Iain was with me and conditions were ideal for a Hyde Park debut - sunshine, a cool breeze drifting over the grass and a delightful assortment of strays and misfits with step ladders, soap-boxes and veggie crates - anything to provide that extra elevation, drawing attention and allowing the voice to project to people like me.
Speaker number one - an aging lady, with a tearful expression on her face, waving her arms before an invisible orchestra of heathens and Hyde Park hedonists. She had an appealling sincerity in her voice, but her topic was dull as toast - something about being surrounded by trees and flowers, but discarding responsibilities and living like animals. 'Yeah yeah, I'll come back and listen later, now where are the real nutters?'
We moved on, ignoring the suited gentlemen to our left. They had a big enough crowd, but looked more like a barber-shop act - and were probably preaching Christianity anyway. Instead we homed in on a dude with a bicycle behind him and a litre of guiness in one hand. The image would probably be more vivid if I was to describe his dress. He wore a bright blue cape, a pair of red devil horns, some novelty sunglasses and instead of just talking to the horizon, he was smiling and talking directly to a group of startled foreigners. We joined the audience and tuned in to his topic of the day - Sexism.
Sexism could be interesting - but no-one really knew what this guy meant by 'sexism'. I don't believe he know himself what he meant by 'sexism'. The speech focussed more on a drunken and hysterical alternative interpretation of the Old Testament; we learned that Adam was baked in an oven, but not for long enough. And so white man was created. God then tried again, but this time left his clay in the oven for too long - and black man was created. Then on the third attempt he timed his cooking just right and out popped a Chinaman. According to the speaker, this is actually an ancient Chinese philosophy on the origins of the races. The Guiness continued to flow, the topic rapidly went off-topic and I soon found myself listening to a mistaken mix of racial humour, penis jokes, stabs at the monarchy, alternative biblical interpretations and beer-laden belches.
The Corner was getting busy. An austrailan Christian preacher stood on his step ladder with an Aussie flag alongside. Quite a friendly sounding guy, who had discovered God one day - possibly over a Barbeque - and decicded to tell everyone about it.
Most interesting of all was a very thin, rather greasy man - mid thirties, quietly spoken, and eager to talk about the Middle East. Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Jenin - all scenes of violence, and some of massacres, mass graves and let's face it.. genocide. He questioned why the US haven't reacted towards the Israelis in the same way as they did against The Serbs in the late nineties. Further to that, will Ariel Sharon be facing the same charges as Milosovich and his aides are now facing in the Hague today?
After 10 minutes of listening, I realised that I was witnessing a discussion - a real live discussion in which individuals of different races were participating on an equivalent basis; contributing, agreeing, disagreeing, and.. well, discussing.
What a relief it is to know that people are still capable of exchanging the spoken word in a constructive manner. Materialism, job related stress, bickering spouses, ring tones and supermarket obligations are all forgotten. Unlike in the House of commons, nobody speaks for personal gain. At last a place where British people can really enjoy the democracy in which they live.