My Blogs

Spring Equinox 2024…

a wee dram with the piper at Burns Night dinner…and following the traditional engagement season of Christmas to Valentine’s Day I have received several promising enquiries for an MC/Toastmaster. We are well into the wedding fair season, and I have enjoyed meeting  many delightful couples in lovely wedding venues in London and the Home Counties.

Burns Night supper at Halsey Hall Masonic Centre in Waltham Abbey, and I was asked to deliver the Selkirk grace and address to the haggis. I replied, “Only if I can take a wee dram with Piper Donald McGrurie”. Later in the evening I delivered a learned paper ‘Dux magnus gentis venteris saginati (which translates literally as ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’ race), describing the life cycle of the wild haggis that inhabits the highlands of Scotland.

Once again delighted to be invited to serve as Master of Ceremonies for the National Association of Wedding Professionals spring networking event at Home House, a private members’ club in Portman Square in London. Delighted also to introduce NAWP director and guest speaker Tracy Butterfield of Saltaire Bridal, who spoke on neurodiversity awareness in the wedding industry. Many wedding suppliers attended the event and helped to make for an enjoyable evening, and a special mention for Photographer Pascal Gastaud, Sky Magic and Badge Master Mick.

Winter Solstice 2023…

Christmas at St Michaels Manor…and another year draws to a close. The Wedding Industry Awards (TWIA) offers regional and national awards, is client-voted, judged by over 130 industry experts, and coveted by businesses and couples alike. Having been nominated by my couples, I was ‘well chuffed’ to have been short listed as a South-East regional finalist in the Special Touch category.

I had the pleasure of contributing to the Toastmaster & Master of Ceremonies segment of the Certificate in Wedding Planning course at the Event School London with Siobhan Craven-Robins. With the aid of images from real-life weddings I explained the role of the Toastmaster to the students and how to ensure that the event, be it a wedding, celebration or formal dinner, can run smoothly and on time.

Another enjoyable evening was spent at the Guild of Professional Toastmasters’ annual dinner at the Union Jack Club in London with our friends, Jane and Nick, and fellow ‘toasties’. Great speeches, entertainment by a young talented pianist, Cole Lam, and £700 raised through the raffle for the Chairman’s taxi charities.

Autumn Equinox 2023…

SME UK Enterprise Award…and it’s been a great summer for weddings. I am pleased to have worked alongside many wonderful suppliers at several venues across the Home Counties, making the bride and bridegrooms’ special day just that – special. However, the highlight of the summer was serving as Toastmaster for the World Book of Records International Excellence Awards Ceremony at the Palace of Westminster, in the presence of members of the House of Commons, the House of Lords, and other distinguished guests.

SME UK Enterprise Awards writes: Following on from your recent nomination, our final decisions have now been reached. It gives me great pleasure to inform you that John Ashmele Toastmaster have been successful this year and has gone on to receive Toastmaster of the Year 2023 (London & Home Counties) in the UK Enterprise Awards 2023! This is fantastic news and a well-deserved achievement for John Ashmele Toastmaster.

Summer Solstice 2023…

…and after a dismal spring I’m delighted to see that summer has eventually arrived. I can now start to replace the plants that didn’t make it through the last six months. I have particularly enjoyed the recent pomp and pageantry of King Charles’ coronation and his first Trooping the Colour as monarch.

Have you ever wondered about the origins of the Toastmasters’ hunting pink livery? In the late 19th century, a Toastmaster by the name of William Knightsmith was becoming increasingly frustrated at being addressed as a waiter by members of the assembled companies that he was attending. He started to wear a scarlet jacket, much to the amusement of other Toastmasters, who ridiculed him and thought it a joke. He was seen by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII), who approved of the colour and within a year, nearly all Toastmasters in London were wearing it. Soon after, the ‘hunting pink’ tailcoat became the adopted form of dress for all Toastmasters. The name is derived from Mr Thomas Pink of Jermyn Street, the tailor who designed it.

Spring Equinox 2023…

…and just when you think that spring has sprung, we have all four seasons in one day! It can only get better, particularly as the frogs and newts are returning to my wild-life pond.

Ever wondered about the origins of toasting one’s guests? Well, there are several theories. Some say that it started with the ancient Greeks who had a strange practice of spiking wine with poisons. To eliminate their concerns, the host would pour wine from a decanter and take the first drink. Guests were then satisfied that the wine was safe and invited to raise their goblets for the ‘toast’. Others say it came about from the Romans, who drank to the health of Caesar Augustus at every meal.

After Russia invaded Ukraine last year, I noticed an advert on Facebook from an artisan in Ukraine selling glass suncatchers. I thought that by purchasing a blue and yellow hummingbird I would be showing solidarity with the people of Ukraine in a small way, and I was pleasantly surprised when the suncatcher did arrive after a few weeks.

Winter Solstice 2022…

…and it’s a ‘three-dog night’. Some say the expression originated in the Australian Outback, when they would sleep with a dog on a cold night to keep warm, with two dogs on a very cold night, and a bitterly cold spell would mean a three-dog night.

Have finished all my weddings and events for the current year and now looking forward to my bookings for next year. Also well into the wedding fair season, so looking forward to meeting new couples and networking with my fellow wedding suppliers.

Talking of which, my thanks to Becca Pountney of Vicinity Weddings for my fun award at the Xmas dinner: Instagrammer of the Year – for overcoming the tech and getting on Instagram, getting to grip with stories and posts, and being visible.

Wishing all my followers Chag Sama’ach Chanukah, a jolly ho-ho-ho Christmas, and a peaceful 2023.

Autumn Equinox 2022…

…and I have new marketing and networking tool: an Instagram account. I have been developing a strategy for posts and stories alongside my Facebook and website blogs and I think I have cracked it, so please visit and follow me @JohnAshmeleToastmaster.

The autumn wedding fair season is now under way, and I look forward to meeting more nearlyweds and working with them and my esteemed wedding supplier colleagues as they progress to becoming newlyweds.

We have been saddened by the news of the death of Her Majesty the Queen on 8th September. Her Majesty was a figure of stability and continuity, accompanying the people of Britain and the Commonwealth through our lives since her accession in February 1952. She brought dignity, humility and a peaceful presence to the affairs of the nation.  The Queen showed an unswerving commitment to the real diversity of humanity. Our sincere condolences go to His Majesty the King and all the Royal Family. May God bring them comfort and we wish them ‘long life’.

Summer Solstice 2022…

…and back from an enjoyable cruise round Italy. Now looking forward to weddings and other events in my busy calendar after undertaking the (slightly less formal) role of Master of Ceremonies at a few non-wedding events. 

On Sunday 5th June, the residents of St. Mary’s Avenue in Eastbury, SW Hertfordshire, celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth with a street party; I was again delighted to serve as MC for the afternoon. The street was closed to traffic at midday, tables and benches brought on to the road, and bunting stretched across the street. The party was formally declared open by Molly, our senior resident, cutting the ribbon to cheers and great applause, and for the next hour, residents and guests mingled, enjoying a concert by our resident musicians before being called to tables for afternoon tea. I read out a  letter sending loyal greetings, which I had previously laid before Her Majesty, and the opportunity was taken to pledge our continued allegiance to Her Majesty.

Spring Equinox 2022…

…and the green shoots of business are already showing. I have had a sudden uptick (new word) of enquiries, with confirmed bookings for a Masonic festival, an awards dinner, and several weddings later this year and next. The residents of St. Mary’s Avenue in Eastbury have started planning another street party to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and I expect I will be donning my hunting pink livery and once again officiating as Master of Ceremonies.

It won’t be long before the frogs and dragonflies return to my wildlife pond. I’m not sure what happened to my snowdrops (those pesky squirrels perhaps?), but at least the crocus and daffodils have put in an appearance.

I don’t think anyone can fail to be moved by the horrific images coming out of Ukraine at the present time. The sunflower is the national flower of Ukraine, so let’s start posting its picture all over Facebook and social media in support of the Ukrainian people.

John Ashmele FGPT
Fellow of the Guild of Professional Toastmasters
Graduate of the Professional Toastmasters’ Academy
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