Tied Up in Knots

"Don't you think I look smart today in my suit and tie? I'm often to be seen in suits, but never a tie. This is my son's school tie. It's made from polyester, so it's never going to hang well. And it's a particularly vicious shade of green, isn't it? There's a matching blazer, but it's too small and too green for me. Why green for a school uniform? Camouflage. So you can't see the truants hiding in the trees in the local park.

Ties are horribly uncomfortable. And if someone wearing a bra and high heels tells you a tie is uncomfortable, you have to believe them. Why do men wear them?Well, I did some research and discovered that it is all down to that vain dandy, Louis XIV. When a Croatian regiment was presented to him in sixteen something or other, he took a shine to their fancy neckwear. Before you could say Robert est votre oncle, cravats were de rigueur across Europe

[Another famous Frenchman was Napoleon. He was very successful until his people turned against him, began poisoning him with arsenic and exiled him to a small island, where he declared "able was I ere I saw Elba", which has nothing to do with my speech, but comfortably fits in with our grammarian's request that we include a palindrome in our speeches tonight.]

There are two types of men: those who have to wear ties for work and those who don't. And of those who don't, nothing is more incongruous, so lacking in harmony, as the relationship between a wedding guest and the tie he wears with all the discomfort with which he would wear a hangman's noose.

But a tie allows a chap to express his mood and personality, I hear you say. Well, all I can say is that slipping off a metaphorical manacle with a grand flourish at the end of a hard day's grind is one hell of a way to express yourself.

As you can probably tell by now, I'm not particularly fond of ties. Show me an institution that requires a chap to wear a tie, and I'll show you an institution that crushes creativity and stifles the individual.

Which brings us back to the old school tie!

The tie appears to have a solely decorative function. The adjective of the wardrobe, so to speak. Even cufflinks stop your sleeves from flapping about in your soup and if you weren't wearing a tie, you wouldn't be needing the tie pin either, would you? But ties have a vital function in school. To add to the stress burden on the teaching profession. And it's the teachers that want it that way. They like stress. Oh sure, they moan all the time about how stressful it is to be a teacher. But they love it. They crave it. Teachers enjoy giving themselves loads of stress as a counter-argument for all those long holidays; but teaching alone doesn't offer enough stress. No! They need the pupils to wear ties.

"You, boy! That tie's too short. Do it up properly." "You at the back. Yes, you! Straighten that tie and do your top button up. When you're in my class, you'll dress properly."

Secondary school children are, by their very nature, difficult, taciturn, contrary creatures. Telling them they have to wear a tie at all is like waving a red rag at a bull. Insisting they have to wear them at a certain length is tantamount to hurling banderillas at it. So, of course, the most popular method for winding up the teaching staff to an absolute froth is to wear the tie as a two-inch stub sprouting from the collar  - thus. It looks ludicrous, of course, but that's a small price to pay for the pleasure of seeing the blood vessels in Mr Chip's eyes explode . And the blade - that's the technical term for the pointy-end - presents a useful handle for peanutting.

Ah, I see not all of your are familiar with the term. One can never tire of peanutting. Peanutting is frightfully good fun. Within a year of leaving teacher training college, most teachers have already lost count of the number of times a blue-faced child has staggered towards them, croaking "peanut, peanut" while making vague scrabbling gestures at his throat. And any teacher worth their salt knows that the child has not inhaled a peanut and there is no immediate need to launch into the Heimlich manoeuvre. The child has merely been assaulted by a fellow pupil; the blade of the tie having been yanked, rendering the knot tight, difficult to loosen and the victim scarcely able to breathe.

There are only three walks of life where a tie is likely to be used as a weapon against its wearer; so ties are not part of a soldier's battledress; policemen wear clip-on ties that fall off if they are yanked; and school children are forced to wear a ligature around their necks.

The day women leave school, they lose the tie. But the men hold onto their shackles like beaten dogs afraid to step out of the kennel.

Come on guys. They're uncomfortable, they're dangerous, too many of them have dodgy patterns and colours. give them up. You know you want to."

This was my number three speech (Organise Your Speech). The evaluations I received seem to indicate that the audience liked my speech, but most mentioned my voice is too quiet. My evaluator, a miserable old codger with a vituperative streak, sat right at the back of the room were my voice  was competing with the air conditioner. When he came to evaluate me, the first thing he said was "I didn't hear a word she said", at which point he should have sat down. However, he launched into what I felt was a personal assault and suggested that I should have dressed up as a St Trinian's schoolgirl (I'm a little above the average age of the other club members - yuk), but commended me on my research on Napoleon. He never mentioned my body language, the fact I didn't use my notes or that, probably more importantly, whether my speech was organised. Why didn't he just say he hadn't heard my speech and ask someone else to take over? I returned his evaluation to him telling him that it was of no value to me and that my speech was ten times better than his evaluation. It made me feel better.

I didn't refer to my speech notes, though I did hold a small card with a keyword from each paragraph that I referred to a couple of times.

I have an idea why both my voice projection and my eye contact are dodgy. I am short-sighted, but I don't wear my glasses at Toastmasters (life is so much nicer as a Monet). This means that I can only see the people in the front part of the audience, and so direct my speech towards them. I read a tip recently suggesting that to improve voice projection, concentrate on one person at the back of the room and direct the speech to them. The voice will automatically strive to be heard. Perhaps I'll wear my contact lenses next time, too. As I'm at that unhappy stage of decomposition where my arms aren't long enough to read close up with my lenses in, I'll have another excuse the ditch the notes.

My rosacea didn't flare while I was speaking! I didn't even realise it at the time. It occurred to me the following day.

Guests and Club Members' Comments

"Good start and unusual subject. You had good organisation, pause and drama. I found you didn't connect with audience through the eyes because you kept closing them. Also I would recommend you learn voice projection. Well done on good vocabulary and putting across an excellent idea and challenge too."

"Great speech. Good use of props and great that you did not use notes. Excellent."

"Great speech - well researched. Funny. Loads of audience interaction, especially good imitation of teach. Only criticism: voice very soft."

"Good "accusatory" questions wake people up. Good conclusion. - and there should be a law - no ties."

"Commend: foreign words. Recommend: voice dropped slightly, move around a bit more little more pace. Commend: funny."

"Very entertaining and well presented. Great body movement, but I lost the thread a bit."

"Well constructed as usual, eloquent with excellent facial expressions."

"Very creative speech. Use greater volume and tonal variation to enhance."

"I really loved the topic. Perhaps a bit more projection."

"Interesting and well thought through - perhaps try projecting your voice a bit. Well done."

"Nice friendly manner. Good acting actions. Voice sometimes whispery. Recommend: use pauses more and keep volume up."

"Very good, funny, eloquent. More vocal/louder. Very well prepared."

"I liked your body language - confident and decisive and the way you take on different personas, e.g. teacher, this bodes well for your number 5 (vocal variety) speech."

"Interesting and varied content. A tad difficult to hear from the back."

"Well done on keeping going with your audience still arriving in dribs and drabs. By the end of your speech, you were addressing the rear of the room, but at first your voice was a little quiet."

"Brilliant - I was blown away. Only suggestion - perhaps more vocal variety."