Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Down Cruising Club

'Petrel' lightship, Down Cruising Club's HQ

If I'm honest, last night's talk to Down Cruising Club was, as Sandy Stone might say, somewhat in the direction of being on the shambolic side. Not that it wasn't highly enjoyable - like enthusiasts everywhere, the club members were as pleasant an audience as you could wish for. They turned out in force, too, which I always appreciate - though I did open by suggesting they might have been there for the talk from a team from PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) on the subject of theft - a growing problem for yacht clubs everywhere - which preceded me.

The initial problem was technical, but the knock-on effect was powerfully psychological. After being introduced, I showed the video of our friend George the grey seal, which I find is a good ice-breaker. Then I outlined the shape of my talk, and said that I would Now Start The Slide Show, which I didn't intend to address directly but which would run in the background. When I pressed 'Play' in the Adobe Photoshop full-screen slide show function, nothing happened. Consummate professional that I am, I pressed 'Play' again, with the same result; and again, and again. Nothing.

At moments like this, with a hundred eyes upon me and silence in the air, I tend to fill the void with inanities, and I drivelled on about the time something similar happened to me in Waterstones in Dublin, and my niece showed up with some friends, and one of them happened to be a bit of a whiz, and he sorted me out me out, with seconds to spare, by suggesting a particular keyboard combination… But all the while the panic rose within me like the tide, and my fear, not just of drowning, but of drowning in public, caused my heart to turn somersaults, my throat to constrict and my mouth to go dry. There was no way my niece was going to ride to the rescue, because she was in London. In desperation, I turned to the man who had set up the projector, on the basis that he too might be a whiz. 'Help me out, Peter,' I said, and he replied: 'Sorry Mike, don't know about that program, I'm afraid you're on your own.'

I studied the dialogue box with the kind of concentration I would normally give to actual, and not virtual, life-threatening situations, and noticed a tick box which said, 'Start slides playing automatically'. I ticked it; exited the program; started it again; waited the allotted 4 second/4 year duration of slide number one - and almost embarrassed myself even more by weeping with joy when it blended smoothly into slide number two, then number three, and so on.. Yes! I gave the talk, but just possibly without the usual structure, as I wasn't quite able to regain my equilibrium until the Q&A session afterwards. Which, I have to say, was one of the most enjoyable and engaged Q&As I've done for ages.

Overall, it was a great evening, and the hosts were generous with their comments - one chap, when I apologised for the false start, said, 'Problem? I didn't notice. The slides were magnificent. Magnificent.' Bless him.
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