Jeff Oliver

Toastmasters can be an Enchanting Phenomenon
It can be a portal, a horcrux, a Platform 9.75, or a wart on an elephant’s bottom (expurgated version).

I am sure that the founder, Smedley (poor man) like Moses, didn’t fully comprehend what he had in his hands.

‘It’s what you do with what you’ve got’.

I have had the pleasure of starting to learn how to be a well-treated old anachronism in a kind, polite, hardworking Toastmasters club in Tainjin (Tientsin), a Platform 9.75 if ever there was.

So what happens? People learn to stand up and take their time … and some don’t.

They learn to systematically prepare, out of respect for their own development and transformation, and for the time and the goodwill of their patient and supportive fellow club members.

They learn their particular club’s attitude to English – ‘the language’ having escaped from the class-defining sensibilities of Anglo-US colonial ancestry, and now increasingly shaped and simplified (thank goodness) by, soon the majority, second-language speakers, into an international, momentarily quasi-universal, second language, and index of the quality of one’s education and capacity to function transnationally. Whew!

… or they work in the effective and maybe timewarped local version, looking out for their clensions, reflecting, as the saying goes, whatever ‘school they went to’.

To be fair some folk just enjoy a night out, being entertained, and space from their spice; in some cases it’s like bingo or church attendance … it’s a free country.

For others, it’s like a Firefox feathered wand add-on, at 7am, a convivial if quick warm-up of their professional voices before the working day fires up.

Like any example of reality, Toastmasters is what we make of it, a curates egg, good in parts, and perhaps transforming for some folk.

It all depends upon how we search, what we are looking for, and whether we can notice 9.75 when we see it, find our Hogwarts, gird our loins, and deal with our personal Riddle.