I did another woodland charity talk this evening. At the start of the year I had none booked at all, which would have worried me earlier in my volunteering career. Nowadays I tend to assume that some more bookings will turn up in due course, and they did. I now have eleven for 2016 listed in the back of my diary, of which this was number six. The next three are all clustered between the middle of this month and early August, then there are a couple in the autumn, unless I get any last minute requests.
Clubs vary enormously in how far ahead they like to plan. The WI tends to be very organised and get their next year's diary sorted out before the current year is half way through. On that basis I won't be doing any WI talks in 2017. Some of the more formal horticultural societies, the ones that issue members with a neat printed list of events at the start of the year, work on about the same timescale. Other groups live gloriously hand to mouth, fixing their evening's entertainment at no more than a few weeks' notice. Then there are the panic stricken booking secretaries who have been let down at the last moment. I try to help them out if I can. Running a club is hard enough work as it is.
I know one garden society that tries to fix things over two years ahead, but I suspect that gives the committee a false sense of certainty. Two years leaves a lot of time for speakers to change jobs, move away, fall ill, or otherwise find themselves unable to fulfil the booking as the date draws nearer. The woman who gave the cheese making demonstration and lecture I went to the other day had been blacklisted by a WI after withdrawing with over a year's notice because she and her husband had decided they wanted to go travelling that month. Even though it was well before the next year's programme was printed they would not forgive her for pulling out.
The previous volunteer manager at the woodland charity, who announced his departure a few weeks ago as suddenly as he had appeared a year earlier, did come up with a scheme to hold a central stock of projectors for those volunteers who didn't give many talks and send them out on a temporary basis when required. I didn't fancy that at all, and told him so. Perhaps I'd have been deemed to be one of the more regular speakers and would have been allowed to go on keeping mine on permanent loan, but whose to say how they'd have calculated who got one on a full time basis? Six months ago I had virtually no talks booked for this year or next, so doing the exercise at the year end you'd have concluded I didn't merit my own projector. My first talk of the year was done at literally three days' notice because somebody's booked speaker and back-up reserve were both ill, and I wouldn't have dared accept if I hadn't had the equipment ready to go in the spare bedroom. Now I'm on track to do eleven talks in the year (including one booked by someone who heard me at the first, emergency fill-in talk) it wouldn't be cost effective to shuttle the projector back and forth twenty-two times. Anyway, I would certainly not be willing to hang around that number of times waiting for a courier. And I'd prefer to use equipment I'm familiar with.
Tonight's talk went fine and was very local so I got home at a godly hour without having to flog up the A12. I found the Systems Administrator looking harassed while the kittens wailed loudly from the study where they were shut in. While I was out they (which probably means Mr Fluffy since he's the one who keeps jumping up on to the draining board) had managed to knock both my orchids into the sink and turn on the tap. The SA was afraid the orchids had probably had it. I reassured the SA that the orchids wouldn't have minded a brief soaking, since some people water them by submerging the pot for half an hour once a week, albeit not with added washing up liquid. I tipped about a pint of water out of the first cache pot. Rather a lot of compost had already fallen out of the second, and when I tilted the pot to drain any remaining water, the rest of the compost and the orchid fell out. Looking at the mess of chopped bark in the sink I asked hopefully if I could leave cleaning it up until morning, wrapped the orchid roots in newspaper and dumped it in the downstairs cloakroom to sort out tomorrow. Rather like the kittens on their first night.