WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I JOINED BASINGSTOKE PUBLIC SPEAKING CLUB

Unfortunately, the supplement programme my nutrition therapist prescribed me did not work out too well. I kept forgetting to take them what with my busy hectic lifestyle. Finally I lost all my pills whilst on holiday here – http://www.hostel.is/default.asp?cat_id=51 . If an Icelander came across my fish oil supplements they would probably have been very puzzled. After all they live in a country surrounded by seas crowded with lots of different kinds of fish? Heyy, don’t we as well? Ummm … anyway I’m digressing a bit. The aim of nutrition therapy was to change me in to a dynamic sexy person who would have the interesting fun-filled life he truly deserved. I then had a brainwave why not do something to improve my presentation skills?

So one week end I popped in to Basingstoke public library. A kindly librarian suggested I join Basingstoke public speaking club so not being one to disagree with a librarian that’s what I did. Public speaking proved to be less intimidating that I thought. My speeches fell in to two categories, those where I would try to be a stand up comedian and those where after lots of research I would speak on some serious topic. There was a nice lady called Beryl who came along with her husband Brian. At the time I was not really sure what they did for a living, but was vaguely aware it was something “alternative.” Brian was very impressed with my funny speeches. He thought I was a very witty and charming young man. He was similary impressed my serious ones as well and wondered how I had come to be some knowledgable about so many different subjects. “Well, I try to keep myself informed about stuff,” forgetting to mention how internet access let me browse a resource called the Wikipedia. Wouldn’t want to give all my secrets away would I readers?

One week I had to do a speech on something I was an expert on. This posed a major problem in so far as I could not think of anything I knew anything about that would not bore everyone to death. Then I had another brainwave, I would do a speech on “Nutritional Quackery” exposing Gillian McKeith and Patrick Holford. So D-Day arrived and I turned up with some props – copies of The Optimum Nutrition Bible and Optimum Nutrition for the Mind, a Gillian McKeith vitamin C bar and a bottle of Gillian McKeith juice or whatever it is called. “Ohhh,” declared Brian, “my wife Beryl is a nutritionist. Are you studying nutrition? That Patrick Holford is such a nice man. We met him kayaking with some seals in Lapland a couple of years ago.” “Oh dear, ” I thought to myself, “don’t want to upset anyone.” Still there was no backing down now. The speech had to go on.

I described the qualifications of Patrick Holford Dip ION (honorary) and Dr (sic) Gillian McKeith or errr … rather lack thereof. I spoke about hair mineral analysis and pointed out that the American Medical Association had banned its practitioners from using it. Straying away from my usual reliance on the Wikipedia I shamelessly plagiarised some information given to me by a little black duck – http://www.quackometer.net/blog/2007/04/pulling-my-hair-out.html. I went on to point out that oranges were cheaper than Gillian McKeith’s vitamin C bars and that dear Mr Holford had benefited to the tune of £464,000 by the sale of his pill company to Biocare. I concluded by recommending to my audience that they ate plenty of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and reducing their consumption of saturated fats, salt and sugar. Finally, I threw The Optimum Nutrition Bible and Optimum Nutriton for the Mind in the bin before triumphantly holding up my rather weather beaten copy of Nutrition for Dummies – the bible of basic nutrition for idiots like myself!

As time went on I realised that many of my audience were not really with me. Afterwards feedback was invited. Beryl looked me in the eye and informed me that she had actually studied nutrition. I got the impression that out of pity or because she was speechless with rage she was holding back from launcing the full frontal intellectual verbal assault that she thought I so richly deserved. It was left to Brian to approach me after the meeting in a kindly attempt to bring me back to reality and to bring my knowledge up to speed. “You have been reading Ben Goldacre haven’t you? he asked. “Well, the kind of things he says about dear Gillian and Patrick, you can always dig up things to say about people to make them appear in a not-too-positive light.” Hmm … don’t know about you readers, but I have never exaggerated my qualifications or promoted bad science. Not sure what Ben Goldacre could write about me a column, though I cannot speak for the rest of the you. He conveniently forgot that my speech did have other sources … “The science is quite clear on these matters if you look. As for Ben Goldacre Martin Walker has rather demolished him in a book called Dirty Medicine.”

Anyway, when I got home I googled Beryl and Brian. It turned they were the proprietors of The Basingstoke Homeopathy Cabin. Their website also offered various other therapies. No wonder they were friends of Patrick Holford. But what about this Martin Walker chap? Perhaps if I read his book I would be convinced of the salvation that came to them who believed in the Lord Patrick. So I googled Martin Walker and it turned out he was a chemistry lecturer at a top American university. Gosh, obviously some one to listen to then. Then the thought occurred to me that there might actually be more than one man in the world called “Martin Walker” so I refined my research by typing in “Martin Walker” + “Dirty Medicine.” For now dear readers let’s just say THIS Martin Walker did not have a PhD in chemistry. I am sure we’ll come back to him and his “book” another time ….

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6 Responses to “WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I JOINED BASINGSTOKE PUBLIC SPEAKING CLUB”

  1. dvnutrix Says:

    Sympathies. How have your subsequent talks gone?

    Of course, typically, Brian got the name of the book wrong as Ben would still have been a teenager at the time of publication of Dirty Medicine. Brian meant this farrago of nonsense that has recently been put online in blog form (presumably to make it easier to hyperlink to ‘relevant’ sections). Sorry for the roundabout but I won’t link to the site – it is linked in the comments of Political Scientist‘s post to which I have linked.

  2. jonhw Says:

    “friends of Patrick Holford” – is that a new euphemism for our times?

    I feel your pain with that talk. It is rather daunting when you’ve prepared a talk on how position x is seriously wrong, and then see a number of proponents of position x file into the audience…

  3. LeeT Says:

    @dvn – I only went back once or twice after that. It got me rather disillusioned with public speaking. Although, I can see the funny side now, it was quite annoying at the time. “Brian” is an extremely slick speaker which sums up to me what is wrong with the alternative medicine industry – all style and no substance. What is most depressing that his “practice” is situated in the same city as one of the world’s most prestigious and ancient universities.

    If I do ever anything like that again I will base the talk on the advice in “Nutrition for Dummies” and on the BDA website, perhaps briefly mentioning irrelevant quacks at the end.

    @jonhw – I woner who he would put on his Facebook account?

  4. jdc325 Says:

    The Political Scientist post on Walker’s ‘book’ is a good ‘un – I like the PS blog. I read the Walker ‘book’ when it was first being hawked around the dodgier internet forums and it was a bit of a trial, mainly because it was so dull. I had expected fiery rhetoric, not dreary gossip. It wasn’t just woefully inaccurate and filled with half-truths, gossip, insinuations and outright libel – it really was an incredibly dull read. It’s a non-book, containing counterknowledge and unfacts.

  5. LeeT Says:

    I found the book quite amusing. It struck me that he had a list of characters to assassinate and then worked through the unfortunate individuals one by one.

    Mr Holford’s “Holford Myths” seems to owe quite a lot to the Martin Walker “book”. Although, “The Optimum Nutrition Bible” has hundreds of references Mr H seems to be decidedly reluctant to acknowledge Mr W as a source for the case for the defence. I wonder why. Perhaps we should report him to the Nutrition Therapy Council for plagiarism?

  6. Yes we Cynon!! « Through a Glass Darkly Says:

    […] Besides politicians all seemed really clever and had the gift of the gab.   After all, as I told you previously, I was never any good at public speaking.  One of Patrick Holford’s friends pointed out that […]

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