I was probably about 11 years of age, and my mum had arranged for me to appear on a quiz show on Channel 7.
Don’t ask me how she managed it because I don’t know.
My mum did that kind of thing.
She got me a try-out for the Melbourne boys choir!
Just turned up in the middle of the morning and told me we were going into the city for a singing competition.
I remember that it was raining that day.
She knew me pretty well so I guess she figured that not telling me beforehand would stop me from worrying.
I was wrapped!
A day off school was better than gold and a day with mum was more precious than diamonds.
I remember that I sang ‘Oh Little Babe of Bethlehem’ without a single hesitation, and they said that they would let us know.
I didn’t get in.
I vaguely remember that the whole thing was a positive occasion.
So what happened in those next few years to make me freeze up in front of the TV cameras?
I wasn’t exactly ‘frozen in the headlights’, but the effect was the same. I can recall being blinded by the lights in this early 1960s TV studio, and I felt incredibly hot.
I don’t remember the question that was asked, but I do remember the answer: “FOX”.
It is etched permanently into my brain!
I was sitting there being aware of time going by but not being able to form any words.
Now, I’m no genius, but I’m not thick either. Any other time I would have laughed at such a simple question and confidently blurted out “Fox”.
But not this day.
The choir audition didn’t faze me probably because I had sung in front of people many times, though only ‘solo’ for my mum.
It would also have helped that she was there.
She was in the TV studio as well, but I could not see her; I couldn’t see a bloody thing!
It wasn’t exactly a ‘Road to Damascus’ moment, but it was the beginning of my determination to not be put off by public speaking.
It helps that I have Irish ancestors and that I inherited the ‘gift of the gab’ even though it only seems to have been present in my aunties [they were all hilarious and could talk the leg off an iron pot].
It has been said that the fear of public speaking is higher on most people’s list than the fear of dying [this is probably another one of those annoying sayings like ‘using only ten percent of our brains’—- bollocks], but it is not on my list.
I’ve got things to say, and if I can find more than two people standing still, I’m going to say them!