Toastmaster for the Evening, Anita Li, explained the significance of the stacks of oranges that can be seen in Chinese homes at this time of year – they represent gold, because Chinese New Year is about health, wealth, and wisdom.

The Table Topics were led by experienced Toastmaster, John Callaghan, who, as always, brought his cheeky Geordie wit to the session.  John continued the theme of China, using subjects such as Confucius, the Great Wall, and China’s inventions as inspiration.

Jacqui Hogan won the ribbon for best Table Topic.  She was asked to pretend to be Marco Polo, freshly returned from China with gunpowder, and her mission was to sell it to us fellow Venetians.  She did this brilliantly with a fun and humorous role play.

Next we had four prepared speeches.  Firstly, Steve Catchick gave an inspiring and informative speech about presenting powerfully.  Steve included a lot of very helpful points, but he thing I loved most about Steve’s speech was when he mentioned how crazy it is that teachers and parents train the younger generations to focus on the subjects that they aren’t so good at, rather than encouraging them to play to their strengths.  Instead, Steve argued, surely it would be better to pour attention onto the things the child is good at.  I think we all put too much emphasis on what we’re not good at, rather than being proud of our talents.  You can’t be good at everything, so why not try to improve at the things you are good at?

The next speaker was Rod Lafargue, who spoke about how much time we all spend in relationships with our smartphones these days.  Rod used humour to highlight the serious issue of how constantly connected to the internet we are, and how this can be detrimental to our relationships with the people who are actually there with us.  He challenged us to not check our smartphones when in the company of others for the next month.  I failed at this almost as soon as the meeting was over!  How did the rest of you get on with that challenge?

At the interval, we all enjoyed Chinese fortune cookies, provided by Anita Li.  This was a lovely gesture, and I think we all enjoyed cracking open our cookies and finding out what the future held.  Mine said that I shouldn’t give up on my dreams, and that I will one day fulfil them, so that was a positive message to inspire me!

After the tea and fortune cookies, we had two more speakers.  Firstly, Zahid Aziz gave a speech about a dream he’d had, about his own funeral.  Surreally, our club president Nick Bailey was there doing the eulogy!  Isn’t it nice that Zahid feels that Maidenhead Speakers Club members are all part of his extended family!

The final speaker of the evening was Yohan McDonald, who told the story of his experience of being a new dad.  He used excellent humour and connected with the audience brilliantly with his warm and friendly stage presence.  He began the speech by saying that he wished parenthood came with a handbook, but he concluded by saying, actually part of the beauty of being human is the experience of doing the best you can and learning on the job.  He had a realisation that, in amongst the chaos of being new parents, he and his partner were actually doing a really great job of being parents, and that they didn’t need a handbook after all. Yohan won the best speaker ribbon.

As always, the meeting was full of laughs, inspiration, and warmth.  It lifted my spirits to get my fortnightly connection with the members of our lovely community that is Maidenhead Speakers.

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