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Eldergate Members’ Blog

Toastmasters is an international organisation and Eldergate has long enjoyed a cosmopolitan membership. Emmanuel Bolade, the latest Eldergate member to achieve the ‘Competent Communicator’ award, hails from Nigeria, moving to England in 2007.

Emmanuel completed his early speech projects as a member of the Manchester Orators club. He has made a big impact since moving to Eldergate earlier this year, winning the club table topics contest, followed by a very creditable second place in the area contest, and finishing as runner-up in the club humorous speech contest.

When and why did you join Toastmasters?
At my first meeting, in September 2012. I joined to improve my presentation skills to boost my career progress.

How has being a Toastmaster benefited your career?
Tremendously, it has transported me from having wet palms before major presentations to actively seeking out opportunities to present!

What has been the biggest unexpected benefit for you of joining Toastmasters?
The leadership track has been beneficial in helping me manage team members and developing quality leadership traits in me.

What do you like most about the Eldergate club?
3 things – the quality is very high, the number of advanced speakers, and the fun is very addictive.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new member, what would it be?
The more you participate, the better you will become.

What book do you find inspiring?
I adore Napoleon Hill’s book “Laws of Success”.

As well as Toastmasters, what do like to do in your spare time?
Jazz piano is my pet passion, unfortunately some people say I am very not good at it.

Who is your favourite actor/ actress and why?
Nicole Kidman because of her acting skills, green eyes and beauty … not necessarily in that order.

Who is your favourite musician and why?
Michael Buble who has converted his awkwardness to a polished and classy style.

Describe your approach to life in 3 words?
Church, Relationships and Life

In “Speeches that Shook the World” (BBC4, 6 November), the poet, writer and broadcaster Simon Armitage went in search of the ‘alchemy’ that can transform the written word into a great speech.

Many of the speakers featured in the programme were very well known – Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher and Earl Spencer for example – while others may be less familiar, such as Colonel Tim Collins addressing his troops before going into battle in Iraq in 2003; or Pauline Pearce, a local resident spontaneously challenging rioters on the streets of Hackney in 2011. Other contributors included Philip Collins, once a speechwriter for Tony Blair; the human rights activist Peter Tatchell; and the actor Charles Dance.

The commentary and analysis were often illuminating. The ‘rhymes and half rhymes’ in the line-endings of Churchill’s speeches appealed to Armitage’s poetic sensibilities – ‘beach’, ‘street’, ‘believe’, ‘see’, ‘fleet’ – while vocal coach and actor (notably in The Thick Of It) Vincent Franklin introduced us to Logos, Ethos and Pathos. No, not The Three Musketeers but the 3 persuasive elements of classical rhetoric, as defined by the Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle.

  • Logos – structure, logic and explanation
  • Ethos – trust and sincerity
  • Pathos – emotion

Or to put it another way, if effective speech-making is the art of persuasion, then you need to appeal to the mind, the heart and the guts. To do this, you must first identify what it is that you want people to know, to feel and to do.

Franklin also explained ‘the ladder of abstraction’, from the top rung (the big idea or concept), via the middle rung (the decisions needed to realise the big idea) to the bottom rung (the real things required to achieve it). This was well illustrated by the example of raising educational standards (the big idea) through investing in schools (the middle rung) and reducing class sizes (the bottom rung). According to Franklin, good speeches range up and down this ladder.

Other classical tricks of the trade put in an appearance including Anaphora (repeating words or phrases for effect); Praeteritio (drawing attention to something by saying you’re not going to talk about it); and Hendiatris (the Rule of 3). These were well illustrated in turn by extracts from speeches by President Kennedy, Barack Obama and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Armitage also tackled the power of language to shock, divide and inflame, notably what has become known as the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech by Enoch Powell in 1968.  In contrast, the climax of the programme was a speech that he felt demonstrated how the combination of the right words, a strong argument and powerful delivery could change the mindset of a whole nation: Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech from exactly 50 years ago this year.

Reflecting on the programme, fellow and prospective members of Toastmasters will be reassured, encouraged and delighted to learn that much of the advice provided by Armitage and his expert guests echoed the objectives of speech projects in the Toastmasters ‘Competent Communicator’ manual – e.g. setting out a clear structure (Organise Your Speech); choosing the right words (How To Say It); and improving your delivery by varying your pace, pitch and power …. and using pauses (Vocal Variety).

Toastmasters can’t promise to turn you into a speaker of Martin Luther King’s calibre overnight, but we can help you find your public speaking voice. So if you dream of speaking well in public, why not drop in to one of our meetings. Guests are always welcome. Please see the Calendar pages for details.


For a detailed analysis of Earl Spencer’s eulogy at the funeral of Princess Diana, see the Toastmaster magazine of December 2003

Our intrepid English teacher in Brazil, Nina Cirana, recalls the incident that prompted her to start learning Portuguese.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting in a busy café having lunch – a vegetable pie with a crusty top. I picked up a fork and sat down to enjoy my lunch. It was a bit of a struggle trying to eat the pie with a fork. Suddenly out of the blue, a man came up to my table and said “f*** you?”

I didn’t hear him clearly, so I gestured as if to say ‘what’? He repeated, this time a bit louder, “f*** you?” I was stunned and shouted ‘WHAT DID YOU SAY?’ He said it again. I started swearing at him, “How dare you! I’ll call the police….” and looked around to see if anybody would look up or come to my rescue. Nobody did. They didn’t understand my language.

The man left without saying a word and returned with something in his hand. It was a knife and fork set. He offered the knife to me, saying again “facka you?” He gestured to me to use it to cut my pie. My rusty brain suddenly clicked and I realised that he was asking me if I wanted a knife – a faca (facka) –  to cut the pie!

I decided to learn Portuguese there and then. If you try to learn the language from a phrase book, it is difficult. But if you learn the rules of the language, then you can tackle any word. First comes pronouncing words, then sentences. My burning urge to learn a new language is for one reason only – food – to be able to enjoy food! If you don’t know the language, you won’t be able to go to a restaurant and it’s a struggle to do your food shopping. For example …

Milk – leite is pronounced as leichi – rule: t followed by a vowel sounds as ch

R is never pronounced as r at the beginning of a word. It’s not pronounced as Rio de Janeiro. It’s Hio de Janeiro. The currency is not said as reais, but heais. Rachel is Hachel (Hakel) and Rebecca is Hebeka. Romildo is Homioudu because R becomes H and L in the middle of a word becomes a u sound.

I now know how to say basic words and phrases like ola, tchau, obrigada and many more; a few sentences to greet people like ‘tudo bem?’ ‘voce esta muito bom’; and a majority of sentences to help me with my food and shopping. I haven’t stopped patting myself on the back whenever I have asked for something in Portuguese and they have brought it for me. 


I don’t know about the big cities in Brazil, but in Iuna and in Alto Caparao, people flock around you when you are speaking in English. I’m not exaggerating but whenever there is a conversation in the cafe (one way of course), people repeat my words and laugh – e.g. ‘thank you very much’. They repeat that many times and laugh, but there is no rudeness. They laugh because they’re happy to have learned one ‘Ingles’ phrase, even if they don’t understand what it means.


Nina turns a cafe into a classroom for one of her older students.

Our president, John Dale, reports back on the Area Humorous Speech and Topics Contests at Cranfield.

“It is with great pleasure I can tell you the two competitions took place on Saturday and that in both competitions Eldergate members took second place. The competition was a large one as, being a small area, most clubs had placed two speakers and table topics contestants.

Tony Fasulo, who did a great job talking about his Mini with the pop out headlights, came second in the Humorous Speech contest and Emmanuel Bolade did a sterling job in also coming second at Table Topics with a very difficult subject of giving an example of turning a theoretical topic into a reality.

It was a great day and we were very proud of the contribution of our members.”









Tony (l) and Emmanuel (r) receive their certificates from Lynda Andrews (Area Governor) and John Schell (VP-Education, Cranfield Speakers)

Did you know that Brazil tops the world in fruit production? Apparently they have at least 300 different fruits so in her latest dispatch, our globetrotting English teacher, Nina Cirana, gives us the A to Z of tropical fruit – well, A to C and a few others, plus a checklist of other fruits and vegetables available from her local greengrocer.

A is for abakati (pronounced abakachi), aka avocado. They are as big as pumpkins and only cost 10 to 15 pence each. You see avocado trees on roadsides, you can pick up the fruits that are lying in plenty under the trees. These trees are so plentiful that people make furniture from them. I bought an avocado the other day and sliced 1/16th of it to eat, but still didn’t manage to finish it. The outer skin is almost as hard as a shell, so you can use that 1/16th part as a bowl. You simply scoop out from it and eat it with a sprinkling of salt and pimenta. The smooth, extra creamy texture – that luxurious feeling – ahhh, tastes so divine! They are so plentiful that you can eat them as common snacks or make a smoothie called Vitaminas. You can also cook with avocado oil.

B is for banana. Tall banana plants reach up to my window on the third floor. They are bursting with bunches of bananas, and I can also see pears in profusion on the pear trees, the loaded lime trees and the pumpkin creepers on the other side. Bananas are delicious and come in more than 50 varieties. I love the banana vegetables that are about a foot long, you slice them and make banana fritters. Delicioso!

C is for chuchu. Check out the photo of the chuchus growing on the trees. I tried to take a photo in the shop, but they wouldn’t allow me. Now I’m racking my brains trying to think of what it resembles! I don’t want to start telling you how smooth it feels and how delicious it tastes!

G is for guarana. The local Brazilian drink, Guarana, is made with guarana fruit which are like red berries. They come from the Amazon and have twice the caffeine found in coffee beans. Guarana also makes you alert and increases your memory power. I drink it before and during meetings to keep me awake!

O is for oranges. I’m standing under a tree with mini oranges that are slightly larger than a grape (see photo). These oranges are called ‘the oranges for the rich’. You eat the orange whole without peeling the skin and it is extremely sweet. The way to eat them is to pop the whole fruit into your mouth. I had to use my finger to push the orange little by little till it disappeared down my throat. I learnt my lesson and started picking the baby mini oranges.


Opposite my school / flat is a greengrocer who sells only organic vegetables and fruits. Besides vegetables like carrots, potatoes, leafy/salad vegetables, beans, peas and all that we get in the UK, we also have okras, green baby aubergines, yam, caras, asparagus, green bananas, cassava, jilos and many more that I haven’t come across.

I have yet to taste the caju fruits (the cashew nut fruit) and the brazil nut fruits. But I have eaten many mangoes, guavas, sapotis, papayas and pinhas, besides the usual apples, oranges, pears, bananas, strawberries, coconuts etc.



The Humorous Speech and Table Topics contest is one of the highlights of the Eldergate club calendar, and this year two of our newer members shone in the limelight.

The Humorous Speech contest was won by Tony Fasulo with his speech entitled “A Mini Disaster”. Tony was still on crutches following his recent ‘adventure sport’ injury (sustained playing table tennis!) – incidentally the subject of a great club speech recently – so he has form in turning disaster into triumph.

Emmanuel Bolade won the Table Topics contest with his response to the subject set by Beverly Kepple: “What purchase have you made that you most regretted buying?” For Emmanuel, at least some wilted flowers bought for a girlfriend on Valentine’s Day brought some belated compensation in the form of contest-winning impromptu speech.

Richard Foster-Fletcher was runner-up  in both contests but will also go through to the Area competitions with Tony and Emmanuel. The Area contests will be held on Saturday 28 September at Cranfield Speakers (see the Club Meetings page for details of how to to get there). Tony, Emmanuel and Richard  took part in both contests and were joined by Trisha Page in the Table Topics contest.

The evening was chaired by club president John Dale. A big thank you to our judges, led by chief judge Dave Minzey, particularly to the volunteers from our neighbouring clubs – Rose Marie Calder and Ian Calder from Vale Speakers, and Lynda Andrew and Jim Reynolds from North Bucks Speakers. They were joined by Trisha Page for the Humorous Speech contest.

It’s impossible to run contests without officials so thanks are also due to Varsha Chandarana (sergeant at arms) and Jenny Chalmers (timekeeper).

Eldergate member Nina Cirana is now in charge of a school in Iuna, a larger town than Alto Caparao with a population of about 20,000.  The area is known for its coffee plantations which cover some 10,000 square miles – for comparison, imagine the whole of Wales covered by coffee plantations, then add another 20%. So pay attention all budding baristas as Nina describes the local coffee industry and its end products.

The coffee bean is the seed of the coffee cherry which is the size of a blueberry. I tasted some on the bush – yuk! But they do give an indication of the flavour because they all vary. They grow in clusters on short shrubby trees; the higher the altitude, the better the quality. The manager of the school in Alto Caparao has a farm where his father grows and exports coffee: it’s called Mariano coffee, his surname.

Every morning by 5.30 am, I can hear the machines picking the coffee cherries on the top of the mountains. These enormous vehicles have moving metal hands which shake the trees, knocking off the cherries with leaves and twigs which are then sieved automatically to separate and funnel the cherries. The cherries are dried for at least 2 months before the seeds can be extracted. The flavour is hugely dependent on when the coffee is harvested and the exact amount of drying time. If they are over dried by even a week, the taste could deteriorate.

There are many types of coffee in Brazil and people drink it from the time they wake up to the time they go to bed. So far I have tried the following:

Cafezinho                    Filtered coffee, pre-sugared and sweet, with no milk.

This is what I drink normally all day. In restaurants, it is generally offered without charge. They bring a huge flask and you help yourself to as many cups as you wish (and I thought Cafezinho was a promising young central defender – Ed)

Café-com-leite            Coffee with hot milk

Café-pingado              Large portion of coffee with a drop of milk

Café-longo                  Coffee served in a large cup, more diluted than normal coffee

Café-carioca                Served in teeny weeny cups

These two are not popular at all:

Café-soluvel                Instant coffee. Who would drink instant coffee when you can have fresh?!

Descafeinado              Decaffeinated coffee. In Brazil? No way!

Trisha was brought up in Australia and brings a typically sunny, smiling and straight talking disposition to every club meeting. She has been club president twice and is currently the club secretary.

The photo (left) shows Trisha in her fancy dress outfit at the Toastmasters national conference in Glasgow a few years ago. The theme was the circus and Trish went as the big top. She had trouble sitting down at the dinner table but at least she won first prize!

When and why did you join Toastmasters?
2006. I joined because I wanted to be better when I did my 1 minute and 10 minute slots promoting my business at networking meetings

What did you find your biggest challenge when you first joined Toastmasters?
The Topics session, speaking off the cuff

… and how did you tackle that challenge?
Watched and listened to others, attended a workshop and practiced

How has being a Toastmaster benefited your business or personal life?
It’s given me huge confidence, both running my business and in my personal life … nothing fazes me now!

What has been the biggest unexpected benefit for you of joining Toastmasters?
I’ve been asked to be MC (master of ceremonies) at my son’s wedding! I’m so proud and excited!

What do you like most about the Eldergate club?
The friendship and support

What book do you find inspiring and why?
“Mutant Message Down Under: A Woman’s Journey into Dreamtime Australia” by Marlo Morgan. It makes me think about what is important in life

Describe your approach to life in 3 words
Never give up


Brazil currently seems to be the centre of world attention – a visit from the Pope, the football World Cup next year and  the Olympics in 2016, not to mention the mass public demonstrations that filled the streets of many major cities last month.

Eldergate member Nina Cirana is currently in Brazil, teaching English for 6 months at a school in the highlands of Minas Gerais province, some 300 miles NE of Rio. Here she recounts the kindness of strangers she met on her journey from Rio to the small town of Alto Caparao (pictured left).

“On the flight from Rio to Vitoria, I asked the gentleman next to me how much I should pay for the taxi from the airport to the main bus station (rodoviaria). He said “wait” and asked the man in the front seat whether I should take a taxi. The lady from the other side shouted “oi sim (yes) taxi”. The man from 2 seats behind on the left shouted something else. An old man from the front seat stood up and gave a lecture. They were all talking very loudly and I thought they were having a fight but they were simply ‘talking’ about the best solution for me. Finally my neighbour said to me “You go, don’t take bus, you go take taxi” and gave me all the details.

In Vitoria, the information lady at the airport tried to phone a friend at the rodoviaria to reserve a bus ticket for me but couldn’t get hold of him. She got me a safe airport taxi voucher, came out with me, and helped me into a taxi giving the driver clear instructions. I tried to shake her hand but she gave me a big hug!

The taxi driver, who couldn’t speak a word of English, parked by the bus station entrance, and searched in vain for a trolley. He stood in the queue with me for 40 minutes then spoke to the counter person, bought me a ticket, took details of where the bus departed from and went to the taxi to get my suitcases. I started noting down his registration number, just in case he drove away with my luggage. Instead, he returned with my bags, took me to the right bay to catch my bus, wrote down his name and phone number and gestured to me to phone if I had any problems.

I had to wait 6 hours for the coach, sitting in a shaded area bordered by hibiscus shrubs and banana plants, soaking in the sights and sounds. A brother and sister started talking to me and the brother, who couldn’t speak a word of English, made conversation for 3 hours with the help of a super-speed translation on his phone.

When I got on the coach, a girl called Eezabelle talked to the driver to make sure I was dropped off at the right place. When we stopped for supper, she came out with me, to help me out with what I wanted to eat and with paying at the counter.”

More from Nina in the months ahead.


Our meeting on 8 July was the first of the new Toastmasters year. The event was marked by last year’s president, Trisha Page, handing over the presidential chain of office to her successor, John Dale.

In what could well become a ‘new precedent’, our new President then delivered the first speech of the year: the true story of John Hooton, a young stable lad from Stony Stratford who was found guilty of stealing and transported to Australia.

Now some of us would pay good money to be transported to Australia, but apparently it wasn’t nearly as much fun 200 years ago!


John also kicks off a new series of profiles of Eldergate members (see below)

John Dale: In His Own Words

When and why did you join Toastmasters?
July 2011. I attended as a guest and then joined at my second meeting. I had been speaking in public for years but never had any real training. I wanted to improve and my daughter (already a member) suggested Toastmasters.

What do you like most about the Eldergate club?
The ‘formal informality’ of the club and the way all the members pull together to make a very lively, humorous and entertaining evening.

If you could give one piece of advice to a new member, what would it be?
Be yourself and come as you are. We do not stand on formality although meetings are structured.

What achievement are you most proud of outside Toastmasters?
Recognising the potential of NHS Direct (a 24 hour telephone advice line staffed by nurses) and starting the first pilot site.

As well as Toastmasters, what do like to do in your spare time?
I am the secretary of Milton Keynes Executives Action, a voluntary organisation that helps unemployed managers and executives back to work or to start their own business.

Describe your approach to life in 3 words
Try not to take anything too seriously, step back and think when something untoward hits you, and try to be happy in all you do. Happiness is like jam; you can’t spread it without getting some on yourself!! (More like 30 words than 3, but that’s the President’s prerogative! – Ed)