One of my duties as a committee member of the Louth Navigation Trust, and a hangover from my days as Chairman, is that from time to time I get invited as the guest speaker, by various local groups to their AGMs or other functions, to give a talk on the Trust and the history of the canal. The Louth Ladies Luncheon Club had originally invited me to speak in July, but the other day I got an anxious phone call from their outgoing secretary to say that because of the bad weather, their advertised speaker for January, had postponed and, would I be able to fill the gap? Reluctantly, I said yes. My original intention had been to prepare them a brand new presentation and quietly consign the talk I had been giving for the past five years or so to the shelves in the storeroom of history. I was pretty certain that nearly everybody in East Lindsey had heard it, perhaps several times. Hence the reluctance. There wasn’t time to prepare a new talk and amass all the necessary photographic material. Much of the talk was out of date, and the most common question I get asked; “What is the Trust doing?”, would have to be answered.
I arrived to set up at eleven-thirty, with my decaying laptop (Windows 98) and friend Ruth’s state of the art digital projector, and decided to use the old material and talk round it – almost on the hoof, as it were.
Lunch was excellent. There were about forty ladies present and I sat at the top table between the Chair and the President. We didn’t stop talking the entire meal, one of my favourite English lunches, roast stuffed shoulder of pork with all the trimmings followed by treacle sponge and custard. Great winter fare, and as the day was sleety and cold, very welcome. We talked about Louth, its multitude of hidden talent, the problems in the teaching profession, what a lean time the youth of today had compared to the freedoms we were allowed in the forties and fifties, and the awful over-emphasis on ‘Health & Safety’, which seems to be draining any initiative for allowing children and adolescents a creative childhood, out of the nation’s genes. All around the room was the constant buzz of stimulated conversation. This was the first time some of the members had been able to get into Louth from the surrounding villages since the snowfall. After coffee, we toasted the Queen!
I gave my talk, slide by slide and talking about the problems of trying to raise funds in the middle of a recession, and the further difficulties of fund-raising in the North, when all the lottery money is draining South to fund the 2012 Olympic Games! To my amazement, I was constantly stopped and asked questions about various points. At the end of the talk there were more questions, and the chairman (a woman) had to intervene to bring the proceedings to a halt. Whilst I was packing my equipment away, several ladies came up to ask more questions and to offer help. Far from feeling that I had given a jaded, out-of-date presentation, I was made to feel I had given one of the best performances the Club had seen. One lady being kind enough to comment to me, how refreshing to have a speaker who didn’t use notes. It all made a cold, dark, wintry day suddenly seem worth while and gave me a huge burst of energy and enthusiasm for what the Trust is doing.
So, as Elaine Strich’s song goes; “Here’s to the Ladies who Lunch”, long may they continue to do so, giving their much needed support to local causes (a generous donation to the Trust was handed over in the customary blank envelope). It all makes me realise how much I have enjoyed living back in the north and how welcome I have been made to feel in Louth. It is ten years this year that I left London to live here, and I haven’t had a moment’s regret; oh, and thank you Louth Ladies Luncheon Club for the invitation and a great day!