A few weeks ago I was asked to give a speech about Peirene. I was delighted. Why wouldn’t I be! The Nymph is my favourite topic. In addition it was the Authors’ Club, where I am a committee member, who asked me, so I would give the speech in front of a mainly familiar audience. Easy, I thought, this talk doesn’t even need preparation.
Speech day was last Friday. On the Monday before, as I was thinking about the week ahead, it suddenly dawned on me that I’ve never given a speech about Peirene before. Yes, I introduced Salons and book launches but I never stood in front of an audience and talked for 20 minutes without interruption. Of course I know that a speech, like a book, needs focus and a narrative otherwise the listener becomes bored. And I didn’t want my Nymph to leave such an impression behind.
But still I was under the illusion I could knock off the preparation of this speech in an hour. I put it on my to-do-list for Wednesday among getting No 4 off to the setter and proofreader, revising the edits of No 5 and reading a Hungarian novel, which could fit the bill for 2012.
It didn’t take me an hour. It took me a full four hours to write and structure and then another one to choose extracts to read from the books. That done I realized, however, that this wasn’t the end. For a speech to have full impact it ought to be spoken not read from a piece of paper. So I memorized it on Thursday and performed it in front of my husband late Thursday evening three times and twice Friday morning before breakfast and then stood in front of the mirror and entertained myself with a few more rehearsals. By 10am I was fully prepared. I took a shower, blow dried my hair, put on a nice frock and lipstick and earrings. Peirene and I should have left the house at leisure and well in time to arrive at the Authors’ Club for the 13.00 lunch followed by the speech.
“Meike, it’s 12.15, we need to go.” Peirene was standing in front of me in coat and a little matching hat and a shopping trolley in hand. She had been busy all morning wrapping our subscription gift parcels which we had started to sell on the website . We had decided to take some with us in the hope of selling them after the speech.
“I don’t want to go.” I said and knew full well that my stage fright made me sound like a stubborn toddler rather than a grown up woman. For a moment Peirene was puzzled. Then she said:
“Don’t make a fuss. You’ve prepared a beautiful speech about me. You need to deliver it now.”
She took my hand and put me into my coat and pulled me out of the door and dragged me along the road and into the underground. We didn’t speak a word to each other, but we arrived just on time.
Of course, as soon as we got there both of us were all smiles. While I delivered my speech Peirene threw me supportive glances and afterwards she sold more of our gift wrapped parcels then we had ever sold before.
Now the nymph is dead keen to repeat this little show. She thinks my speech did her justice. She’d be happy to take bookings. And I’d be delighted to oblige. Because truth to tell, I rather enjoy giving speeches. It’s just the stage fright before I could do without.