Conversations 2020

You can never hope to become a skilled conversationalist until you learn how to put your foot tactfully through the television set

M. Dale Baughman

The plethora of 24/7 news and fake news which instantly appears in front of all today would at any other time in history have bewildered even the most learned amongst us.

Up until the Covid-19 pandemic which now spatially isolates us all, we had more and more ways of connecting via social media, yet due to the pace of life, seemingly less and less time to get together physically. Now, however, we meet daily online and wish we had more time to connect in the real world and not the virtual world.

Perhaps, when restrictions are eased we can build more time in to our days to spend with friends and family, and enjoy the moments instead of the madness.

Personal connection and conversation is so precious for our wellness and well-being, and now after seven weeks of lock-down there is a glimmer of light that we may re-commence togetherness, and with more compassion and empathy towards all.

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it is that we are all in this world together and to live well we need to share information, respect difference, and live peacefully together.

Ultimate Challenges for me

After watching some of my favourite presenters on YouTube over time, I’ve learned to adapt, adopt and embrace some of their valuable insights into the human condition; especially my own.

Intellectually I’ve understood much of this ‘stuff’ for years, though haven’t always applied it to myself. Now is the time to be more consistent with my approach.

As a speaker, coach and change agent, I have compelling reasons to not sacrifice what matters most for what matters least, which I sometimes do. Giving my time to others is important to me, though at times I get distracted from other pursuits.

Now I will be consistent with all the skills I’ve learned over time and will from this day forward implement the very best practices of Time-management, goal setting, negotiation, and most of all effective communication.

Those things I’ve been putting off, like finishing my ‘From Coal Dust to Gold Dust’ autobiography, editing my Toastmasters Area Contest Speech due on 30th October, and updating my I Can Do Words Website, must take highest priorities for the next 24 days.

Bad habits will cease to be replaced with good daily habits, and I’ll move forward from this day to achieve all I wish to achieve going forward. Time to soar; not to be sore!

2017-18 in Toastmasters

May 2017 was one of the most significant months in my Toastmasters Journey.

It was a time of high achievement personally and after several attempts at competing in Contests, all the preparation, practice and feedback finally paid off when I was crowned District 73 Table Topics Champion.

To say I was ‘Gob-smacked’ would be a huge understatement, as I had chosen another contestant as the winner as I sat in the audience after delivering my speech, and, when the contest was over and the Chief judge returned with the results, I felt that I’d given it my best shot, and whatever the result, I couldn’t have done any better on the day.

Well, I won, and the surprising thing that I learned later was, that I’m the only person in my club to have ever won a District Contest. Given that Frankston Toastmasters Club was established 44 years ago, I now appreciate what an accomplishment it was.

The rest as they say, is history, for my competing days are over, and now I focus on District service, private speaking engagements and travel.

Looking Forward, Looking Back

A memory from 2013 – May 19 – Journal Day 140

How fortunate am I to have the life I have; the many dear friends I have; And the beautiful family I have… and as I sit at my computer right now reflecting on all we achieved together today and over the weekend, I’m in a place of perfect calm and happiness, and feel very blessed.

Today I spent hours in the garden again, and felt at one with nature. The tranquillity was priceless, and apart from the sounds of music and audios from my IPod, my senses were heightened by the sight, smells and touch of our beautiful Camellia bushes, fuchsias, Golden Elms and flowering cherry trees as I trimmed them; by the rustle of leaves under the rake, and the groaning of the old timber fences as I pushed and heaved them back into place to allow the old gate to swing gently on its hinges.

Neighbours were walking their dogs, and Rose brought Jasper-her King Charles Spaniel- over to spend a little time with Nessa. Two young ladies from down the street also stopped by, to ask if I’d seen a couple of Beagle pups, who had escaped from their house, so I downed tools, and helped them search. We found them sniffing in the park across the way, much to the delight of anxious owners.

David, another friendly neighbour stopped by to admire my handy work, and we chatted about the never ending maintenance of home ownership, and while all this was going on, Nancy was wall-papering in Oscar’s now very modern bathroom.

Oscar was happily watching the AFL on his 55” HD Television, and glancing occasionally out of the window, to smile and give me the ‘thumbs up’.
It’s lovely to be loved, and my family show it in oh so many ways.

Unbeknowns to me, Nancy had had been busy also with a surprise for me, and when she called me in at 3.20 pm, there on the dinner table was a lamb roast with the sweetest pumpkin, Brocollini, Roast potatoes, and Cauliflower. What a delight. The lamb was succulent and the vegetables were divine. Oscar was licking his lips and rubbing his tummy and the smile was worth a thousand words. We all tucked in, and devoured the meal with gusto. Not only is Nancy beautiful, caring and a marvellous homemaker; she is a wonderful cook, and Oscar and I can’t get enough of her excellent cuisine.

After the meal I made a dessert of Tropical fresh fruits and Peppermint Ice-cream, which was to die for.


Next I switched on the TV to watch my team St. Kilda be ingloriously thrashed by the Adelaide Crows. Ah Well, there has to be some down side sometimes.
Later I checked posts on Fb, and had a good and interesting chat with Ian, a great TM mate. Thank you Ian.
All in all it’s been a superb day, and I’m delighted.

12 Days in Malaysia

12 Days in Magical Malaysia

It was Thursday 7th April, and I was aboard my flight headed to Kuala Lumpur for the holiday I had to have in the magical place that is Malaysia.

After a comfortable flight and landing safely, the next couple of hours started freakishly, as Landing in KL at 8.20 am, and  looking forward to my exciting trip, I was tired and became a little grumpy, after waiting at the baggage carousel for what seemed an eternity; watching luggage go round and round and mine nowhere in sight. After 50 minutes, I gave up and approached the lost luggage office.

“It’s still at Tullamarine” the young lady at the lost luggage counter said nonchalantly, and I, nonplussed, was resigned to leaving the airport sans luggage, and a little unsettled, as I was to be a co-facilitator at the Evaluation Workshop on Saturday and wondered how I would be received dressed in the same attire as I was wearing now.

My luggage was in Tullamarine, and I was in KL- JLIA2. Who knows why luggage doesn’t get on the same plane, though I guess that’s another story. It prompted me to remember the winning Table Topic Speech by Patrick at Launceston, Tasmania, at the D73 Convention in May 2015. The TT Question was “If Only I’d Known.”

More reflections of The Launceston Convention bubbled up, as I wasn’t prepared for the TT Contest there on the day either, having had a late night, and dressed in Jeans, Polo Shirt, Loafers, and un-showered with uncombed hair, I was standing outside the venue, enjoying the scenery, When our District Director, Tracey approached and invited me to be in the Contest as 1st & 2nd place winners from the Bass Division Contests weren’t attending the Convention, and as I was 3rd Place, then I was eligible to compete. Problem was there was no time to shower and get dressed for the contest, as it was about to start. Nonetheless, I went on stage and did my best. I wasn’t placed but it was my first experience in a district contest.

Now, back to my Trip.

My good friend Victor met me at the Airport and delivered me to my Hotel. The Premiera Hotel in Medan Tuanku, was new to me. When in Malaysia before, I had always stayed – with my beautiful Nancy – at Hotel Melia in Jalan Imbi, though this time I felt I needed to stay in a different hotel, for I feared the ‘triggers’ that might arise. Although the Premiera was a beautiful hotel, It was in a district I didn’t know, and presented some challenges, which I overcame a few days later.

I visited the Melia often during my stay and was delighted to see that staff I’d met on my previous visits  were still working there, and it became like my second home, as I called in often to chat and relax over a glass of wine and snacks. Being close to Berjaya Times Square, a favourite shopping mall, it was just four monorail stops from Medan Tuanku, and at just $1AUD per ride, the perfect place to prop for a few hours.

Thursday evening came and ‘dog tired’ I slept like a baby. Awakening to the sights and sounds of this bustling place, I went outside into the heat of the day. Wow it was hot. It was 7 am and there were people everywhere; and motorcycles, oh so many motorcycles, darting in and out of traffic, to my amazement. Whole families were riding on some of them, and Koti sellers with enough food to feed 100’s carried everything on their motorbikes. What an amazing sight.

The next 11 days were very busy yet very exciting. The Evaluation workshop, Toastmasters Meetings in Bankers Club next to Melia, meetings in Bangsar, and in Kampachi, a delightful Japanese Restaurant in KLCC. I met so  many Toastmaster friends old and new – even having lunch with Aaron Ng who many of you know, and had a wonderful time with all. When I wasn’t at Toastmasters I spent terrific times, visiting new places with Derek, a special friend and non-Toastmaster, who wined and dined me at some very special places, including his fabulous new condo in Sentul Park. Meeting his school friends in Chinatown was a blast, and Charlie and Kevin were fun to be around.

There were so many highlights on this trip and I’ll never forget the warmth and generosity of everyone I met.

I’ve galvanized my friendships with Victor and Derek, and made so many new friends, all of whom were terrific company and delightful companions. Sadly I lost one friend, because I made a promise I couldn’t keep, and that saddened me. Perhaps I’ll be forgiven in time.

Malaysia is my home away from home, and I’m certainly excited to be returning in Sept/October 2016, to pick up where I left off, and to once more absorb the friendship, the sights and sounds, and the absolute joy I feel inside.Thank you all for embracing me and making this a trip I will never forget, for these twelve days were magical; they were magnificent; they were mesmerizing, and I will be back!.

IMG_0895 (Edited)
Abnu the Bar Manager at Melia

Coffee Special at 1.30 am in Medan Tuanku

Liquid Gold TM Club at Kampachi KLCC

Selangor Club English Menu
A little bit of England at Selangor Club

Derek’s gorgeous wife

The view from Premiera Hotel Lobby on 25th Floor
The view from Premiera Hotel Lobby on 25th Floor

Wan the Barman at Melia
Wan the Barman at Melia

A Favourite Poem – Invictus


Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
for my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gait,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

In Latin Invictus, meaning “unconquerable” or “undefeated” is a poem by William Ernest Henley. (Henley was a lifelong atheist, and, with his missing leg and braggadocio, he was also the inspiration for the character of Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island.

This poem is about courage in the face of death, and holding on to one’s own dignity despite the indignities life places before us.
The poet William Ernest Henley would likely have been familiar with one or both of these sources. He bows to no authority. He is his own god, guide and judge. He is the Captain.

70 Years of Christmas Day

70 Christmas’s and some of the events during my lifetime.

 1944 – The Year I was Born

25 December – The snow lay white again upon the stony soil of New England, the grey distances of the plains, the towering Western mountains; once more poinsettias bloomed in the South’s red soil. In Boston’s fabled Louisburg Square, and in every other U.S. city and hamlet, carolers would sing this week below candlelit windows. This would be the fourth U.S. wartime Christmas.

1954 – 10 years old

25 December – Prestwick air disaster: BOAC Boeing 377 Stratocruiser G-ALSA crashes on landing at Prestwick Airport from London in poor visibility at 03:30, killing 28. The first UK Wimpy Bar is opened at the Lyons Corner House in Coventry Street, London

1964 – 20 years old

25 December – The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast in 1964 addressed the important role of the Commonwealth in a year in which anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela was jailed in South Africa, and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru died.

1974 – 30 years old

25 December – Early in the morning of December 25 the Territory’s capital city – Darwin – was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy. The city became the site of possibly the greatest natural disaster in the nation’s history causing the mass evacuation south of three-quarters of the city’s 43,000 people.

1984 – 40 years old

25 December – was a Tuesday. Ronald Reagan was President of the US; people were listening to Madonna singing ‘Like A Virgin’, while in the UK ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ was in the top five in the charts. Boxcar Bertha directed by Martin Scorsese was a hit in the cinemas, and ‘Talisman’ by Stephen King and Peter Straub was a best selling book.

1991 – 47 years old

25 December – In this Christmas 1991 Mikhael S. Gorbachev resigned as president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). This action was the final act in a peaceful dissolution of this communist (socialist) nation that had been borne out of the October 1917 revolution, and the start of the new Russian Federation

It was also the first Christmas we spent with our beautiful Son, Oscar

1994 50 years old

25 December – Scottie Pippen scored 36 points and grabbed 16 rebounds for a Christmas Day win over the New York Nicks. At 11.05 am the BBC in UK showed ‘Jetsons’ The Movie Premier and cinema version of the sci-fi cartoon series. And at 10.40 The Morcambe and Wise Christmas Show with guests Shirley Bassey, Glenda Jackson, Andre Previn, Michael Parkinson and Eddie Waring among others.

2004 – 60 years old

Coronation Street – Episode 5923 Steve tries to get near the burning car to rescue Amy; Tracy convinced that Karen killed Amy, jumps in Steve’s car and drives off like a woman possessed. Tracy runs Karen over in Steve’s Car. Karen manages to scramble up the factory steps and bangs on the door. Hayley who’s mending Claire’s dress lets her in. Tracy, wielding a crook-lock forces her way in after Karen, threatening to kill her. Steve’s relieved to find that Amy’s safe and sound with Roy. Steve arrives at the factory and tells Tracy that Amy’s safe, but Tracy doesn’t believe him, thinking he’s just trying to save Karen from her fate. Tracy and Karen continue to fight on the factory floor….etc.

2014 -70 years old

25 December – Former president George H. W. Bush has greeted Christmas Day in a Texas hospital, where he remained for a second night after experiencing breathing problems. Queen Elizabeth uses her Christmas message to pay tribute to medical and aid volunteers fighting the Ebola epidemic around the world. A university in north-western China bans Christmas, calling it a “kitsch” foreign celebration unbefitting of the country’s own traditions.

2024 – I’ll be 80 years old and I can’t predict what 25th December will bring, though I’m optimistic as always.

How Toastmasters has Helped Me

We Serve ourselves best when we serve others 90 compression 

David Hughes DTM – The Journey to being the best I can be

Originally from North Wales, I migrated to Australia from Britain in 1973, and discovered Toastmasters thirteen (13) years later. It was a wonderful discovery and has helped me enormously.

Dedicated and Committed to being the best I can be as a Toastmaster, I’m also a Workshop Presenter, Speaker; Story Teller, Nlp practitioner, Memory Magician, and E-published writer.

I believe, all successful people have one quality in common – the ability to communicate effectively, and I fervently believe it is important to develop this ability in life so that we may successfully meet the demands and challenges of today’s world, and have credibility, influence and impact when engaging with audiences everywhere

My incredible Toastmasters journey began in 1986, when I joined to overcome my rapid speech problem; as I spoke very quickly, creating difficulty for my listeners.

My manager-at the time- suggested I join Toastmasters, as he believed Toastmasters would help me slow down when speaking, and they certainly did. Over time my speaking rate reduced, from the sometimes, unintelligible, 200-300 words per minute to my now credible and very comfortable 100-150 wpm.

After 6 years of regularly attending, and periods as Club and District Officer, and having mastered the intricacies of pace, pitch and pause, and improved gestures and eye contact, I became a competent Toastmaster (CTM), had some excellent Mentors, and eventually enjoyed every speaking opportunity believing my audiences appreciated and enjoyed my speeches and presentations.

I left Toastmasters in 1992, to pursue business interests, and after a 16 year break, returned in 2008.   Since then, I’ve served as Club Officer, Area Governor (2) and Division Governor. In 2012 I achieved DTM, and also in that year was Division Governor of the Year in District 73.

Today, I like to think of myself as a servant-leader, who enjoys being a DTM,REP Ambassador, VPE & Treasurer of my club, and conducting Workshops at District Convention and at Semi-Annual Conferences over time.

My wide circle of Toastmaster friends in Australia and around the world is testament to my interest, curiosity and thirst for cultural exchange with as many Toastmasters as possible, in and with our International organisation and those members who make it the place ‘Where Leaders Are Made.’

Whenever I’m home I enjoy the love of family, reading good books, the freedom to explore the world via the internet and social media, music, friends, and the knowledge that all that I am, was helped enormously by a mentoring manager who once suggested that I join Toastmasters.

“We Serve Ourselves Best When We Serve Others.”

View from my kitchen windowDavid Hughes

Email: icandowords@gmail,com


Twitter: @icandodave