The Gift

"The Icebreaker. What a misnomer. Any ice within 20 feet of me would vaporise. I self-immolate under the spotlight. It’s not that I’m shy. I have rosacea. Rosacea? A skin condition in adults in which the blood vessels of the face enlarge resulting in a flushed appearance. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad, does it? Hah! It’s a deep, burning, this is going to hurt for hours, searing heat. And does it happen when I’m walking the dogs? Reading a book? Watching TV? Yes. It’s quite spontaneous - combustion, that is. But this crimson hell really comes into its own when I’m talking, when I’m speaking with passion and enthusiasm. When I want to put on my best face. 

So in the hope that toastmasters will inure me against this ignominy, here I am, breaking through the ice and thrusting my face into the inferno to tell you something about myself. What makes me unique. How do I stand out against my fellow man? I have a gift, a gift that will make me the envy of practically everyone in this room. 

Simon, as a guest, when you introduced yourself this evening, did you fight an urge to come out with some ridiculous cliché? I did. My name is Tessa and I am an alcoholic. 

Not that I am an alcoholic. My husband thinks I’m a lush, but that’s because he’s practically teetotal. No. compared with many of you here I’m not even a contender. Why this club even meets in the depths of a drinking den and finishes its meetings on time the better to rush upstairs to the bar and slake its thirst - and maybe render tomorrow a little difficult to begin? Yes, we’ve all been there, haven’t we. You wake up, bathed in sweat, heart pounding, raging thirst and worse, a raging head, with the blood pounding through your veins so loudly that it must surely wake the household. 

The Germans have the word for hangover: die katzenjammer - the cat’s misery. Doesn’t that one noun sum up the whole sorry ordeal more eloquently than a whole book of adjectives? 

So this gift of mine? The one that makes me the envy of my peers? 

I don’t get hangovers. It doesn’t matter how much I drink. It doesn’t matter what I drink. I can mix grape and grain, down red wine with abandon. I have been known to sink enough lager to float a battleship. It’s all as one to my Kevlar-coated constitution. 

Oh I know you don’t believe me. How can she stand there and tell us that she can drink herself into oblivion and feel no pain? Well, there’s a price to pay for everything. Every silver lining is sheathed in a black, sulphurous cloud. For a start, I probably wouldn’t drink so copiously if I knew there’d be hell to pay in the morning. And I’m one of those for whom an open bottle is an empty bottle. And I literally do drink myself into oblivion. Just a couple of glasses can wipe my memory of my often outrageous behaviour. 

I wake refreshed and alert, skip downstairs and - why is my bike laying in the hall? What happened last night? Nothing! Nothing as in no recall. And over the next few hours, by which time I’m painfully aware of the grazes on the palms of my hands and the bruises on my elbows, I recall cycling home in the middle of the night thinking I’m so tired, if I just shut my eyes for a moment… 

And then there’s the time I got up to find I couldn’t stand up. Apparently, in my cups, I’d decided to prove that of course I can jump into the splits from a scissor kick. Shame about that pool of spilt beer that caused me to go down so fast that I ripped my hamstring and ruptured a disc in my neck. 

And then there are the claims I can’t tell whether or not are true. But Mum, you promised me £200 to squander on clothes and CDs. Last night, you practically insisted on it. 

So do I often go out drinking? No!"

This was my number one speech (The Icebreaker). A wholly terrifying experience, but I felt exhilarated when I'd finished. My evaluator, Simon, was very kind. His only recommendations were to project my voice more and to make better eye contact.

I hardly used my notes, which was great. My faced flared horribly, though, for hours afterwards. At the time, I felt that I had spoken to quickly, but my time was as I expected it to be, so perhaps I didn't. 

Guests and Club Members' Comments

"Congratulations on your icebreaker. A very dramatic speech. You had the audience hooked. Sometimes your voice dropped a bit too much, but overall, a great performance."

"Very convincing icebreaker. Sometimes difficult to hear. Very confident."

"What a gift - what a speech! Great story and congratulations on your icebreaker."

"Good use of voice. A rollercoaster of a speech."

"You are very pretty and funful and very kind. You are someone to be proud of, a very wonderful speech, but don't run yourself down. Content self-destructive."

"Friendly delivery. Good volume. Easy to follow."

"Great expression, very good use of words Really got our personality across. Work on your eye contact. Lovely smile - captivating speech."

"I really enjoyed that, but you took quite a while to get to the point."

"Nice gift! Great audience engagement. Very humorous."

"No hangover? I could use some of that. Great job! Well done."

"Great body language and well humoured. Perhaps make sure when you tones (sic) make sure it is still fairly strong as you have a great voice."

"Very engaging manner and wonderful images Enjoyed it greatly. Relevance of rosacea, however?"

"Good sense of fun and humour"

"You must have taken acting classes! Fantastic variety and co-ordination of words with body language."