Monday, March 22, 2010

Tough crowd

There's 438 of them.

Some are whispering and others are staring blankly in obedience with their eyes up front but their minds are clearly elsewhere. All are fidgeting.

An hour has rolled by. Slowly. The morning sun is shining directly into the school children's eyes and the PA system has died. I'm so nervous about getting up to speak that the BBQ tongs in my right hand are starting to clatter.

A father is up on stage, trying his hardest to make himself heard via a megaphone that still has cobwebs clinging to it after being dug up from the sports shed. "You see, kids, at my workplace - a restaurant - we too have to show responsibility like you do. If there's a bit of tomato left on a plate that's not washed off and then my chef serves food on it....."

My bottom is being patted, ever so gently. I turn around and see my little friend Patrick, holding a battered VB carton. "HELLO KATH, I JUST GOT THIS AND HAVE FOUND SOME FEATHERS TO PUT IN IT."

I cringe slightly and kneel down to his face level: "That's nice sweetie. Can you whisper?"


His mother, Amy, scoops him up as he cheerfully waves goodbye to me.

My shoulder is patted this time, so I assume it's an adult with a clearer understanding of personal space. I'm correct. Brendan the PE teacher mouths, 'You're ON' and points towards the stage.

I know exactly where Sapphire is sitting and as I clear my throat to start, I can see, in the fog of nerves and flop sweat, that she is now covering her face in embarassment.

My vision blurs, my hand grips the ancient grey plastic mouthpiece with the connected stretchy-curly telephone cord that requires me to lean slightly towards the left and I blather away nervously, vaguely hoping that I can be heard clearly by the teachers and by the disinterested parents standing way up in the back beyond the railway-sleeper-constructed ampitheatre under the peppercorn trees---

----my BBQ tongs are brandished at some stage as my nerves ramp up to heart-attack level and I realise that there's no stopping this eye-poppingly ill-prepared ramble and the 438 children blur into a kaleidoscope of blue and green that allows the wriggling, sighing and chattering to fade out and stop affecting my presentation -----

---- but I'm aware that my right knee is shaking and the rhythm perfectly matches the quaver in my endlessly wittering voice so I decide it's time to conclude and I had the speaker back to the Principal and dash over to the ill-favoured privacy offered by a strugglinng melaleuca.

A few deep breaths and brow wipes later and Sapphire is tugging at my sleeve.


I refocus. "Yes, love? That wasn't too bad, was it?"
"You said 'SEXY' in your talk!"

A blush creeps up on my face. "I did? Are you sure?"

"Yes," she hissed, blue eyes burning. "You said, 'Some people think that picking up rubbish isn't very sexy' and then went on to say how it's still a worthwhile thing to do---"

I interrupt, my delayed sense of pomposity starting to wake up. "Well, it is a worthwhile thing to do, and---"

Sapphire holds up her hand. "I know, Mum. But you said 'sexy' and there are---" she looks around to check that no-one's nearby "----- little kids here."

She stalks off to join her departing classmates before I can say "See you after school," so I walk back home, tongs now hanging limply by my side, t-shirt showing two unbecoming armpit sweat stains and I'm harbouring a fervent desire to not make eye contact with the principal.

My waist is tapped, so I assume it's a school-aged child this time.

Seven year old Alifah smiles at me, a child I chat to every day after school at the side gate as I wait for Sapphire and she waits for her mother.

"You were funny and a little bit crazy," she said.
"Er thanks Alifah. I was very nervous and hope that I wasn't too rude or hard to understand."
"Oh no," she assured me. "I've always thought you were funny and a little bit crazy."

Fair enough.


redcap said...

Funny and a little bit crazy is a good thing :) And children approaching puberty are notoriously the most easily embarrassed creatures in the universe, so don't worry about Sapphire x

Pandora Behr said...

Kids think you're cool. Enjoy the notoriety. Would you have the guts to do the same thing when Sapphire is in high school?

You're doing great, Kath.

Benjamin Solah said...

Ah, public speaking. My most feared challenge at the moment.

I'd take a little bit crazy as a compliment. Seriously.

River said...

Funny and a little bit crazy decribes you perfectly. Just like most of the rest of us. You also should remembeer that kids are very forgiving and by tomorrow they'll remember that you spoke but won't remember at all how nervous you might have seemed. Of course they'll remember forever that you said sexy. Ha Ha. Is this your first time addressing a school assembly? You'll get better at it.

Jilly said...

There is no-one more funny and a little bit crazy than you! We should put that on your gravestone - from your morbid friend, Jill xxx

Christine said...

Hell, I'm suspicious of anyone who's NOT funny and a little bit crazy :)

Lorna Lilo said...

Could have been worse, you could have said knickers or front bottom! I love public speaking, any opportunity to bore the crap out of people gives me a great sense of satisfaction. I find that if you are really loud, people sit up and listen, and I have a voice like a school headmistress so people are usually too scared to leave because they think I will smack them on the legs.

Helen said...

Funny and a little bit crazy is just the best combination ever!

Pam said...

I read this and a few previous posts, and can agree wholeheartedly, you are doing great. You all sound wonderful, including the warm-hearted dog, and you have my admiration driving in Melbourne. I never really mastered it.

Lad Litter said...

When you said sexy, did you get one of those big kid-crowd laughs that go Aaaaaaaaahhh-hahahahaha. They're great. Funny, I am not even slightly nervous in front of a group of kids yet become Jerry Lewis (unfunny version) when I have to speak to adults. Good for you. I'll ask my eleven year old how you went.

The Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

You are certainly funny, there's no doubt about that :0)

I love the way kids tell you what they think with no worries.

Your nervousness at public speaking - multiply your symptoms by 100,000 and you have something close to how I felt the first time I had to give a training course for work.

I don't do it often thank God, and I am getting better - but it still terrifies the bejesus out of me.




Deep Kick Girl said...

That Alifah sounds like she's got your measure! Ha ha! I would be honoured by such a summary.

To be honest you couldn't pay me a million dollars to speak in front of a school full of children. As soon as I have to speak to a group of more than 4 people my brain disengages from my mouth and total nonsense rolls out...

Kath Lockett said...

You'll all be pleased to know that I got a rather lovely hand-written card from the head of the SRC thanking me for my presentation.

I'm still not sure if the Principal wants to look ME in the eye yet... I'm sure it was here scuttling off in the opposite direction after school yesterday!

Rowe said...

Oh Kath, I've done a bit of onstage/microphone/audience staring back at you stuff in the past and you described the nerves and accompanying symptoms perfectly. This was very funny to read, especially what Sapph said about you mentioning the word sexy in front of the kids.

Baino said...

Kath darling., I know how terrified you are of public speaking so well done and big fat chocolatey kudos to you. Cool is great, crazy cool and called Kath is AWESOME

Cat J B said...

Oh Kath, that was a great read, you are a funny, crazy, brave woman! Be proud!