It was back in 2014. I asked him. And he said yes. Back then, I could clear a pub just by walking into it. People would cross the road to avoid me. Eye contact was a novelty. But I asked Matt Tricks, and he said yes.
That was February 2014. The fourth season of Gift of the Gab. The final heat. I was looking for speakers for the charity speech slam where five contestants would deliver a five-minute speech on a topic of their choice and a three-minute impromptu on a topic chosen by the audience. Matt Tricks, a vet student, said he’d give it a go. And he did. He sent me this short bio:
Matt Tricks and his family left London five years ago after a sad incident involving an Overdose – not of Cocaine sadly, but of the fantastic Hungarian racehorse of that name, whose destiny to run at Ascot was denied by injury. By quite some furlongs, he is the oldest Vet student in town, but is now on the final bend for the uphill pull to the finish. When not studying he can be found trying to manage Orczy football club, or his unruly children, and is not sure which is the harder task. The last time he spoke in public was at his wedding, when his speech in German went down like a ‘Blei-Ballon’, and he is hoping for better this time!
I should have known from the bio that Matt was no ordinary chap. Older than most of his classmates by some years, he wasn’t at all backward about coming forward. On the night, he gave us the inside track when it comes to all things veterinary. Reading back through the archives, I summarised his five minutes thus:
Matt Tricks shared some intimate veterinary tales involving tweezers, puss, canine anuses, fake vaginas and rubber gloves. I’m going to pitch his take on artificial insemination to the Discovery Channel so you might get another chance to see it.
The audience was both appalled and enthralled. He drew two topics for his impromptu:
For Matt, the audience chose to find out more about what he’d do if he were Mayor of Budapest for a day rather than learn about his worst cooking experience. If you’re out walking and see castles of dog poop with little Hungarian flags sticking out of them… blame Matt.
He won. Oh, the others gave him a run for his money, but his devilish charm won out.
A month later, at the final, he was pipped at the post. He used his five minutes to teach us all we needed to know, including the calls and hand signals, to work on a trading floor in an investment bank. He was a generous soul, who happily shared his knowledge and experience.
For his impromptu:
Matt gave the audience a choice: stalking or fingers. Some were a little worried that we might revisit the perianal glands of last month when the audience went for fingers – but instead we got what one judge described as a great step forward for Anglo-Irish relations – British chocolate fingers being dipped in Barry’s Irish tea.
Matt graduated, tried the vet thing, and then did what many never get to do – he made a living from what he enjoyed most – cycling. Running cycle tours.
He moved back to the UK and would visit Budapest now and then. We ran into each other a few times and chatted, filling in the blanks. We weren’t friend friends. I didn’t have his phone number. I’d never met his family. But I enjoyed the time I spent in his company.
When YM called two weeks ago to tell me that Matt had died, suddenly, on a tour, at 53, I was shocked on many levels. I’ve still not gotten my head around it. He was so full of life, so vibrant, so bloody young.
I have visions of a pub in heaven, presided over by Saint John Chrysostom, the patron saint of public speakers. I can imagine Matt in conversation with fellow contestant Don, being arbitrated by Ray, with Brent and Gary throwing in their tuppence ha’penny as judges. All were great supporters of the GOTG. All are up there looking down and the world wondering what’s been going on since they left.
They say people come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. Matt Tricks came into mine for a reason and a season. And for that I’m grateful. For many others, he was a lifetime friend. Thoughts and prayers with you all.
Photos from the GOTG archives, taken by Steve Collison.