Thursday, November 1, 2012

First University Visit


As The Editor negotiated our entry to the campus it suddenly dawned on me – I have never previously been at a university. For a man with two degrees, that takes some doing!

Led to the lecture theatre I peeked through the door – and had a puckering moment. What seemed to be a full house, all looking in my direction. As I told them the only other time I faced a crowd as large was the riot squad in 1990- but I hoped for a more positive ending from this gathering.

Mildly panicked, I used the remaining few minutes of the countdown to sidle (flee!) outside for a last cigarette. Standing in the rain, sheltered by my new hat, I pondered. Here was a room full of young and inquiring minds. Doubtless they attended from a mix of motives, from the genuinely interested to the morbidly curious, and I had to somehow engage with them.

Talking is nothing new to me. My brief appearance on Channel 4 hardly phased me but then the cameras were easy to ignore. In the lecture theatre the shape of the room, the immediacy of the occasion, demanded quite the opposite.  Smaller group and a smaller room would have been far easier to mesmerise, particularly given my style of extemporising.

The introduction I was given was embarrassingly fulsome  impossible to live up to but very soothing on the ego. Not for the first time of late I had a glimpse of just how strange my life must seem to others’.

And so I talked for 90 minutes, sans notes, huge images of myself and my cell flashing on the wall behind me. Bless them for their patience, because I paced too and fro, sometimes almost talking to myself as I reached back into my memory. It was like living in a flashback.

My delivery was god awful. There was a mic at the lectern but  chose to pace back and forth, and I wonder now how audible I was, how cogent. Never able to judge my own performance at the best of times, self doubt niggles at the edges of my consciousness.

What did I hope for from these guys, apart from their ears? That at some point one of them would be prompted to reconsider something they believed. Maybe, just maybe, I succeeded.

I did begin a bit mean; I asked who in the room was in favour of the death penalty, “who here wants to see me killed?” t may have been a little livelier if someone had stepped up at that point!

Thanks to all who gave me time yesterday. I truly appreciate it.


23 comments:

  1. Well done Ben.

    I have spent most of my life in lecture halls. Mainly listening to nonsense when I was a student; then delivering nonsense as a lecturer.

    After 30+ years, 90% of the time I still feel I don't know what I'm talking about.

    You do. The "delivery skills" will come. Being yourself is much more important.

    And I never stand at the lectern either!

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  2. I was at the Lecture yesterday. I found it to be one of the most interesting Lectures I have ever been in, and am glad I went. You were a superb talker. It has both made me question the system more, as well as continue to question other aspects of modern society. It has also reaffirmed my suspicion that people are simply not being treated as they should.

    I admit, the lecture was the first time I have heard of you, but I intend to fully look back and explore the past and what you have written as I am very curious.

    I do have one question that I failed to ask during the Lecture: What can we do to improve? What can we do to actively help this situation? Why did it take so long for a Judge to speak to Prisoners(See them as Human, I suppose?) Is simply being aware and talking about it enough?

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    1. @Oliver, many thanks. There are practical things - joining a Howard League uni branch - but for me the main thing is to keep "prison" going as a topic of conversation in society. The more people talk, the more they think..... Maybe!

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  3. Well done Ben! - You are unique. Spend every moment you can building as big a platform for yourself as possible. You are an excellent communicator. If you really dedicate yourself to the task I am sure you can make things change. All the best.

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    1. RH, that's the worst nome de plume in history! :)

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  4. Sorry, but having read your post lecture blog, I won't be looking you up, as I am neither curious, or intellectually stimulated by your attempts to engage me...all too self absorbed and self congratulatory!!!!!in a sleazy sort of way. Sadly, many people will be drawn into your subjective story/expeience, with a superficial and romantized notion of what 'lifers' are all about - it's not glamourous, just flawed people trying to come ot terms with the fact that they have resorted to the worst excesses of whatever it is that makes us human.

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    1. You think my talk was self congratulatory? I assure you it wasn't. Neither did I mention the word "Lifer".

      But apart from that complete lack of factual basis for your distaste, carry on....

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    2. I did not put the term 'lifer' in quotation marks - as I was not referring to a statement you made...

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    3. @ anonymous 5.09pm

      you might not have been referring to a statement made by Ben, but your post was referring to something you did not attend. You cannot possibly make the statement you did based on Ben's post, so your assumption that it was subjective/ superficial or even sleazy leads me to the conclusion that you are somewhat clairvoyant as I know you did not attend this event. Trust me on that fact!

      Chuck.

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  5. I don't know anyone who is in favour of the Death Penalty that would support the execution of someone who committed their crime at the age of 14.

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    1. It's a shame that age has anything to do with distaste for the death penalty. The fact it still exists and is used should be more than enough to remove support for it. Here's hoping they abolish it worldwide one day.

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  6. Replies
    1. Yes, only a man so cowardly as to hide behind anonymity would profess to be eager to kill a child....

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    2. I don't think this comment is directed at me specifically, but someone please help me out. How, in simple laymans terms do I post comments using my registered username?

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    3. At the bottom of the comment box, you will find a little box that says "select profile". there is a list of possible account types: google account, livejournal, etc. If you click one of these, you will be directed to a page where you can log in to the relevant account, and subsequent posts will show up as being from that account (you probably need to have cookies enabled for this, as it is how they keep track of who you are.) below that, there are two more options: name/url and anonymous. if you click name/url, and box will pop up into which you can type the name you want to go by, and should you so desire, an url you would like your name to be hyperlinked to. If you leave off the url, your name just appears with no link. once you have chosen, you can continue to type and edit your post, but a name will appear with in when you go to publish it.

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    4. In other words, if you just want a name, click select profile -> name/url and type the name you want into the name box. you can leave the rest blank. if you have one of the accounts that show up in the menu, feel free to click on that instead, and it should let you log in.

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  7. well done, its scary at the front of a lecture theatre.. which university was it (if it was the one i work in and i missed it i will be cross).

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  8. Argh.. why do my comments not stay here?

    I posted one from work, and it has vanished again.. (I don't think the name/url option seems to work well).

    I was going to say well done for speaking, the front of a lecture theatre is a scary place to be.

    Which University was it? I shall be cross if it was the one i work at and i missed it.

    Sam

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  9. I am very happy I could be there and listen to your lecture:) You have been amazing and have absolutely nothing to worry about, your performance was very good. I am sure body language of speaking to people will come to you soon, but to be honest I didn't mind - I admired the way you were speaking anyway and to me it was really good and worth being there:) Other people from my course regret that they missed it - and they should!:)
    Good luck on your further journey:)

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    1. Thanks! I really enjoyed it and I'm pleased you found it interesting. May be back next year.....

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  10. Having had a number of feedback comments, (some from idiots who did not attend this event), what did you make of it? Might be a separate blog mind!

    Chuck.

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