A unique evening with Charlie

When the Barryroe Garden Club was re-formed our tiny membership agreed that once a year we would be indulgent and have a speaker. A gardening friend, who belongs to a large club up country, sent me a long list of possible candidates, even providing a star rating system. I contacted a fair few on the list and discovered that fees were pretty standard but booking well in advance was essential. So way back in March I had booked our special guest, having decided that a Cork person should be the one to entertain us on our inaugural night.

In typical West Cork fashion, the week before everything was confirmed, our venue was to be the local national school. Posters were displayed, bigger chairs gathered and home baking was the order of the day. As long as we covered the cost of our man from Mayfield we were happy and anything left over would go to a local charity. It all came together and at 8.30 on the 20th November the room was buzzing as Charlie Wilkins arrived to a warm reception. In addition to the bags of compost he had provided for our raffle, several of our members had also brought along prizes for the draw.

I have never attended one of Charlie’s talks before although I knew full well just how popular he is. His regular piece in the Examiner newspaper is keenly read in the parish and way beyond. As the screen and projector were being set up I must confess at feeling that we could be in for a long night of latin names and bland slides. But I watched our guest gathering his thoughts and I detected a twinkle in his eye, so I relaxed as best I could in my rock hard school chair. I haven’t laughed so much in ages and our visitor had the timing of a stand up comic. Mr Wilkins has quite obviously honed his skill over the years and knows his audience very well. In lesser hands some of the images on display, might not of passed muster but Charlie’s dry wit kept us well entertained. A lot of the people in the audience had seen him many times before but were crying with laughter just like the rest of us.

The raffle proved popular especially the bags of shamrock that had accompanied our friend from North Cork. The home baking was so highly regarded that selection plates were sold off for one euro. Unfortunately this meant no leftover treats to take home but, even better, extra cash was collected for our local pensioners. It was a great night and a big success for the club. When we explained to Charlie Wilkins that our members pay no fees and do not serve on a committee, he was shocked by such informality and politely called us unique. The feelings mutual Charlie!

Written 28th October 2008

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