Monday, June 24, 2019

Keep 'em laughing.

Boris Johnson thought it was hilariously funny to say that he didn't care what women wore – even if they dressed up in a burka that made them look like a letter box.
Jo Brand made her remark about exchanging throwing a milk shake for something much more harmful.
The people in France, who published the hilariously funny cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) in Charlie Hebdo, soon regretted their joke too.
Nowadays when serious and utterly humourless people rule over us, the best way to make a joke is to shut it.
Here are some ancient jokes which you might like:
In a feminist conference in Cambridge, a male Don appeared and politely asked if there was anyone present who could sew on a button.
A farmer friend of mine told me this story:
He has an elderly father who went to see the doctor about a very swollen leg. He was given a prescription. After a week, he went back to the doctor's as he had been asked to do.“Ah”, said the doctor, “I can see the pills I gave you have done a lot of good.” 

“He weren't taking the boogers!”
You see, nowadays even that is enough to get you kicked out of any professional organisation.

So the judgement must be:
Never start your essay with a joke. And that goes for speeches, comments and indeed tweets.

Sunday, June 23, 2019


The very best articles/speeches/comments/exam essays rehearse the arguments of the opposition carefully and truthfully before going on to say why they don't work.
If you have understood the opposition and can explain, simply, what they think, then people will listen whichever side they are on as you go on to explain where you yourself stand.
One of the very best online news sources does this regularly. Here Spiked Online speaks about Boris Johnson:

Is it right to record a couple’s private conversations, through the walls of their home, and then publish their words verbatim in a national newspaper? Most people would say no. Most people would consider that a grotesque invasion of privacy. Most people would think it profoundly morally wrong to spy on a couple’s most intimate moments and then salaciously expose those moments to readers hungry for scandal.The Guardian clearly thinks differently. Its publication of the literal words spoken by Boris Johnson and his girlfriend Carrie Symonds in a late-night row in their own home, which it got from a recording made by a neighbour, suggests it cares little for privacy.

Or Sir John Redwood:
The Governor of the Bank of England tells us we cannot escape tariffs by offering to negotiate a free  trade agreement. If the EU agrees to free trade talks as we leave the EU then we can.

This way of arguing goes back centuries, of course. It is by far the most thorough way to discuss anything at all.
The problem is that because it demands an audience with the patience to wade through paragraphs before getting to the nitty gritty, people who do not rehearse the opposition's case fairly before dismissing it, often assume they know what it is. And that leads to danger.
If you do not know what you are talking about, then you are in deep trouble. Here is Guido Fawkes quoting John McDonnell doing exactly that.
In 2011, John “Lynch The B*tch” (Mrs May?) McDonnell spoke about his desire to use physical violence against Tory and Lib Dem MPs “getting worse.” He told a Unison audience:“I’m getting worse. I sit in Parliament opposite a group of multi-millionaires, who are cutting these services with alacrity. My problem is I’m beginning to feel physical towards them. These people need a good slapping.My McAliskey moment is coming to me, and I’ve already been thrown out for grabbing the mace once.”
There can be no doubt at all that very few MPs on the front bench on either side (including Labour) are multi-millionaires. He just got it wrong.

On Brexit, too, the “divorce settlement” (the billions to be paid out when we leave), the “Single Market” (The EEA has two parts: the EU and the Efta columns), the “Irish Backstop” (why backstop? What does that mean? Who knows? How does it tie in with the EEA?) - these are all grossly misleading terms. If people had been careful and, before shrugging them off, had been able to describe them simply, we might not perhaps be in the current mess.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Start with a story.

A dentist is getting out of his car. He takes his case and carries it carefully to the door of his practice.
As he is opening the door, he turns round and spots two men opening the boot of his car. He runs over to the car shouting at them to leave it alone.
One of the men turns and shoots him dead.
Courage, says Lee Child means that man died. Jack Reacher retreats – and lives.
Me, I can open any of Lee Child's books, read a couple of pages and remember them. So I do not buy that book! And I am delighted if I can find one where the opening story is new to me. The picture on this page is not the one with the dentist in it, by the way.
Starting with a story works every time. Which must be why Lee Childs starts with a story every time.

Here's an idea for a funeral speech:

A young woman is walking along a road. She trips over a loose paving slab. A man crosses the road to help her to her feet. She smiles at him. Then he takes her by the shoulders and plants a huge kiss on her lips.
That is how my mother and father met...
The dreaded best man's speech at a wedding: put the awful memory of what the bride did at the start and restrict yourself to that one embarrassing incident. Oh – and although there are several fascinating stories about the stag night, remember that what is done in Prague stays in Prague. Or the Bride might be seriously cross. - Oh and the same goes for the hen night too.

People like stories, so start with your most attractive selling point: a good laugh.

In any form of speech, this is perhaps the strongest start. Advertisers use it a lot.

Two classics: the Bisto Ad where the Mum stirs the gravy as her family excitedly wait for their dinner.

The man – remember him – from Del Monte?

In Comments too, stories go down very well.

In one religious blog people were sounding off about child abuse.
One very brave man told how he himself had been abused as a young teenager by a much older man. He described how gentle the man was and how much he enjoyed the experience.
This was riveting stuff. Never to be forgotten. Peregrine Worsthorne in the Daily Telegraph, then aged 90 did the same thing.
Why not try telling a story instead of being horrid?


Tweets? You tell me.

Oh – I nearly forgot – in Examinations DO NOT START WITH A STORY EVER.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Saying what you are going to talk about.

The old saying is the safe option: 
Tell them what you are going to say, say it, then tell them what you have said.
Works every time.


The examiner is paid (usually) by the number of papers he has marked. The examiner does not want to be entertained. He wants to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible. The easiest way to please the examiner is therefore to use this approach:
First of all copy out their question, word for word, as a heading.
Then in a new paragraph, copy out the same question again. If there are any controversial words in the question, mention them. If there are any hidden snags in the question, point them out. Then begin your second paragraph…
Method: careful compliance with the question set.
This is from the A Level Sociology (AQA) instructions:
A ‘Safe’ Strategy for Answering Methods in Context (‘MIC’) QuestionsPlanning:Spend about five minutes planning the essay first:Highlight the ‘hooks’ in the question.Jot down the theoretical, ethical and practical strengths/ limitations of the method.
It really is not rocket science, is it.

Speeches at life changing moments

Why are you making the speech? Is it at a funeral? Is it at a wedding? Is it because someone is leaving or retiring from your organisation? Is it to welcome someone?
Tell the audience why you are speaking. The rest simply flows from that.
We are here today to celebrate the wedding of Tristram and Isolde. I have known them since birth and I remember the time when..

We are met today to mark the tragic death of Grannie Smith. She choked on one of her apples which are known the world over.
Listen up! Time for the presentation to Sir Ronald who has been Chairman of the Trustees for thirty two years. His father, who is well remembered by old codgers like me as Sir Arthur, passed the Company down to him as a teenager….

Writing blogs or Commenting:

It works there too.
Anyone for an Essay?

This site is for people who want to write a fascinating Essay. Get a lot of "Likes" when you comment! Why not have a go here too?


I do not tweet, so I do not know.

This way of starting off can be terribly boring. But it is safe and sure. If you want to play it safe, this is the way to set about it. I have explained how to start off simply and clearly.

How to start a speech, an essay, a comment of a tweet: Offer Advice.

You can advise the audience what to expect.

Why not try one of these five alternatives?


I always like coming onto this blog because of the quality of the posts. Let me explain….

Friends, Romans, Countrymen! Lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him!


I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News is meant for all men...? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the One who loved his enemies so fully that He died for them?
...The Vietnamese people proclaimed their independence in 1945...

Martin Luther King, the great American speaker speaking in the Riverside Church, Now York April 1967 on the subject of the Vietnamese War. He went on to blame the US government and “ a far deeper malady within the American Spirit.”


We are in Seattle arguing for a world trade system that puts basic human rights and the environment at its core. We have the most powerful corporations of the world ranged against us. Tyhey own the media that informs us – or fails to inform us. And they probably own the politicians too. It's enough to make anybody feel a little edgy.
So here's a question for the world trade negotiators...
Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop addressing the International Forum on Globalisation, Seattle 27th November 1999.


In March 1985 Arthur Miller and Harold Pinter made a trip together to Istanbul. At the time, they were perhaps the two most important names in world theatre, but unfortunately it was not a play of literary event that brought them to Istanbul, but the limits being set on freedom of expression in Turkey...
Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish novelist at the World Voices Festival in New York 25th April 2006. He was trying to dissuade the audience from suppressing unpopular ideas.

Appealing to the audience:

General MacArthur had been a colourful and very successful General in the Second World War. After it he had more or less ruled Japan as a military Shogun. When he addressed Congress in 1951, they did not approve of military government. So he was on the back foot. Here is how he started the speech which led to generous applause:
I address you with neither rancour nor bitterness in the fading twilight of life. The issues are global and so interlocked that to consider the problems of one sector, oblivious to those of another, is but to court disaster for the whole.
While Asia is commonly referred to as the Gateway to Europe...

These starts are excellent for speeches – weddings, funerals, politics, presentations.

They do not work for Exam Essays though. And for Tweets which are very short, they waste space. Comments on blogs – don't you always dread it when they go on and on and on? So I don't use them on comments myself.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

How to start an Essay, Speech, Comment or Tweet: Attack!

You do not have to be nice. Sometimes it pays to attack instead.
Just do not be like this:

More like this:

Start off a speech like this, for example:

“I am going to say some very controversial things tonight and I very much hope that you will take them on board. These things have to be said and nobody else has had the courage to address them so far. So here goes...”
Here is Sir Ivan Rogers, one of the very few Brexit experts, starting off his speech in June 2019 to about 200 finance professionals at the Fishmongers Hall, near London Bridge:

“Syed very bravely asked me to try and find some upbeat conclusions this morning.
I must confess that, with denial, delusion-mongering and deception still rampant across British politics - on all sides, I might add - I do find this quite a formidable challenge!
I want to remain resolutely optimistic about our country’s long term prospects.”

Or a comment:

Here are a couple of comments from a real blog:
“OGH manages to write clearly and succinctly, as in today's post, to explain the important detail of a complex subject. So why do our serving politicians have such difficulties in understanding what the result of No-Deal will be?”

or (from the same blog)
“And if all this were not bad enough, in The Times ''According to a new YouGov poll, 61 per cent of [Conservative] members would rather have “significant damage” to the economy to ensure Brexit takes place. I don't know why the Security Service worries about Trots when there are these morons.”
Or a Tweet:

It also works in an examination too.

“Was Henry VIII a tyrant?” (An imaginary question here!)
“This question is misleading. It seems to assume...
Question from a real Business exam::
“A charity shop is sometimes considered as operating in a not-for-profit environment, but this is not really the case.
(b) Outline two reasons why a charity shop must make a profit.” 
Here is a specimen answer attacking the question:
Charity shops advertise themselves as Charity. People assume that Charities are there to receive Charity, not to make a profit. However...

I do not do Tweets, but for those that do:

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

How do you start a speech, an essay, a comment, a tweet?


The easiest way is to praise the audience, whether it is in writing or in a speech.

  • Thank you so much for that comment, I could not agree more! You are so right!

  • I am so glad to see so many eager upturned faces this morning. I am so glad that there are so very many good people in Peckham!

  • First of all our hearts go out to the bereaved families here today. I want to promise you that you are in all our hearts and, yes, our prayers too.
Praise the audience and they will like you!

Examination technique:

Qu: “Examine the role of the Exchequer in the reign of Henry VIII.”

Let the examiner know that you like the question - and therefore the people who set it.
  • Ans: “This fascinating question has been asked by a number of people. For example...”
  • or
  • Ans: “The Exchequer is perhaps the most important part of Henry VIII's settlement. Why is this?...”


You do Tweets. I do not do them. President Trump does them. But I believe there are one or two – just one or two – nice people out there who say nice things aren't there? Aren't there?

Keep 'em laughing. Boris Johnson thought it was hilariously funny to say that he didn't care what women wore – even if they dresse...