The first of our monthly blogs by our speakers, 'Speaker's Spotlight' is given by the wonderful Garden Historian, Michael Brown, a talented speaker who'll quite often be found in period costume!
Many talks are accompanied with a display that the audience can look at, handle and smell after the talk. For me this is the opportunity to expand on the things that there isn’t time for in a general talk. It is also the moment when I get to hear stories from people who have used plants as medicines when they were younger or their experiences working in gardening. Many of these stories get worked into my talks. ‘Death in the Garden’ is one of my most popular talks. During the tea break a lady came up to tell me about when she had eaten deadly nightshade berries as a child. Around the age of four she had been at a wedding reception, boring enough for many people, but for children usually more so. She had wandered outside and discovered some very tempting, shiny, cherry-like berries.
She tasted one. It proved to be quite sweet; so she ate some more. Having eaten her fill, she returned to the reception. Luckily somebody saw the bright purple stains around here mouth and asked what she had been eating. She was rushed off to hospital and had her stomach pumped. She lived to tell the tale, unlike some American foragers who had made a lovely fruit pie - and didn’t. Gerard the herbalist recounted a similar tale of three lads of Wisbech who ate deadly nightshade berries. Two of them died. Gerard wisely says that you should dig up any deadly nightshade that you find near your house.
The usual story is that if pulled from the ground the plant will scream. If you hear it scream you will die, so to avoid this fate you must carefully loosen the roots, tie the plant to a very hungry dog. Standing some distance away you show some food to the dog. The dog rushes towards you to get the food, pulls up the root and promptly dies. They don’t really care much about animals in earlier times. The now very expensive mandrake root could then be used as a painkiller and sedative.
I am currently working on a new talk, ‘Making a Splash’, about the history of the use of water and fountains in gardens into which I am trying to incorporate video and sound to bring the presentation to life.
Some of my Technical Hints.
Inserting videos to PowerPoint has been a problem before now as I used to have a very old version of Microsoft Office. Now that I am up to date it is very easy.
The video is added quite simply by using the ‘insert’ button and a choice of movie or sound is available.
My next problem was to find a good, but affordable video editing programme to edit my videos for a professional finish. These can be very expensive or take a long time to learn to use properly. Luckily Windows Movie maker is a free download and is good enough for me so far.
There are some very good YouTube videos that I would like to use, but this is only possible if you have an internet connection.
If you do have a good internet source, hyper-links to any online material can be added.
If you are using sound a good set of speakers is a must. I usually have some suitable music playing in the background before I start my talk, so it is one problem I have already solved.
Michael Brown Garden Historian