Juliet – Savaged by a Dead Sheep?

People of a certain age may remember MP Denis Healey’s comment that being criticised by Geoffrey Howe in the House of Commons was ‘like being savaged by a dead sheep’.


Well, today I am hoping for a similar experience. While the Olympians parade through London to universal acclaim, I will be doing a work presentation to a group of patient (as in the noun, not the adjective) representatives – introducing them to a new NHS service that is intended to improve their health care.

On the face of it, they sound like a harmless bunch of mainly senior citizens. But I have already been warned to watch out for Mary, ‘the one who looks like a sweet old lady but goes for the jugular’; and Harry, ‘who will eat you alive if he doesn’t like what you’re saying’. So while I would like to think that they will savage me like dead sheep, rather than ravening wolves, I’m not over-confident.

This happy prospect made me think about my talks as a writer. Those audiences are anything but hostile – the worst that can happen is that a sweet old lady (usually in the front row, in full view of the speaker) falls asleep. Many of them share my passion for Jane Austen and give me every encouragement. If it’s a Women’s Institute talk, then I often have to judge a competition – anything from ‘oldest book’ to ‘best rose’ – but it’s hardly high-risk (provided I make a quick getaway afterwards).

Of course, if you put the same gentle people in the arena of the NHS they may well react like Mary and Harry to protect their interests. And who could blame them, when it might literally be a matter of life or death?

Have any of you ever had particular challenges as a speaker – or as a member of the audience?

PS If I don’t survive today’s presentation, it was lovely knowing you …

10 thoughts on “Juliet – Savaged by a Dead Sheep?

  1. I’m always encouraged when I hear of people of all age groups fighting for something they believe in, but I do sincerely hope you don’t get savaged, Juliet!

  2. Ah well, ask Jane and Margaret about the lady in Exeter Library where we did a talk recently! She was a grammarian (or thought she was!) and was like a dog with a bone about the subjunctive. All three of us commented and fought our respective corners but on and on she droned. I turned to Cathie, who was chair for the event, and mouthed ‘For God’s sake shut her up!’….which, thankfully, she did and very sweetly. When the event closed, said woman stormed out without buying a book, or stopping to chat….ho hum.
    I sincerely hope you don’t get one of those, but in case you do …if I were you….I’d wear metal underwear.

  3. I’m with Linda – that lady was scary! But, thankfully, we were a group, and more than a match for her! Well, Linda and Margaret were, I just ate a toffee and watched.

    I hope you remain unsavaged, particularly by little old ladies, because that would be so embarrassing…

  4. My tip – always know where the nearest exit is, and don’t let anyone get between you and it. If they start throwing things, get under the desk. (If it’s flowers, or paper money, use your discretion.) I’ve only had a gun pulled on me once …

  5. A gun, Linda? Hope you’re joking – or else there’s another novel in there somewhere! Loved the story about Exeter Library, Linda and Jane. What on earth was your talk about – a history of the hanging participle? Henri – they were very passionate about the NHS. When I saw the stocks of mini muffins and fruit on the table, I did fear the worst – but fortunately none of them were launched in my direction.

  6. Very pleased you survived Juliet 🙂 You know, you lot don’t half know how to scare someone witless who has yet to talk about writing in public. And – ummm – what’s a subjunctive? 🙂 X

  7. Loved the picture of the sheep, Juliet! And glad to hear you didn’t get savaged!
    Sarah – I think subjunctives are mostly for French people 😀

  8. Sarah, we’ve all been scared witless and some of us still are! Thank you, Christina, I put my O level Art skills (plus Microsoft Shapes) to good use at last!

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