Life is full of surprises.
When I was 11 and had just failed my 11+, I felt second rate, and although I didn’t go to grammar school, or university, never in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself at the top echelons of the BBC, (Editor of the top-rating programme “That’s Life!” and Editor-in-Chief of BBC Online). It was a career I had never imagined to be possible for someone with my background.
Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would leave the BBC and be one of the team who created the magnificent Eden Project in Cornwall and I certainly never imagined that at the age of 60 I would create and run my own business and, as part of the marketing strategy, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would become a cruise ship speaker.
Life is a constant source of surprises and, if there is one lesson I have learned, it is to grab every opportunity and be enthusiastic and hardworking - and it’s amazing what you can achieve.
And that is why, when I was offered the chance to become a cruise ship speaker I didn’t hesitate, even though I was completely inexperienced at public speaking. Yes, I had been the boss of ‘That’s Life!’ and in charge of a big, bright team means so I had to be a good communicator but of courseI had left presenting the programme to Esther Rantzen and the others who wanted to be in front of the camera.
So I had to tackle a new challenge of writing talks – strictly one hour, including questions – not so tough because I was used to writing scripts. Then rehearse them. Then create entertaining presentations, which added to what I was saying, but were not the script. (I find there is nothing more annoying than a speaker who just reads what is on their PowerPoint). On my first cruise I had to prepare seven different one hour talks – that is a lot of work.
The next challenge was sorting out a wardrobe that would fit into my suitcase and which would cover me as a cruise ship speaker and me as a cruise ship passenger. Smart dresses and jackets for ‘work’ and casual clothes for ‘play’, although you are never actually fully off-duty, as you are considered to be a temporary crew member even when not ‘working’.
Joining a cruise is a bit like joining a family. Those passengers who have been on the ship for some time have made fast friendships; they paint, play bridge, march around the promenade deck, dance, go on amazing tours around fascinating places and generally have a lovely time together. The crew are a big very diverse ‘family’, often with particular nationalities being responsible for particular functions on the ship.
And so, I have spoken on Fred. Olsen, Saga, Cunard and Crystal Cruises ships. Each ship has its own distinctive style but what they all have in common are interesting, adventurous and knowledgeable passengers. And that is the joy of being a speaker on these ships.
The overall theme of my talks is ‘Celebrating True Life Stories’ and I use my experiences from my life at the BBC and autodotbiography to bring colour to my talks. In the first one entitled “From ‘That’s Life!’ To Your Life” I tell some of my favourite stories from my 16 years working on the programme - and what it is like to create a business for the first time in your life at the age of 60 – exciting and terrifying in equal measure!
The most important point I am trying to make to my audience is that the most precious gift they can give their families is the story of their life and that we can all celebrate true life stories. For those hooked on family history I say , “Your family history starts with YOU”.
This is a snippet of one of my talks.