Looking through old files on my computer I found this speech that I gave at Toastmasters. It was my fourth ever speech.
My great-grandmother was a formidable women who was the typical matriarch of her family. Up until the day she got married she lead a double life. Her parents thought she was a paid travelling companion for a dowager they’d met in Africa. In reality she was actress in the theatre and few silent movies.
She lived her life by four simple rules and given that she lived into her hundreds, I’m guessing she must have been doing something right.
This evening I’d like to talk to you about those rules but concentrate on the last one as it’s the one I’ve had the most use of.
So, rule number one. Learn how to make a proper cup of tea. Great granny would tell tales of how arguments were settled over a pot of tea and a how a good tea can comfort even the bleakest soul, so there had to be some healing powers in it somewhere. “Look at the Chinese!” she’d say. “They live to ripe old ages and they ceremonies for drinking tea! Do it and do it right!”
Rule number two. Never trust a man who can’t play cards or pair socks. I honestly have no idea where she was going with this one but the day she discovered my cousin wearing odd socks was the last day she spoke to him.
Rule number three was a simple rule and one I’ve no doubt many of you will have heard of and possibly used. Keep your friends close but your enemies closer. It was a simple rule and one many people use but great-granny would swear by it. So much so that she exactly what the people she disliked were up to but couldn’t tell you what her nearest and dearest were doing.
Rule four. Now this was another one I followed and didn’t realise I had until after she’d died. Rule four is this: Learn to play an instrument and you’ll never be hungry or homeless. Because I was a terror as a child as soon as I was told I had to learn an instrument I decided to pick the most awkward instrument ever. The triple keyboard church organ. There’s no way I’d be able to practice other than at the weekly lesson so wasn’t going to missing out playing outside with my friends. Well great granny was a resourceful woman and arrange for the delivery of a triple keyboard church organ to my parents house. In the end I actually really enjoyed it and decided to try other instruments. I moved on to the piano, then the guitar, and then the drums, the trombone, the oboe and the saxophone. I wasn’t great at all of them, in fact I’m not sure I got a tune out of some of them, but I loved the piano and guitar.
Due to reasons I’ll cover in another speech one day I left home when I was 16 and moved in to a tiny bedsit. I still had school to finish and planned on going to college or university afterwards so had to find someway of making money. I’d get about thirty pounds busking on a Saturday outside the shops but my weekly rent was twenty so it didn’t leave me much to spend on other bills and necessities. Walking past a restaurant one day I noticed they’d got a piano and not being the shyest of people I asked to speak to the owner.
“Would you pay me to play the piano?”
“I might, if you’re good!” he said
“I’ll tell you what, I’ll play for tips alone and if I get over thirty quid in tips you pay double what I’ve got, if I don’t I just get the tips?”
He laughed but agreed.
So my first night I got about twenty quid in tips. The second night I got about thirty-five. Of course what I’d forgotten to tell the owner was that I’d also forgotten to empty jar from the night before. He paid me seventy quid and I went home happy.
This arrangement went on a for few weeks and sometimes I “accidentally” left some money in the tip jar which would bring me over the £30. Eventually he decided to offer me three regular nights in his restaurant playing the piano or waiting tables. No singing, just some light background music. Fifty quid a night was my regular wage and I was still getting the odd thirty for busking on a Saturday day. £180 a week at 16 was amazing to me and double what I earned the day I start my first proper tax playing job years later. A few years ago I had the honour of playing the piano at the seventieth birthday party of that restaurant owner and as he shook my hand and thanked me I confessed everything. He pulled me in closer to him and said two words that I’ll never forget and that made me cry. He said “I know!”
Looking back at all four rules. I can make a proper cup of tea. I can’t say its ever been used to fix problems but you could give me any loose leaf and a teapot and I’ll brew you the perfect tea. I can pair sock and often play cards. I know what most of enemies are up to, not that I have many (that I know of!) and I’ve never been homeless or hungry.
Looks like great-granny was right.