Diary - It's not what you say ..

Bridget McElroy

I was asked to speak at the local Women's Guild. Their secretary, Mrs Forsyth, wrote to me months ago and asked for biographical details. I had forgotten completely about the event, until Councillor Fraser told me how much his wife was looking forward to hearing my talk.

As I entered the room, I realised that I was the youngest there - by a good few decades. The conversation was all about floral arrangements, marmalade and recent gynaecological operations.

The meeting seemed to drag on and on, with interminable reports and greetings from other clubs. I noticed that some of the assembled throng were already drifting into slumber, as I was introduced. The president shuffled her notes and announced: "Our speaker today is Dr Brenda McElroy from the council, who is going to give us a talk about sexually-transmitted diseases."

Have you ever seen a Tom and Jerry cartoon where Tom hits a wall and slowly descends scratching his claws as he does so?

I rose, somewhat unsteadily, to my feet and held on to the lectern for support. Some had averted their eyes at the mention of the word "sexual", others looked ashamed and disgusted, but a few were obviously keen to hear more. One octogenarian was eagerly taking notes. Some smiled gleefully. What should I do? Come clean and admit that their secretary had made a mistake with speakers and dates, or go for it?

There was a certain irony in hearing me hold forth on the subject, given that we were top of the schools league tables for teenage pregnancies. Our attendances at the STD clinic were better than our attendances in schools. I waffled on for some 30 minutes, deliberately speaking more slowly and softly in my best P1 story-telling voice. Sure enough, one by one they all fell into a deep sleep. Then, in a loud crescendo, I finished with the words "but nothing that ointment won't clear up!" I had actually been talking absolute gibberish and nonsense, a wee bit like addressing the education and learning committee really - and with the same effect. Applause broke out and smiles crossed faces as the dew of slumber cleared from eyes.

Mrs Fraser gave the vote of thanks. She thanked me for a full and frank talk on a "difficult" subject. Their next speaker was to be Mrs Bridget McElroy from the health board, talking on A Curriculum for Excellence. I'll warn Brenda in advance. She knows as much about new curricula as I do about chlamydia. It shouldn't make any difference really. Both are nasty, annoying and inconvenient, but they go away after a while.

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Bridget McElroy

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