Monday, January 12, 2009

A fate worse than death

OK, I'll have to go back to writing in the Queen's English. All that Geordie writing is doing my head in - it's not easy to spell, and we don't all speak like that. I happen to know that Clippy, Hadriana, Lakeland Jo and I all went to very nice girls' schools where slang was met with one hundred lines or a quick whip with the rosary beads.

So, on Friday morning I had to do a brief presentation in front of about four hundred people. Piece of cake. After all, I grew up performing in my dancing school's annual panto, tackling such Thespian hurdles as Dick Whittington's Cat (where I was on the stage ALL the time, don't laugh), and the Mock Turtle among others. Looking back, I always seemed to get the character parts for some reason. At university I was President of the Debating Union, where I regularly debated in front of large, heckling audiences. I also performed in whatever Law Department Revue was taking place, the height of which was a Sugar Plum Fairy routine done with three members of the rubgy team, wearing fresh fruit down the front of their ballet tights. Not a pretty sight but bloody funny, especially as we did it as a serious piece and I could hear them counting the beats behind me.

In a former life (with Lakeland Jo) I was in corporate training and stood for hours each day boring the pants off, I mean educating employees about all manner of things. Even as a mother, I have sung in front of about one thousand school parents in a large ballroom here in Chicago (don't ask), compered a pub quiz for the British American Business Council, and with my writer's hat on, have appeared on a number of live, unscripted radio and TV shows. And I can't remember being nervous at all.

Actually, lest you think I'm a complete show-off, the most nerve-wracking thing I have done in recent years was to be the tallest bridesmaid in an American wedding. You see, the bridesmaids walk down the aisle before the bride and father - one at a time. Alone. Unaccompanied. So the big church doors opened, and I had to walk down to the altar. Slowly. Smiling. Or rather, right cheek quivering like a fish on a riverbank. Feeling like a complete eejit. I don't like that kind of personal attention. I even felt ridiculous walking down the aisle at my own wedding.

So back to Friday. What, you're thinking, could have made this specific presentation so much of an ordeal? Well, it was to my kids' high school assembly - a room full of teenagers, all ready for lunch and thinking about the weekend. To add further anxiety, the Queenager casually asked me the night before

"Oh mom. What are you wearing tomorrow?"

Wearing? - I hadn't planned "an outfit". There's no uniform at the school and even some of the teachers look like vagabonds, so dressing up didn't really loom large on my list of things to worry about.

"Why?", I timidly asked.

"Oh nothing, just don't wear your black mom pants (trousers)".

"What do you mean 'black mom pants', they're nothing wrong with them".

"Oh, I know, I know, but you'd look much hipper in your skinny jeans".
(I hasten to add they're not skin tight skinny jeans, heaven forbid, but they're not bootleg either.)

So yes, I pulled out the skinny jeams, with white shirt and black cashmere cardi (going for an mix of authority and hipness all at once). I even managed to embarrass my kids without mentioning them. Mission accomplished. All went well, even though the slide show stuck on a huge picture of moi for about 80% of the time and then whizzed through the other photos, meaning that I pretty much had to ad-lib my way through at break-neck speed. (A technical hitch of course.)

I think I'd rather have spoken at Obama's inauguration though. Much less nerve-wracking.

(PS. I was talking about a sponsored walk I'll be organizing later in the year, to raise funds for a small school in Ghana. Hopefully a few of the kids will remember and sign-up.)


  1. You should've delivered it in Geordie, though!

  2. A mum's work (and sacrifice) is never done. But I'm glad it was all for a worthy cause. Good on ya.

  3. How can someone who is living such an enviable and gorgeous life, viz cashmere, skiing, key-note speaking, writing and parenting, want their ashes scattered off Knott's Flats?

  4. Public speaking? I'd run a mile! I have always hated it.

  5. Sounds like you've got it all off pat! (or should that be "expat"!)
    I would have died if it were me and my photo froze there for 80% of the time! - thoughts of them all thinking "He's all me, me, me!!" haha X

  6. You managed to embarrass the kids without even mentioning them? You truly are the zen master, to whom we should all bow down!

  7. Okay, so now you have to post a picture of you wearing your "mom pants", so we can see if she was justified in her request!

  8. OK, a few home truths

    - the cashmere cardi is 12 years old.
    - and I was thinking more Tynemouth Priory that Knotts Flats. Ha ha.
    - the public speaking is like acting. Something you can hide behind. Being a bridesmaid is REAL!
    - the kids identified themselves. One had his head in his hands and the other was bright red! Tee hee!
    - pants photos next time!

  9. mum, I, for one, can't get enough pictures of you, but ditch the sunglasses this time,please? ;-)

  10. I have my next art presentation next week. Now I'm worried about the Powerpoint part!
    Ashes bear thinking about. I suppose it's all to do with going home. Having mine sprinkled on the Cam at the backs of the colleges has a certain glamour about it, but I'm not sure all the 'punters' would appreciate the intrusion!

  11. Still addicted to the smell of the crowd and the roar or the grease paint, or something like that? Good on you for getting up there, and for embarrassing your kids; that is, after all, a parent's job.

  12. unaccustomed as i am to public speaking i am a legend in my own mind. unfortunately in reality i am pretty bad. we won't go there.
    well done you for having the poise and self presence to be so brave.
    i laughed out loud at the comment above re Knotts Flats from a woman of no importance. :-)
    too funny.

  13. are you actually going on the walk- just checking?

  14. I used to bore the pants off staff for hours too doing my HR chats. But no way would you get me up and speaking in public now, there's such a fuss made about my accent, it would be horrific. Occasionally I call the local radio station and they have nicknamed me the Duchess of .... (where I live) and now I actually get people greeting em as this....awfully embarressing!

  15. I want to see those black mom pants took, I think I have some...

  16. You go girl! I like the description of the outfit you went for instead.

    I'm in awe of anyone who can get up in front of crowds.

  17. LOL, love Sarah's comment above. Well, when you're in Okie.

    Yes, the all too common travails of teenage paranoia about what others think. I suspect you looked dashing as it was.

    I don't use slang much either. Just not raised that way. I cringe when my wife calls me "bud" --ugh! Or my sons say, "dude."

    Public speaking? I couldn't do it. the best idid was from a brownie camp about the differences between England, Scotland, Wales, n. Ireland and Britain, Gt. Britain and Uk and then showing the Union Jack comprising of all these nations (but Wales) and why that was so. I learned some things myself.

  18. Were your kids proud at the end though? Like the sound of the cashmere cardi/skinny jeans combo, you'll have to wear it next time you're in Esher!

  19. Update - a lot of teachers have been coming up to me and saying positive things. (not about my speaking but about the sponsored walk effort - which I will be managing rather than doing Jo.) But one of the, gasp, seniors (6th formers) came up and told the Queenager that I was his hero. Ha ha.

  20. I think no matter what you'd done, you would've embarrassed your kiddo. I'm sorry there was a bit of a snafu. And, I guess I've been spelling everything wrong for ages and none of you guys have corrected me. I always did pressy for pressie and cardy for cardi - and only find out I'm wrong today. Sheesh.

  21. Well done! And don't you feel flattered that your daughter *wanted* you to year skinny jeans?!

  22. well done, even to this day I embarrass my kids and they don't even live with me!!!!

    If you have time tomorrow, I am doing a post on the weather and being an expat. I have a feeling you will have an odd story to add to it!!!

    Gill in Canada

  23. Blimey! Well done you! Seriously impressed here. You've reminded me of why I love writing, it takes real guts to stand up before an audience.

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