The Thank You Gift or Hercules and Me by Trevor Plumbly
Giving Talks to Local Groups
Some years ago, during my TV days, I was often asked to address all manner of societies and groups. I had my favourites of course, ‘Age Concern’ and ‘Probus’ among them; their meetings always seemed a bit more informal and as a consequence I was able to relax a bit more. In the main, I regarded these as something that went with the territory and if there was no entrance fee charged I was happy to treat it as part of the job. It wasn’t exactly arduous stuff: I had a basic speech tailored to each audience which I never repeated in the same town, usually followed by a sort of mini ‘Antiques Roadshow’, the speech of thanks, THE GIFT, then tea and off home.
Thank You Gifts of All Kinds
The gift varied from group to group: petrol vouchers were most common (boring but useful), the odd bottle of wine (largely undrinkable), chocolates and home-baked cakes (always a winner). When I was asked to open an exhibition of the local Embroiderers’ Guild I felt a bit edgy; after all, what the hell did I know about embroidery – all I could imagine was a room full of elderly ladies chatting away over a sea of lace doilies. On the appointed day, armed with a short speech mentioning things like ‘a largely forgotten craft’ and ‘patience and dedication’, I was met by Madam President who was neither elderly nor ‘doilyish’ and neither were her fellow exhibitors. As I was taken round the displays and introduced to all and sundry, I was struck as much by the variety of the techniques as by the sheer talent and creativity of the members. As I moved round the hall, I mentally tore up the cliché-riddled garbage I’d prepared and replaced it with a sort of questioning speech which ended by asking why they seemed happy to be regarded as the sort of harmless ‘craft’ group that I had envisaged, when in fact their works deserved gallery or museum show-casing.
The Gift Par Excellence
The speech was well received and Madam President was gracious in reply before asking another member to present THE GIFT. She somewhat nervously approached and said, ‘On behalf of the Guild we would like you to accept this as a small token of our appreciation. I made him by the way and his name is Hercules.’ Forty four is perhaps a little old to be getting your first teddy bear but Hercules was, and still is, no ordinary teddy: he’s all of 2 inches tall, entirely hand sewn and spends his days reclining on a cushion in his custom-made basket/bed blissfully free from the ear-chewing and eye-pulling that plague his bigger cousins. Jude, my grandson, has made overtures about owning him, but Hercules and I are not quite ready to part company just yet. I think he enjoys the quiet life in our house and I like the reminder that one craftswoman thought past the petrol vouchers and the wine and used her time and talent to create something lasting instead. From memory, the revised speech wasn’t bad, but certainly not as good as THE GIFT.