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Eldergate Members’ Blog

Before our meeting on 23 May, the club held its AGM for 2015-16, chaired by Dave Minzey. The 19 members present elected a new committee for the next Toastmaster year which runs from 1 July to 30 June.

Normally, the  club President can only hold office for one year at a time but as Tony Fasulo only took over from Emmanuel Bolade part way through the year, he was eligible to continue. Members duly voted Tony in as President for a ‘second term’.

The full list of officers for next year is:

President: Tony Fasulo

Vice President – Education: Steve Whiting

Treasurer: Jenny Chalmers

Vice President – Membership: Ian Haynes

Vice President – PR: Victor Taufa

Secretary / Vice President – Mentoring: Essie Rewane-Adejare

Sergeant at Arms: Esha Sokhi

Congratulations to first-time committee members Esha, Essie and Victor. The first date in the 2016-17 calendar is Club Officer Training on Saturday 9 July at Cranfield (10 am to noon). All members are welcome to attend this training session – you don’t have to be a club officer – particularly if you would like to learn more about what each role involves and meet members from other clubs in the area.


Yesterday’s post prompted an instant response from our Swiss correspondent, Brian Bollen. In September 2012, Brian completed the Jungfrau Marathon in the shadow of the Eiger. Well done No 2762! And if any other Eldergate members have completed a marathon – and have photographic  evidence – let me know and you will be added to the wall of honour!

Congratulations to our EasySpeak guru and all-round IT expert Gonza Avila on completing the 2016 London Marathon. Gonza got lucky in the ballot for places and, in true Toastmasters style, decided to ‘go for it!”

Gonza completed the 26.2 mile course in just a shade over 4 hours, a fantastic achievement. However, there were consequences, notably missing the club meeting next day – “I was expecting to be there but I did forget about the apocalyptic pain within your whole body after you run 26 miles!

‘Bletchley – Home of the Codebreakers’ as the road signs say. On Tuesday 16 December, Bletchley was also the venue for Eldergate’s Christmas meal and Tall Tales competition, jointly hosted with our friends from the Grapevine Business Network. The event was held at The Brasserie @ MK College, right next to Bletchley Park, the home of the computer as well as the codebreakers.

At the most basic level, computing is all about binary codes – 1 or 0, positive or negative, true or false. Could our audience crack the code and work out which of our Tall Tales speakers were telling the truth and who was spinning a yarn?

Patience Clottey recounted her young son’s solo journey through the heart of West Africa following a missed flight which had dramatic consequences, including an encounter with a leopard! Jamie McGee recalled how his claustrophobia stemmed from a childhood fall down an old well in Stantonbury. Jonathan Worth recreated a ghostly experience on a merchant ship anchored at night off the coast of Portugal, while Ian Haynes reminisced about a birthday performance at MK Theatre as a part-time pantomime pirate in Peter Pan!


True or false? A split decision in every case as each speaker managed to pull the wool over the eyes of many in the audience. It emerged that Patience and Jonathan were telling it straight while Jamie and Ian were exercising their imagination. Jonathan picked up the prize for most entertaining speaker.


Tall Tales speakers – Ian, Patience, Jonathan and Jamie

Earlier, the Grapevine Christmas-themed quiz was won by the ‘Out of Focus‘ team comprising Ian and Linda Haynes, Patience Clottey and Mary-Ann Avotri. The team name? We all wished we had brought our reading glasses for the picture round – echoes of last year’s winners, ‘Bad Eyesight’!

The food at The Brasserie is prepared and served by catering and hospitality students from the College: we were able to watch them on screen preparing our food. Afterwards, in true Toastmaster style, we were given the opportunity to ‘evaluate’ our meals as one of the chefs emerged from the kitchen with a large notebook asking for our feedback. What did you think of the soup? Was the duck too dry? Did you have enough vegetables?

Most of the comments were very positive, including from our chef Ty Harvey (left) – a graduate of the college, last year’s Tall Tales winner … and this year’s Christmas jumper champ! – although, as you would expect from a group of Toastmasters, there were a few constructive suggestions for improvement!

Many thanks to Trisha Page for organising the event; Brian Greenwood of Grapevine for setting the quiz; and the staff and students at The Brasserie for a very enjoyable evening.

If you missed it last year, there’s another chance to see this documentary by the poet, presenter and professor Simon Armitage. First shown in October 2013, it was repeated on BBC4 recently which means it is currently available on the BBC I-Player until 10 December.

Armitage looks at some of the most famous speeches in recent history and identifies what makes them so memorable. For a review of the programme, and how his conclusions relate to the Toastmasters’ approach, scroll down the Eldergate Members Blog page to November 2013.


Apart from the MK Toastmasters website, there are two other sites that are increasingly important to the day-to-day running of the Eldergate club.



This is where club members can sign up for speaking slots and all other roles at meetings. Previously, you really needed to attend a meeting in order to book a speech or to take on a role but now you can do this online.

Handy too if you find yourself able to attend a meeting you were expecting to miss: you can see at a glance what roles you could still volunteer for.

As a bonus, the more that members use Easy-Speak, the easier it will be for the VP Education and the Toastmaster of the Evening to organise club meetings as they can use the system to automatically produce agendas and to record who did what at every meeting.

You will need to log in to use Easy-Speak – just contact Gonza Avila (VP  for IT!) if you don’t yet have a username and password or if you have forgotten them. Once logged in, you can change your password to something more memorable.

When you have logged in, click on either the Meetings tag in the Toolbar across the top of the page, or on the date of the next meeting (3rd box down on right hand side). You can then sign up for any roles that are still available for that meeting.



This is a great way of publicising the club to people in the area who may be thinking about how they could improve their public speaking skills. Anyone searching Meetup for public speaking groups in the MK area will find the MK Toastmasters page coming up in their results.

Meetup gives the times and dates of all the local TM club meetings. If you join the MK Toastmasters Meetup group (for free), you will be notified of all upcoming meetings in the area on a regular basis.

Other features of Meetup include being able to RSVP, so that we know you will be coming to a particular meeting. You can also comment on a meeting in advance, and add some feedback afterwards: it all helps to show potential guests that we are an active and lively group that is worth checking out.


Other sites

Facebook – we have a Facebook page: search for Eldergate Toastmasters Milton Keynes on Facebook.

Rebelmouse – you can see what all 5 clubs in Area 44 are up to on this new site, managed by Daniel Sandars (VP Public Relations, Cranfield Speakers). Go to

Toastmaster International – the TI site contains a lot of helpful information and advice. You will need to log in to access some of it (yes, another username and password required!) Go to

Toastmaster magazine – you can now read the TM monthly magazine on your tablet. Download the app from the Apple® App Store, Amazon Appstore or Google Play store by searching for “Toastmaster Magazine.” To download the app, you will need to “Sign In” in the upper left and input the username and password that you use on the Toastmasters International website.

You can also read back issues from 2012 to the present day on the TI website without needing to log in.


Three competitors lined up at the start line for the Club’s Humorous Speech and Table Topics contests at the NBC on 22 September.

Miriam Selwyn got the Humorous Speech contest off with a bang by recalling her experience of US border control. She was followed by Jonathan Worth describing his less than successful attempt at following fellow member Ty Harvey’s homemade pizza recipe. But it was Tony Fasulo who broke the tape in first place with his cautionary tale about his wife’s shopping habits (‘Danger – do not approach!’). Jonathan finished runner-up.


Humour contestants Tony, Miriam and Jonathan

Club Treasurer Jenny Chalmers set the Topics question – The good fairy has granted you one wish: what would it be? Delving into folklore and mythology, Lynette Hill would like to meet a red dragon. Jonathan, recovering quickly from his pizza disaster, wanted long life and happiness to enable him to travel. Trisha Page, taking her cue from the blue suede shoes she was wearing, would travel back in time to meet Elvis at Graceland. It was Elvis – sorry, Trisha – who topped the charts, with Lynette at No 2.

Topics contestants Tricia, Lynette and Jonathan

Contest chair, John Dale, helped to make the contestant interviews almost as entertaining as the contests. Jim Reynolds (North Bucks Speakers) led the judging panel, comprising Rose Marie and Ian Calder (Vale Speakers), Emmanuel Bolade and Ian Haynes. They were assisted by vote counters Susi Jensen and Monet McGee, and timekeepers Mary-Ann Avotri and Patience Clottey. Special thanks to Jim, Rose Marie and Ian for their support.

Both winners and runners-up go through to the Area contests at Cranfield at the end of September.


Area contest results: Eldergate members all performed well but were not placed in the Top 3… except congratulations to Dave Minzey who finished second in the Humourous Speech contest, in his alter ego as a member of Bedford Speakers.

2013 was a very significant year for Eldergate’s longest serving member, Dave Minzey. Dave achieved the Distinguished Toastmaster award (DTM), the highest individual recognition in Toastmasters and one that only about 1,200 members achieve each year, from a worldwide membership of nearly 300,000.

It means that Dave has completed the highest level on both the Communication track (Advanced Communicator Gold) and the Leadership track (Advanced Leader Silver). Or put another way – he has delivered 45 speeches from 8 different manuals, served as a club and district officer, and helped to set up 2 new clubs.

Dave, you joined Eldergate in 1989 when Margaret Thatcher was still prime minister and mobile phones were the size of a house brick. What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in the club since those days?

When I joined, the club was all male, and all engineers as well (mostly from host company Stone & Webster – Ed). Now we have a 50:50 male-female ratio and members from a diverse range of backgrounds which is much better for club atmosphere. There was a ‘Distinguished Club’ awards scheme but no one understood how the club could achieve an award. The current scheme is quite easy to follow. And Eldergate was the most northerly club in the UK at the time: now there are clubs as far north as Aberdeen.

What has kept you actively involved in the club for 25 years?

This club taught me skills that have proved invaluable in my life. I really like our club mission which states that we will be mutually supportive with the emphasis on positive learning; this keeps the focus on members. I also really enjoy hearing members’ stories. Whilst serving as Division Governor, I visited many other clubs but I always looked forward to returning to my ‘home’ club, Eldergate.

During that time you must have filled every role on the club’s committee, many of them more than once. How have you benefited from being involved in running the club?

I understand much more about organisation in general – including the absolute need to plan what you are going to say during a meeting, whether you are the timekeeper or the President.

What achievement are you most proud of from your 25 years in Toastmasters?

Apart from my DTM, it is the founding (and flourishing) of two other clubs, North Bucks Speakers and Bedford Speakers. This was not done alone and involved 5 separate attempts.

In member profiles, we usually only ask for one piece of advice to new members, but we’ll break the rules and allow you 3!

Thank you for your generosity!

1) Attend meetings regularly. Some nights I did not feel like going but I did and I was always pleased that I had made the effort.

2) Say yes to everything – get as much ‘stage time’ as you can. The more you do the better you become.

3) Prepare for any of the roles that you undertake. Put something of yourself into anything you do.


“One Tony Fasulo, there’s only one Tony Fasulo!” Not so apparently: there are at least two as Tony explained in his recent speech “Double Take” about a case of mistaken identity at a Las Vegas computer show some years ago.

As far as Eldergate Toastmasters is concerned, our one Tony Fasulo joined the club last year and has already made an impact. Tony won the club’s humorous speech contest in September and followed that up by finishing as runner-up in the area contest. He was also runner-up in the club’s Topics contest.

All this was achieved with the bottom half of his left leg in plaster as a result of an ‘adventure sport’ accident. The injury: a ruptured Achilles tendon. The adventure activity: skiing? paragliding? a bungee jump? No … just table tennis. The lengths some people will go to for a speech topic!


Why did you join Toastmasters?
To become a better communicator in order to help others to believe in themselves. I would love to become a motivational speaker and hope I can learn the skills necessary to achieve this goal from attending Toastmasters.

What did you find your biggest challenge when you joined?
Being asked to speak in an impromptu fashion with no preparation whatsoever. In the business world you HAVE to prepare everything so speaking ‘off the cuff’ in Table Topics was quite alien to me.

… and how did you meet that challenge?
Still working on it!

How has being a Toastmaster benefited you?
The feedback has been immense in helping me to improve not only as a speaker but in giving me greater belief in my own ability!

What do you like most about the Eldergate club?
It is a warm friendly crowd and very welcoming, like an extended family.

Tell us something unusual about yourself that most fellow members won’t already know
I once saved a woman’s life just by the belief I instilled in her with the words I said. (The detail of what happened is for a future talk!)

If you could give one piece of advice to a new member, what would it be?
Just believe in yourself as we are all special. Be brave and let out your true talents that are locked away inside, to show everyone just how ‘good’ you really are.

What achievement are you most proud of outside Toastmasters?
Starting two businesses and both going reasonably well (so far!)

What book, film, or piece of music do you find inspiring and why?
BOOK – ‘Sumo’ by Paul McGee, for it’s simple, no nonsense, inspiring message. FILM – ‘A Christmas Carol’: daft I know, but because anyone can change for the better if they choose to. MUSIC – “If you could see me now” by The Script: powerful because it is personal to me and something I would have liked my late mother to have witnessed in me.

As well as Toastmasters, what do like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? What’s that?!

Describe your approach to life in 3 words
Just Do it!

180 Eldergate members, plus a similar number of members of the Grapevine business network, packed into the Tardis-like upper room of the Slug & Lettuce on Monday night for the club’s annual Tall Tales competition and the Grapevine seasonal quiz.

Before the Tall Tale telling, we enjoyed a sumptuous 10 course banquet, specially prepared by Raymond Blanc enjoying a rare night off from his Brasserie at The Hub. The guest of honour was Prince William who stopped off in Milton Keynes on his way home from watching Aston Villa on Saturday.

Earlier in the day, the Prince had checked on progress on the new public house under construction in the west of the city which is to be named ‘The Prince George of Cambridge’, in honour of his son. Well, it makes a change from the Queen Vic.

The Tall Tale tellers were Emmanuel Bolade, Brian Bollen, John Dale, Ty Harvey and Ian Haynes, all introduced by Trisha Page. The Tall Tales timer was Phil Chippendale who was fortunate indeed to survive an early evening encounter with a polar bear.

The wide-ranging subject matter included jumping from planes; ‘a room full of rich Ruperts’ (including Murdoch); ‘penguin bashing’; the dangers of breaking in to your own house; and a South African superhero called Vicus. If you weren’t there, can you match the tale to the teller? If you were there, were you sober enough to remember?

Ty Harvey was deservedly voted best speaker; his prize, a pair of silver plated turtle doves. Well, it is Christmas. The winners of the quiz, set by Grapevine’s Brian Greenwood, were Bonkers United – John Dale, his wife Antonietta, Richard Osman and Tony Fasulo.

The evening concluded with a demonstration of hypnosis by Grapevine member Paul Johnson. While Paul’s assistant, Maria, didn’t quite reach the state of deep relaxation intended, Dave Minzey was seen to nod off in the audience.

So there we are, another entertaining Tall Tales evening accurately recorded for posterity. As the late, great John Martyn used to sing, “half the lies he tells you are not true” – but the question is, which ones?