Nick Gilmartin's Weblog

And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

The King’s Speech and I

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There are many things that come naturally to me, for example mixing flavours and anticpating customer needs.  Some things don’t, and sadly public speaking is one of them.  So I would have to be a total lunatic to suggest that I speak live on radio about not being able to speak.  But why?

Coming soon to a cinema near you, and an Oscar favourite to boot, is a film called the King’s Speech.  Colin Firth portrays King George VI, a rather shy fellow who was suddenly pushed on to the throne after his brother abdicates.  Traumatic enough in itself, his problems were compounded by the fact that he had a severe stammer.   The film has proved a major talking point in the US, with debates online and on radio.

Adrian Goldberg, bloody nice bloke.

I knew instantly it should be worthy of some attention in dear old Blighty too so I fired off an e-mail to the main man at BBC Radio West MidlandsAdrian Goldberg is a fellow I had been in correspondence with for a while but never actually met.  I wrote a few pieces for his website, the Stirrer, last year.

My day got off to an expensive start when I filled my tank with as much petrol as I could afford.  To put it in perspective, if it were beer to drink, I would still be under the legal limit.  My sat nav is never happier than when I take it to Birmingham.  It suddenly turns into some kind of Sergeant Major.  “Left, right, left, right, left… HALT!”

BBC West Midlands is a rather swanky place, part studio, part shop and part exhibition center, very people friendly.  Except on New Years Day it was all shut except for the studio.  Through a glass partition I could see the back of a man’s head as he spoke into the microphone.  The studio PA came out to tell me that I had a few minutes yet so I waited.

Preparing for a radio speech took George IV hours, he went through breathing techniques, relaxation and allsorts.  I had a can of red bull on my way in and hoped for the best.  I took this opportunity, though, to pace up and down, breathing like a sex pest, trying desperately to get my heart rate down.  But the more I tried, the more I felt a coranary coming on.  I recited my quotes to a model Dalek, until I noticed people staring in the window at me.  Carry on people, nothing to see here.

After a few minutes I was called in, during the commercials, and introduced to Adrian.  He seemed, indeed is, a nice sort of fellow.

“Ah Nick, come in,” he said “We are very interested to hear about you and how you cured your stutter.”

Hang on.. cured?

“I haven’t, I still have it.”  I replied, in perfectly clear speech.  Which would confuse some people.

“Okay, no problem.”  Adrian replied, the corner of his eye registering the smallest flicker of concern.  He had never actually heard me speak before, so this was a bit of a gamble for him.

So off we went, Adrian led the conversation then gave me ample time to answer, he didn’t interrupt or try to finish my words off, which is the worst thing you can do to a stammerer.  We discussed the film, which admittedly neither of us had seen yet.  We discussed people’s attitudes to stammering, which are generally reasonable, and occasionally rather bad.

We got on to the various therapies available, the best available being the Maguire programme and the Starfish project.  A short phone-in followed.  A chap was on the line who coped admirably well with a stammer for years while holding down a stable job as a journalist.  To me, this boded well for my future aspirations.

We discussed my treatment, which in truth amounted to very little.  After years in and out of therapy I decided to just live with it.  But, and this is paramount, I must learn not to fear it.  The Maguire programme had a stage involving public speaking.  However, without knowing it I had gone one better.

Way back in 1998 I went off along to Greece on a bit of a tour of self discovery.  To find work I had made myself walk into every bar, club and restaurant in Malia and sell my abilities.  It was hard, nerve-wracking, and, yes, often humiliating.  But after dozens of no’s I finally found a little bar on the top of a hill, and the barman said ” Yeah, alright.”  This piratical looking individual, Manos, became a long time friend of mine.  I digress.

The whole interview took about ten or fifteen minutes and, I later learned, had a very positive response.  It also got a plug or three for my blog, Birmingham Food and Drink.  (Cheers for that, Adrian)

So I hope all of this helped my fellow stammerers.  If any of you out there wish to contact me about the interview, my contact address is here.

In all, an unusually productive New Years morning.

To learn more about stammering and it’s affects, please check out:

www.stammering.org

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One Response

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  1. I’m looking forward to seeing this film, not least because I fancy the pants off Colin Firth (and Helena Bonham Carter, if I’m honest), but because I love anything portraying the Royals.

    Sounds like you had a good start to your new year. I know absolutely nothing about stammers which is the reason my comment is rather shallow, but you write a very interesting post.

    CJ xx

    Crystal Jigsaw

    January 7, 2011 at 10:42 am


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