Mark Weston drew the short straw and took to the stage first. He talked us through the changes he's seen in his life and, as befits a birthday, took a trip down memory lane. Next up was Gretchen Meddaugh who educated us all on why we rarely see bonobos at the zoo. [No, I didn't know what a bonobo was, either - but now I know that we share 99.4% of our DNA with this monkey.] Apparently they enjoy 'recreational activities' a little too often. Nour Hajjouj, dressed to kill in a black tuxedo, shared his views on why people stay in Hungary and took the first 10 of the night. Don Lindsay pressed his mental rewind button and took us back to the early 1960s and resurrected the Beatles vs Stones debate. Finally, directionally challenged Bea Bincze offered her solution for saving your marriage: never ask your wife to navigate.
Going in to the second half - the impromptu set - Don took the stage first and drew two topics: Three hypotheses as to why dinosaurs died out didn't quite grab the audience who voted on the second topic, Internet dating. In true impromptu form he cooked what he had in the fridge and blew Mary's secret forays on the XpatLoop classifieds wide open. Next up, Mark had a choice between stripes and dots and cultural differences with the audience pulling for the latter - a subject he was well qualified to talk about. Bea had a strange choice between the weirdest city she'd ever visitied and budget airlines and managed to do serious damage to Aeroflots share price in just three minutes! When it came to Gretchen's turn, the audience went for 50 shades of .... over the paralympics. And, would you believe, someone in the audience actually admitted to having a copy of the book in Hungarian and offered it as a prop. Finally, Noor pulled a fast one and brazenly mixed his two topics in one - UFOs and folk dancing and bike messengers became Bike Dancing. It ruffled a few feathers but ultimately the judging was up to the judges: Rachel from Australia (who literally landed in Budapest earlier this evening), Javier from Spain, Gearóid from Ireland, Charles from Jack Doyle's, and Frank from Northern Ireland.
And, going forward to the grand final in March [....drum roll....], is ... Nour Hajhouj from Morocco!
A huge thanks again to all the speakers for being brave enough to take part and to do their bit for charity. Thanks to Des and Judy Nix for sponsoring the bottle; to the IHBC for sponsoring the trophy, SpeechPoint for sponsoring the room rental, and Mark Downey for arranging the venue.
And heartfelt appreciation to the crew: Kath Griffiths, Jeremy Wheeler, Steve Collison, Ilona Miklos, David Saddington, and Zsuzsa Bozo.
If you fancy participating or sponsoring, let us know... firstname.lastname@example.org