Monday, 13 February 2017

charity talk

This evening I did a woodland charity talk.  They were a very nice group, who had warned me in advance that they were not very large, and they met in a church in one of the tiny roads off Colchester High Street.  I was relieved not to overshoot the end of the road, since you are only allowed to drive down the High Street and the tiny road was one way.  I was trying to work out the fastest way to try again if I missed the turning, and I think it would be about a five mile round trip, back to the inner ring road, through the roadworks and potential rush hour jam near Colchester north station, and back up Balkerne Hill.  Every so often Colchester borough council makes noises about wanting to shut the high street to cars.  How anybody is then supposed to access the Dutch quarter remains a mystery to me.  Tonight's group had their own screen and projector stand but I'm still not carrying the box containing my projector and assorted bits plus a Sussex trug of twigs on the bus.  Or the mile and a bit up an unlit lane to the bus stop.

I have a new piece of kit to add to the list since the charity just sent me a pop-up banner with their logo and a picture of trees on it.  It is an ingenious design with an aluminium box at the bottom, supported by two feet that swivel out, while the banner rolls away into the box for storage and the aluminium pole that holds it up breaks down into three sections that also fit in the box.  The banner is on a spring to make it disappear back into the box, like the vacuum cleaner flex, only this spring is much stronger than the one on the vacuum cleaner, and the total length of the pole when assembled puts the top of it slightly higher than I can comfortably reach.  I tried to hook the end of the banner over it and failed, so lay it on the floor and tried to assemble it that way.  The banner promptly tried to roll itself back into the box.  I rested a foot on the box to stop it winding itself on to the banner, which left me still struggling to reach the far end of the pole, until I accidentally let go of the top end of the banner and it wound itself all the way up with a mighty thump.  The assembled ladies gasped, and somebody kindly offered to hold the box while I sorted out the other end.  We agreed that it was a very fine banner, but I think I am going to have to find a volunteer each time to help me put it up.  Or perhaps it will work if I stand on a chair.  I managed to put it up by myself in the kitchen when it first arrived, but then I did not have an audience and was not working against the clock.

I couldn't find my smart new badge with my name on it and the word Volunteer, and feared it must have fallen out of the hole that had appeared in the bottom of the paper carrier bag of leaflets which was where I remembered putting it last time.  Fortunately it turned up in the bottom of the bag as I was tidying away the leaflets at the end, so I will not have to confess to my volunteer manager that I have lost it.  I put it in the padded case with the projector instead for safe keeping.

In sharp contrast to most church and community halls and meeting rooms this one was extremely well heated, and as I started to talk I began to think that I should not have worn thermals under my trousers and a polo neck wool sweater.  I wondered briefly if I could take the sweater off but decided not in mid flight, and not without the risk of displaying more of my vest to the audience than would be professional.

I always start the talk with a trug of twigs, and tell the audience a little about each species, the oak, the ash, the birch, the alder and the sweet chestnut.  I stole the idea from a couple of the lecturers at Writtle, and have kept it as the warm up act before going on to the slides because it seems to work well.  Tonight's meeting room was not very big and the front row was very close, so I was slightly anxious in case I should poke anybody in the face in my enthusiasm.  I didn't.  They all seemed pleased and grateful at the end, and the organiser told me that I had been recommended by somebody at a conservation group I spoke to last year.  One of them actually heard me last year at her garden club so it was nice of her to come along for a second dose.  It is true what they say, that volunteering makes you feel good.  Well, it does as long as everything goes smoothly.

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