Saturday, 20 August 2016

Murder, Mayhem and Brain Fog.

I wrote the following speech for Toastmasters. It was so well accepted on the first attempt that people suggested I practice it to enter in the Club Competition.

I think I did a fairly good job of writing it.  My problem is, trying to remember it.  For competition, I'm really going to need to be able to present my speech without notes.

This is my big problem.  No matter how many times I read this, no matter how many times I say it all, I just don't seem to be able to get it to stay inside my brain.   

Brain fog strikes again.

Anyone who has tips on learning a speech despite brain fog, please let me know.

Midsomer Mayhem

Madam/Mr Toastmaster, ladies and gentlemen
"It will always be investigated by a detective named 'Barnaby' "

Murder, blackmail, dark secrets and sinister intents, with a charming backdrop of verdant forests, quality china tea sets and perfect gardens is the basis of English village life.

I know this, because I watch Midsomer Murders.

Using this television program as source material, I can tell you everything anyone could ever want to know about life in quaint English villages with names like Badger’s Drift.

Ah Badger’s Drift.  It sounds like badgers build little rafts to lie on and just drift lazily down the river. Actually, they drift because they’re dead.

But I’m not here to talk about badgers.  I want to talk about the lives of humans in these villages, and to tell you how you could survive visiting one.

In a typical English village, everyone, from the lord of the manor to the pig farmer knows each other. Often they’re related (frequently secretly as the result of illegitimate affairs.) If you live in one of these villages, you will never know if your boyfriend or girlfriend is also your brother or sister. (Or, perhaps, you will know, and simply choose to have an incestuous relationship, but then you will have to kill everyone who finds out about it.)

On visiting, you will find that most villages have no public housing, or if they do, the public housing estate will be adjacent an exclusive private girls’ school, which has a body in the hay shed. It’s one of the ancient traditions of English villages that private schools must have hay sheds complete with bodies.

The most common cause of death in the English village is murder.  In fact, there are at least three murders per week. These will always be investigated by a police officer named Barnaby. This is because the British police force is a dynastic organisation.  When a senior officer retires a relative with the same surname will always be appointed in his place.

People in villages often look familiar.  So for example, you might be certain that the man living in the gypsy caravan in one village looks exactly the same as the lord of the manor in another village. Someone being interviewed by the police this week, might look identical to someone who was murdered in a different village last year.  Let me remind you of my earlier point, that most of these people are related, and many of them do not even know that they are related. You will find strong familial resemblances everywhere.

The most common pastime enjoyed by village residents is killing each other. Other favoured activities include incest, affairs, blackmail, extortion and disputes over land ownership or right-of-access.

There are lots of community activities; fetes and festivals, garden shows, boat races  and community theatre.  All of these are superficially charming, but they exist to provide opportunities to kill someone.

So how can you survive your visit to these picturesque villages?  I would recommend wearing Kevlar at all times. Kevlar will help protect you  from being bullets, knives and arrows.

 It’s also important to never eat or drink anything.  Remember, you will be surrounded by people who are expert at poisoning, whether with wild grown herbs and mushrooms, or common household items.

Never go anywhere alone, or with just one other person, even if that one person is someone you trust.  Any time there aren’t at least three people watching you closely, you are likely to die.  Of course, you could still die in front of any number of witnesses.

Do not go to a community event. I know they sound lovely and potentially fun, but a village never holds any event without someone being killed.  You do not want to be that someone.

Beware of people with hypodermic needles.  Horse tranquillisers are commonly used to subdue people prior to murdering them.

Never say or do anything to offend anyone, or act in a way that might hint that you know their dark secret.  Everyone in the village will have a dark secret and will be willing to kill to keep it secret.

In case all of this fails, take out travel insurance and funeral insurance before you go, and have your name, and your next-of-kin’s contact details tattooed on your body.  (Have the tattoo somewhere central – arms and legs can go astray.)

All in all, English villages like those portrayed in Midsomer Murders have a beautiful environment, a fascinating history and social structure, and an intriguing air of something not-quite-right.

If you go there, and survive, you could have the most exciting time of your life.

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