Oxford Branch

British Cactus and Succulent Society


Whether or not Branch members discuss their speakers is debatable; perhaps declining dress sense, receding hairline or distending paunch may be commented on, but probably not their contributions to botany or horticulture. It is more certain, however, that when a group of speakers gather over a glass of mineral water the conversation turns to the subject not of adventures in exotic lands but of travels and travails within our own sea-girt realm. At some personal risk your correspondent has recorded part of such a discussion.

A. …I had just said “Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen” when the lights went out. Not just in the building but in the whole town. Soon there was the Crash Tinkle Tinkle of motors piling up outside and the Ee Aw Ee Aw of the emergency services. The Chairman said we ought to go home, but not before I had judged the Table Show. It was pitch dark, and I had to do it by feel. It was Euphorbias.

All Ha Ha Ha.

B. That’s nothing. When I went to a certain Branch the whole audience just gawped at me. Three of them had zimmer frames. When I asked where the power socket was, nobody knew, and I had to search the room myself. There was no Chairman, so I had to introduce myself and then thank myself for coming.

C. Huh. I once drove for three and a half hours and found an audience of three people.

All Yeah Yeah Done that.

D. I can tell you a better story than that. I drove hundreds of miles for an audience that was hardly any bigger. The Chairman was most apologetic, and assumed that most of their members must have been on holiday. He did, however, have a message from one couple, which he read out. They couldn’t come because their pet rat had died and they were too upset.

All Ha Ha.

D. No speaker will ever get an inflated sense of his own worth if he remembers that he is second in importance to a dead rat.

E. I was actually charged £2 to attend one of my own lectures. I was so gobsmacked that I actually paid. Nobody ever apologised or offered to refund it, and even now I’m still marvelling at it.

A. Can’t imagine you not adding it to your expenses, Jock.

E. Grrr.

F. At the end of one Branch meeting, after the vote of thanks, the Chairman whispered to me “Watch this.” Then he said, loudly “Can I have some help to put the furniture away?” There was a sudden violent rush and a splintering noise as three people got wedged in the door with arms and legs flailing and a scrum behind trying to force their way through. The Chairman, who was quite elderly, and myself, the guest speaker, put the tables and chairs away all by ourselves.

All That’s just typical. I remember…

At this point I was called away by a nice lady who wanted to know if I did talks.