Many, many years ago in a little tourist tat shop in north Yorkshire, tucked amongst the souvenir tea-towels and postcards of Pickering's somewhat limited attractions was a selection of little wooden plaques. They were basically crudely varnished and decorated slices of tree with the added bonus of a pithy aphorism. The one to hang above that low beam or lintel advised 'Duck or grouse!' and the one for the procrastinator read, of course, 'I must get a round tuit!'. The exclamation marks are obligatory.
The one that took my fancy - and why it attracted a small girl so much is a mystery - said 'Even a fish wouldn't get caught if it kept its mouth shut!' It obviously entered my soul because even now, some 50 years later it comes to mind. Frequently.
Last night was a case in point; if a couple of months ago when asked a question I'd said 'Nope', 'Can't', 'Won't', 'got other plans....sorry' and kept my trap shut I wouldn't have found myself, microphone in hand, doing a 5 minute spot at Marton's Burns Supper. Instead a feeble 'Erm, if I must - talk to me about it nearer the time' escaped from my lips and with it a silent wish that the probability of actually doing it would just go away. On the other hand, my questioner put a big tick in the box next to 'Response from the Ladies' and went off to order haggis. Job done.
Anyway it came to pass - I rustled up a few words, put them into some meaningful order and spent a couple of days practicing - the dogs being my uncritical audience. The Glam. Ass had a bit of a titter - which I took to be a Good Sign. There wasn't the faintest hope that I would memorise my mini address so the words were put on cards and I was set to go.
We fore-gathered and following the usual haggis-stabbing/Selkirk Grace/Immortal Memory palaver, we ate; generous platefuls of traditional Burns Supper scoff - haggis, neeps and tatties followed by very boozy trifle. A well fed audience is predisposed to be mellow methinks.
The Ladies were toasted, wittily but to my horror not quite as flatteringly as my carefully honed speech in response presupposed. Eeek! (Exclamation mark definitely in order here.) No time for re-writes now just the hope that I could manipulate the words I had got and not drop either the prompt cards or the microphone.
Then suddenly it's over and we're singing 'Auld Lang Syne' and a wee dram was most appropriate and very welcome. I was relieved to have said my piece - it wasn't such an ordeal after all - but in no way is that an invitiation to ask me to do it again.
The lips are zipped. Shut.