I made it to my Rotary Club talk in Chelmsford. Much of the credit goes to the Systems Administrator. I was agonising on Sunday about whether I could face driving up the A12 before navigating my way to an unfamiliar place in Chelmsford and standing up and talking to a roomful of Rotarians and flogging back up the A12. The SA offered to drive me, going to the useful model shop in Chelmsford during the talk, so that I could focus my efforts on the meeting, and I accepted with gratitude. The last time I tried to get somewhere in Chelmsford I got lost en route, and as the SA said then once I'd rallied for the talk I could flake out on the way home. I experienced a moment of frisson as we arrived at the outer reaches of Chelmsford and the SA announced that he had memorised the map and hoped he could remember the route because we didn't have a road atlas in the car, but we sailed around the Army and Navy roundabout and drew up outside the Marconi Club without a missed turning.
They were a very nice group of people, and gave me lunch before the talk. I am impressed by the energy of the Rotarians. They meet weekly, except for Christmas and holidays, and do good works in between times. This group are scurrying around collecting old computers which they clean up and ship out to Tanzania, where they are distributed to rural schools (or at least those that have mains power) by another Rotarian. And they are organising a charity half marathon and fun run. They have a speaker to follow their lunches at three meetings out of four, the first of the month being reserved for club business, and following recent talks from a canine rescue centre and the guide dogs for the blind now have a couple of sponsored dogs to worry about. I don't know where they find the time.
They only wanted a twenty to twenty-five minute presentation, which is about half the time I usually take, so I tried to clip through the main points at a brisk pace without looking as though I were staring at my watch too often or sounding as though I was gabbling. I think they liked it. I was not convinced it was the most polished performance I'd ever given, but trying to condense your normal material down to half its usual running length while recuperating from a bad cold and after eating a lump of chicken that would have made dinner for two people is hard work. Anyway, duty was done, and I dare say it was better than leaving them with a gap in their programme at short notice, or trying to twist my fellow local volunteer's arm to cover for me.
My phone buzzed on the way home, and it was an email from the woodland charity asking if I'd be willing to do an evening talk starting at quarter to eight at a WI that as far as I could gather was somewhere near Bishop's Stortford, in either November or January. At the thought of flogging over practically to Hertfordshire and back at night in the depths of winter my heart failed me, and when I got home I compromised by suggesting to the WI that I'd be happy to go sometime from spring through to autumn, but really not in November or the first half of January. I'll see what they say. Lots of clubs try to stick to local speakers then anyway, to reduce the chance of their evening's entertainment crying off due to fog or snow.
The woodland charity seems short of volunteers to cover talks towards the M25 and M11, or at least this isn't the first time I've been asked if I can manage a talk around Bishop's Stortford or Saffron Walden, and they are honestly quite a long way from the Tendring peninsular. The charity organises their voluntary speakers by county so I never get offered gigs in Suffolk, despite living only a twenty minute drive from the border.