Good evening Mr Toastmaster, Mr President, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.
On a beautifully balmy afternoon during a glorious childhood Summer, the flower scented air was filled with buzzing bees and brilliantly coloured butterflies. I decided to explore the neighbours fields behind our house, I had done this many times, and was allowed to do so, by both our neighbours and my Grandmother. Sometimes I would walk in the fields with my neighbours so I knew my way around both the land, and the ghosts and echoes of the past that lay there.
Moving through the house, I could hear the distant din coming from Granny’s tv, and my Aunt’s lively yet muted footsteps moving around upstairs. Gently closing the kitchen door behind me, I skipped down the steps, watching the little birds singing whiles fluttering around the feeders and then darting back to the safety of the Fuchsia bushes, turning left I made my way towards the four small steps at the end of our garden that inexplicably lead to the top of a low wall, which marks the border between our property and the fields behind us.
Standing on the top of the wall, to my right I can see the crumbling remains of the pale blue summer house, with its missing slats and peeling paint, which was now used to store hay and nuts for the horses, beside it was the corroding carcass of the crashed Mini that one of the neighbours sons had pushed into place years before with a friend of his. The improbably straight, towering twin trees, reaching for the sky were connected high up by a sturdy steel beam, from which hung the long, slowly, creepily, creaking chains of what was once a film worthy swing, at the end of each of the chains precariously hung half of the old, broken seat. To my left trees were popping up through dense undergrowth, with chaotic brambles reaching out in every direction. In front of me, past an ocean of vegetation was my target, the fence and gate that were the entrance to the horse fields.
The trickiest part of my adventure was next, it took some concentration to navigate my way across the wobbly, slowly rotting pile of sticks, branches and other plant detritus, so I didn’t slip and get my foot stuck in a hole. I carefully pick my way towards the summer house, occasionally slightly slipping, but, I eventually make it to the edge of my own wooden mini Everest, jumping off and straight into waist high plant life, OUCH! The vast bed of nettles I have landed in fall around my bare legs, simultaneously stinging them a million times. Swimming through the sea of scrub, I make my way to the old, worn, wooden gate. Due to its weight, I can’t open it so I climb over the five solid bars. Continuing my mission for mischief, the rabbits skittishly scatter away from me, hopping off to longer, more dense areas of grass at the edge of the field, that will provide them with better cover.
I know if I turn around I will be able to see our house through the trees, but, for now, as I face into the fields, it feels like I am the only human on earth. I carry on and cross the wooden plank that sits on top of the year round boggy area with the permanently embedded hoof marks, beside the smallest of streams. A pair of sparrowhawks dance on thermals high above me, swopping and circling in graceful arcs and loops. Scrambling up the bank in front of me, grabbing small branches and clumps of grass, I get to the top. I just need to find the right spot of barbed wire to climb across, trying to not look down as I tightly hold on to the trunk of a tree that I am swinging from that hangs over the old Harcourt Street Railway line, as long as my feet keep in contact with the ground, I’ll be ok. Picking and tripping my way along the bank, I see what feels like my own private, ancient, moss and weed covered stone hump backed railway bridge. Pausing momentarily, before galloping across the bridge off my neighbours land and into to the wheat fields beyond it.
The contrast from the enclosed green monoliths I have just left to the open fields of golden wheat is startling. Alone, I can see as far as the masts on the top of the Dublin mountains with no sign of man in between. Then, as I am lost in my thoughts CRACK, CRACK, CRACK!! Frozen to the spot it takes me a short while to realise I had just heard shots coming in my direction! I can’t move, my feet, they won’t move. Move, Emily! CRACK, CRACK, CRACK. Finally my feet get the message from my brain, I turn and run like the wind. I can hear more shots, heavy footsteps, my pulse is echoing through my brain, the only thought in my head is RUN, GO HOME! I can hear him breathing, it must be a cross farmer, I wasn’t meant to be there. Can’t he see I’m just a child? Maybe I can hide in the neighbours fields? There seems to be two men, I make it across the bridge, stumble my way along the bank, falling across the barbed wire, tearing my shorts, I can still hear him, he’s getting closer. Oh, I’m in so much trouble when I get home. No longer being careful, just wanting to be safe. I keep falling down, but, I make it to fields behind my house, I can see home, I can’t hear him at the minute, but, I think he is still behind me. What if he is at the house when I get home! I scale the gate and the wall quicker than I ever have in my life, my black and white cat, Patch, sensing my panic, is now running along beside me.
Running up the stone steps to the kitchen door, I grab and press the door handle down, it clicks, I pull it towards myself, peering into the kitchen wanting, wishing, that nobody is in there, as I don’t want them to ask why I am scared. My eyes sweep the unusually empty room, good, it’s all clear, now I just need to make it upstairs.
This jumpy soul with the taste of trouble on her tongue, tries to stealthily, silently sneak upstairs through our surprisingly silent house, to the safety of my room with the cool, calm countenance of someone who had not just been shot at by a towering, angry, hairy farmer, who hated children, but had in fact, just been innocently gallivanting around their garden. Nope, nothing to see here. Nuh hu. There is neither sight nor sound of my Granny or my Aunt, so I press on in pursuit of peacefulness.
Jumping onto my soft, squishy, safe bed, I squeeze my favourite teddy as if trying to hide the shape of heart bursting out of my chest from prying eyes, in a puddle of frame. Hoping against hope that the farmer would not tell our goodhearted Neighbours, or worse again GRANNY! My Aunt should be ok, but, could this be the first time that I would be in trouble with Granny? That would not be nice AT ALL! If Granny told Mum, it would probably be better if the Farmer had shot me!!
I can happily and gratefully report that the huge, irate, hirsute Farmer who abhorred children, neither told our lovely Neighbour, nor my Granny, but, that may be because, as I found out years later, the yeti of a farmer was in fact a propane scare cannon and not a human! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, the attempted murder of a child for trespassing and the breath on the back of my neck from the mammoth Farmer, were simply the product of a child’s overactive imagination. All of which was set off by a 150 decibel bang, similar to a 12 gauge shotgun, from one of these incredibly startling cannons.
Thank you Mr Toastmaster, Mr President, fellow Toastmasters and welcome guests.