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Sunday 24 April, 2022

Chester, Old & New

ThreeOldArches amphitheatre


A relatively modern building, 1274 AD, in comparison to a Roman amphitheatre.

The Bear and Billet is a 17th Century Public House in the half-timbered style typical of many of the buildings in Chester. Annie Jane Millward, the grandmother of John Lennon was born in the Bear and Billet in 1873.


Sunday 24 April, 2022

Iris and the Elephant

Iris and Janya 

As we started the walking tour of Chester our tour guide, Stephen Shakeshaft, showed us the statue of a baby elephant. Iris, who in one of her speeches admitted to “a passion for pachyderms”, is seen here sitting beside the statue.

The plaque in front reads:

“This baby Indian elephant is called


The bronze sculpture is a gift from Chester  Zoo to the people of Chester. To celebrate the strong friendship between the Zoo and the city. Janya means ‘Life’ in Hindi. It symbolises the Zoo’s global role in Wildlife conservation. She was gifted in 2010 by  the sculptress Annette Yarrow who grew up in India in the 1930s and 40s, there is a sculpture of another one year old elephant by Annette at Chester Zoo.
Annette’s sculpture is remarkably lifelike, it benefits from her first-hand experience of elephants. Inside nearby Chester Cathedral there is a 14th Century wooden carving of an elephant and castle on a bench and in the Quire. However, the medieval craftsman would never have seen a real elephant so it has a rather strange body… and hooves!
Please feel free to stroke and enjoy Janya. Please do not climb”.

Apparently is is supposed to be lucky to rub the elephant’s ears. Some members indulged in this superstition.


Saturday 23 April, 2022

The Rovers in Chester

Chester CathedralChester Cathedral 1Morrismen4

Yes, the Rovers are Roving again! The club is enjoying our spring meeting in Chester. At last the members of Rovers in Great Britain have had a chance to get together. On Friday night we enjoyed a meal together in the hotel. This morning we met together to go on a walking tour of the city. Outside the town hall we enjoyed performances by traditional Morris Dancers celebrating Saint George’s day in honour of England’s patron saint


Thursday 7 April, 2022

The Perfect Host

The most important qualities of a good host.

    Always pro-active
    Uses initiative
    Has organisational skills
    Is always welcoming
    Easily connects with people

But many other qualities are also required.

    Approachable personality
    Ability to keep calm at all times, not easily flustered
    Is both sympathetic and empathetic
    Willing and available at all times to help and smooth over any issue that arises
    Uses common sense
    Is aware at all times of what is happening
    Is adaptable to all situations
    Always inclusive
    Advance preparation
    Always willing to share knowledge with others
    Listens attentively and absorbs the message   
    Exudes friendliness to all, not just "significant" people
     Good at remembering names
    Engaging speaking voice
    Ensures people are introduced to others
    Has knowledge of speaker and audience
    Keeps smiling!

The Perfect Host has a Perfect Check List>>>

What should be considered:   Before,    During   and   After   an event.


    Is a committee required?   If so, what will be delegated to whom?
    What venue?  If necessary have contacts who can help with finding most appropriate one
    Visit the venue, with president/chairman, familiarise yourself with layout and meeting rooms
    Liaise with president at all times re all details and information required
    Prepare map or directions to venue
    Parking - at venue?  nearby?  capacity?
    Meet liaison person at venue, discuss requirements,  arrange meeting dates
    Investigate disabled access, and location of fire escapes and toilets
    Any Health & Safety issues relevant
    Find out how to operate blinds, curtains, air conditioning in meeting room
    List of those to be invited, when invitations should be issued and RSVP date
    What information should be sent to participants, eg: what, where, when, etc
    Any special requirements for any participant - diet?  overnight accommodation?
    Is catering required?   Who organises it?
    Programme - timings, start, finish, breaks, meal, identify speakers
    Know the names of key personnel, especially correct pronunciation and spelling
    Know the correct title and address of those to be introduced
    Obtain short bio details of those to be introduced
    What aids required?  Screen, OHP,  White board, Laptop, Microphones, extra cables?
    Are there to be questions from audience at any time?   How will they be dealt with?
    Ensure that guests will not be left alone at any time.
    Be early at venue
    Check room - layout, water and glasses - especially top table
    Check final arrangements with venue liaison contact
    Be at door to welcome guests and take to chairman
    Make attendees welcome, give special attention to special guests
    Keep constant watch on what is going on
    Inform everyone of housekeeping - toilets, disabled facilities, fire exits, etc
    Know how to deal with distractions - noise, sunlight, air conditioning, room temperature    
    Keep discreetly checking on chairman and guest speaker - any requirements?
    Have someone at door to prevent unwanted entrance
    Look out for any potential problems and be prepared to deal with them
    Have pre-arranged signal to chairman if items seriously over-running time
    At ending of meeting:  gifts/ payment to guest/s  readily at hand?
    Be a gopher - go for this, go for that


    Feedback forms as participants leave?  or later?
    Say goodbye to any that the chairman is not attending to
    Make sure the room is left tidy, no papers, files, bags etc left
    Check bill is correct and pass to treasurer
    Thank you letters to be sent?   Or does chairman do that?
    Liaise for final time with venue
    Be the last to leave the room - final check!

    Nancy Sanderson and Stirling Club workshop

Saturday 12 February, 2022

Page X of Y in Microsoft Publisher

Microsoft Publisher has always been the ‘ugly duckling’ of the Microsoft Office Suite. It doesn’t have the same prominence as other Office programs.  Unlike Microsoft Word you cannot create a table of contents that updates automatically for example. Nevertheless, if you want to mix text and graphics is a little easier with Publisher than with Word.

I used Microsoft Publisher to edit our club magazine, The Rovers Document.  Manually editing the table of contents (TOC)  was not the biggest bugbear. I wanted to have the footer on each page say ‘The Rovers Document’ on the left-hand side, with Page X of Y in the centre and the month and year at the right hand side. X being the page number and Y being the total number of pages.

There is no inbuilt way to put Page X of Y using Publisher so I looked for a way of doing this using VBA. A web search yielded a macro that adds a text box to every page with the page number and page count. That is not very satisfactory for a number of reasons. It is difficult to update and it does not use the header or footer.

Publisher uses master pages as templates to contain items that should appear on more than one page. In particular they contain header and footer elements. If you want to put a page number marker in a header or a footer you insert a page number marker by pressing Alt+Shift+9.

The marker displays as a ‘#’ character but, of course, it isn’t. If you use ‘#’ it does not work but if you use VBA to try to read that character it reads a ’#’.  Publisher VBA is not well documented, lacks a macro recording ability and there is no sendkeys facility. So how do you program placing a page number marker in the footer exactly where you want it?

So start on one of the pages where the footer has to appear (this makes sure that you access the correct master page) and run the macro. ActiveDocument.MasterPages(2).Footer in my publication is the footer on the master page used as a template for all pages except the TOC. Note that I have started a new section after the TOC.

strPagesCount is the count of pages, reduced by one to exclude the TOC. Then strIssue is the Month and Year converted to string format.

This is an updated version of the macro because I discovered that ~.TextRange.InsertPageNumber inserts a page number marker after the text, meaning that I do not need to use the CommandBars route to place a page number marker. I simply set the text, insert the page number marker and add the page number count and the issue date at the end.

Sub NumberPages()
    Dim strPagesCount As String'The number of pages
    Dim strIssue As String 'The month and year 
    Const conDocName As String = "The Rovers Document" 'The document name to be placed in the footer
    strPagesCount = CStr(ActiveDocument.Pages.Count - 1) 'Subtract 1 because the TOC is not to be included
    strIssue = CStr(Format(Date, "mmmm yyyy")) 'Find the current month and year
    With ActiveDocument.MasterPages(2).Footer.TextRange
        .Text = conDocName & vbTab & "Page " '(Re)sets the footer text
        .InsertPageNumber 'Insert a page number marker
        .InsertAfter (" of  " & strPagesCount & vbTab & strIssue) 'Insert text following the page number
    End With
End Sub

Tuesday 16 November, 2021

The Windmills of My Mind

Some months ago, I was asked to find a speaker for a charity dinner.  I consigned the question to the windmills of my mind, in the firm belief that the sails would turn, wheels and cogs would interlock and a speaker would be found.

Now I’m a sucker for ‘freebies’ and last week I picked up a free Rotary magazine from Sainsbury’s.
One of the articles was about leprosy. The very word conjures up fear. It is a wasting disease where the peripheral nerves die, causing pain and numbness, but also leaving the body vulnerable to damage. For millennia it was recognised as infectious and a sufferer was immediately banished from the community.

I was reminded of a famous letter written by Robert Louis Stevenson concerning leprosy. Stevenson had gone to the South Seas in the hope of recovering from tuberculosis, then an infectious and incurable disease. In Britain at the time, families were often ostracised if one of their members had the illness. He empathised with the social rejection of the lepers and decided to visit the island of Molokai where a famous priest, Father Damien, had just died.

A Belgian missionary, Damien had volunteered in 1878 to go to live in the leper colony on Molokai, a lawless place, ruled by violent gangs. Sixteen years later at the age of forty-nine he contracted leprosy and died, but not before establishing a civilised community, providing care, justice and peace. His total commitment to the lepers of Molokai gained him world-wide acclaim.

Father Damien

Stevenson was greatly moved by the care shown by the doctor and nuns in the hospital but repelled by the smell and sight of the lepers with their disfigured faces and bodies. Back in Hawaii a public figure, who had never visited the island of Molokai, wrote a letter in answer to a colleague’s enquiry about Fr. Damien. In his response he referred to the colony’s insanitary conditions and maligned the name of Father Damien. The letter was published in an Australian paper.

On reading the letter, Stevenson was outraged. In a lengthy open letter to the world’s press, he publicly humiliated the writer in a stinging rebuke. Stevenson’s invective was so severe, that he thought he might be sued.  He never was. In the letter Stevenson suggested that Damien might someday be made a Saint. The Vatican officially declared Damien a saint in 2009.

The treatment of leprosy advanced, but up until 1916 the only effective medication was injectable chaulmoogra oil, which had very unpleasant side effects. In 1916 a black American chemist, Alice Augusta Ball was working at Hawaii University.  She was the first woman and first black American to teach chemistry and obtain a master’s degree at the University. At the age of 23, Alice discovered a method of radically improving the medication. Her discovery, led to the most effective treatment for leprosy until the 1940s, when a full cure was found. Sadly, Alice died in 1917. Four years after her death, her notes were published and her superior, the Dean of the University, was exposed as trying to claim the discovery for himself. He had even given the new medication his name.

Today leprosy has been almost completely eliminated globally. Any pockets are quickly identified and treated.
From an article in a Rotary magazine, my windmills had interlocked.  I had journeyed from Glasgow to Molokai and Hawaii, encountering en-route, saints and sinners, writers and reprobates, chemists and cures.
At the end of the article there was, written in small type: 
‘Anyone requiring an after-dinner speaker should contact ‘administrator@stfrancisleprosy.org.’
In the words of the song,
“As the images unwind, like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.”
My windmills had finally resolved the initial question and provided me with a potential speaker.

The full text of R.L. Stevenson’s letter can be viewed online.  There are several films about St. Damien on YouTube.
A film was made of Alice Augusta Ball’s life ‘The Ball Method’. 

Brendan Berry

Saturday 13 November, 2021

Beyond the Fifth Element

Was Sean Connery the 'quintessential' Bond or was Daniel Craig? Personally, I don't care because I want you to focus on the strange word 'quintessential'. It means 'the perfect example'. The 'essential' part makes sense, but what about the 'quint-' prefix? It's Latin for 'fifth' but why?

The origins of the word go back to ancient times and early attempts to understand what the world is made of. I shall explain why it divided astrologers from alchemists and how it gained its modern meaning. Finally, I'll move on to what the world is really made of and some important ideas we have to consider today.

The story begins in ancient Greece in the sixth and fifth centuries BC where the pre-Socratic philosophers were thinking about the primordial substance from which everything else was made. In time they decided it was not just one substance but four: earth, water, air and fire. These correspond to what we would now call three states of matter: solid, liquid and gas plus energy.

Aristotle felt that the heavenly bodies were composed of a fifth element. Although he did not use the term himself, it came to be called the Aether. So why, even today, do people talk about four elements when the idea was outdated when Alexander was a lad? Probably because twelve is divisible by four, but not by five, and there are twelve signs of the zodiac. So, three star-signs share one element.

In medieval alchemy the fifth element was very important and they called it 'quintessence'. Quintessence was thought to be a panacea for curing illnesses or even the philosopher's touchstone that would transform base metal into gold.

Incidentally by medieval times alchemists recognized two more elements, sulphur and mercury. So, according to astrologers you could be fiery, earthy, wet or windy but if astrology ever moved on you could be vitriolic, mercurial or ethereal. Of course, the adjective we are missing is 'quintessential'. Alchemists saw the fifth element as the purest element so the term 'quintessential' came to mean the perfect example of something.

Sulphur and mercury are real chemical elements. There are another ninety naturally occurring elements. Water isn't one of them but gold is. There is no Rumpelstiltskin out there spinning gold out of straw so let's ditch fairy tales and antiquated philosophical concepts because we need to look to the future not the past. We need to understand the modern concept of an element to deal with the state of the planet.


To be clear, the modern definition of an element is a substance that cannot be broken down using chemical reactions. These are the fundamental building blocks of our world. If you search the Internet for 'periodic table' you will see them listed from the simplest to the most complex.

The first element is hydrogen, meaning the water-former and you are going to hear a lot about green hydrogen from now on. If you pass a direct current through water you can break it down into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is 'green' if the electricity is generated by renewables. When you burn hydrogen it recombines with oxygen to produce water. Green hydrogen will one day power aircraft.

Lord Bamford, the chairman of JCB argues that it would be better to run all vehicles on green hydrogen. His company has developed a kind of internal-combustion engine that runs on hydrogen rather than fossil fuel. Bamford says that you cannot use electric engines in the type of heavy plant machinery his company produces. He also claims that his new engines are closer to the kind of engines that mechanics are used to. The counter argument from Energy UK is that the expense of hydrogen production and the cost of deploying new infrastructure rule out the use of hydrogen-powered cars at least in the next decade.

The real fifth element is not particularly exciting. In fact, it is named boron. Boron is found in the mineral borax and in the heat-resistant glass used for casserole dishes. The sixth element is a different matter, much more important. The adjective should be 'sextessential' but that sounds like a late-night Channel Four programme. A web search suggested an interesting alternative, 'existential': of, or relating to existence. The existential element is carbon because all life is based on carbon and its ability to form long-chain molecules such as proteins, fats, carbohydrates, DNA, RNA etc..



I have given you a few definitions to ponder. I have shown you how the concept of elements has developed from ancient times to our modern understanding and how the latter feeds into climate debate. The carbon cycle is out of balance and we have to be careful to be balanced in our response. Language matters. Campaign groups overuse the term 'existential threat' to justify anarchic behaviour and terrified teenagers believe they may see the end of the world. No, Greta we do not need 'blah, blah, blah'. Not even from you. In Classical Greek, words are 'lexeis' but logical reasoned arguments, or words that lead to actions, are logoi. The success of COP26 will be judged by how many logoi it produces.

Wednesday 3 November, 2021

Speaking at a formal function – getting organised.

Grinning Chimp

You don’t remember why you said yes – you’re not even sure you did – but now your  ‘best friend’ has reminded you that you agreed to get them out of  a hole by speaking at their formal club event / college prize giving /  fund raising dinner or whatever. My advice – return the monkey now to your friend’s back and let them take at least the initial strain.

So this is a list of ten questions – and none the worse for it. Give it to your friend, or work your way through it together; once you know the answers to these questions, you’re more or less organised - just throw in some words of wisdom or suitable jokes, and you’re there. Or at least, that’s my theory. Good luck with it!

  1. Numbers – how many people will be at this function and what sort of people? What links them? (E.g. students, Rotarians, parents, members of a particular club … ).
  2.   Dress – is there an appropriate or expected dress? Are medals to be worn? 
  3. Timing – how long is this speech to be?
  4. Opening – what’s required? (E.g. My Lords, ladies and gentlemen; Lord Lieutenant, Principal, ladies and gentlemen, … )
  5. Is this speech either a formal toast or a reply to a toast? If so what’s required? Who’s replying or if that’s you, who’s making the toast? Get their contact details – can be useful to consult each other in advance.
  6.    Are there any peculiar customs you should know about? (E.g. loving cup or similar ceremony, interruptions to speeches, spontaneous singing … )
  7. Seating – where will you be sitting, who’s beside you, who are they?
  8. Speaking – when during the function will you speak, where do you speak from, do you have a lectern, what’s the lighting like?
  9. Microphone – is there one? What kind (e.g. table mike, throat mike … )? How does it work – where’s the on / off switch? Can you get a quick try-out before the function?
  10. Who will introduce you? Try to take control of your own introduction – write it yourself (ideally short, topical and amusing), send the person introducing you a copy in advance and carry a paper copy to thrust at them on the day.  
Ruth Maltman

Tuesday 8 June, 2021

What is a Speakers Club?

What comes to mind when you hear ‘Speakers Club’? Do you imagine a school environment where you are tested and scored on capability; where you either pass or fail? Do you imagine a room full of business people in suits and ties, swapping business cards and trying to ‘outdo’ one another? Or do you imagine a room full of people from all backgrounds and capabilities who share one common goal and that is to invest in themselves? 

If you imagine the third scenario then you are 100% correct. Our meetings, although hugely beneficial when it comes to the art of public speaking, offer so much more. In a relaxed environment, where social interaction is encouraged, we teach you how to build your confidence, present to an audience, control your nerves, speak with clarity and conviction and learn from others. Together we can achieve great things and our goal as a speaker’s club is to help you achieve greatness. 

So much of our life revolves around the fight or flight intuition. This is part of our genetic makeup where our ancestors needed to protect themselves from predators in order to survive. Often, it’s the easier option to chose ‘flight’, but visualise the empowerment of standing up and winning the ‘fight’. Having the confidence to go for that promotion or a new job, speak out in meetings, become the life and soul of the party instead of shrinking into the background, make an impact in everything you do. This can be you! And we can teach you the skills and techniques to get there. So, stop procrastinating and come along and see for yourself. 

We meet every second and last Wednesday of each month at 7.30pm currently on Zoom but we have everything crossed for being able to meet in Moseley, Birmingham in July/August. Drop us a message to book your place.

Tuesday 16 March, 2021

Top 10 Tips to Avoid Death by PowerPoint

Avoid Death by PowerPoint

PowerPoint can be a great aid to use to support your speech however, it can also work against you. Rather than enhance what you are saying to your audience, if not used properly it can actually turn your audience off completely.

Here are some top tips to consider the next time you need to write a presentation. 

1. Before you even get to your computer, consider what your subject is and what you need to cover. Have you done your research and is everything correct? What are your objectives? Are you trying to persuade, entertain, inform etc? How long does it need to be and finally, what is the outcome that you are looking to achieve?

2.Once you have a clear agenda or story, break down your main ideas into bite-sized statements for each of your slides. This will help you control the length of your presentation and decide what needs to be there and what doesn’t need its own slide.

3. Choose a single background to your presentation and use it throughout. If you use a different background it will look ill-prepared and distracting. By all means, use the tools that PowerPoint has to float words onto the screen or fade in or out, but don’t overuse these. Keep it simple and clear.

4. Use simple and clear fonts ensuring the text is big enough. Think about the audience in the back, they need to see what you have written too.

5. Use bullet points rather than sentences. You only want to give your audience a snapshot of what you are going to talk about, not the whole of your speech. When you are presenting try not to read from the screen either. Your audience can already read your presentation. When you go through each point, that’s when you can elaborate.

6. Use key words to emphasise your points. Use strong punchy words that get the point across without giving away everything.

7. Make sure that your slides follow a logical order. Nothing is more off-putting than a presentation that jumps all over the place. Think about a story needing a beginning, middle and end.

8. Use pictures. If they support your presentation then use pictures to support your key points. It will help to keep your audience interested and engaged.

9. Avoid a lot of text and too many slides. If you have ever heard the saying ‘Death by PowerPoint’ this is why. The more your audience needs to read, the less they will listen to you and the more what you are saying will fall flat.

10. Rehearse and time your presentation. Sounds obvious, but lack of preparation before your presentation will show. You need your words and your PowerPoint presentation to work in complete harmony. You are only able to see if your speech and presentation work together if you present it out loud. Present to a friend or family member and ask for honest feedback. By the time you are ready to deliver your presentation, you will be confident that your PowerPoint presentation and your speech meets all of the points mentioned in tip 1.

Bonus Tip: Love what you are presenting. Passion comes across in your voice, so enjoy your subject and good luck !