At the outset, I’d like to wish everybody subscribed to my blog a happy new year. I personally am not overly superstitious, but it appears to me that ending a year with ’13’ in it can only be a good thing.
So to celebrate, I am going to post a slightly edited version of the first speech I gave to Toastmasters.Obviously I’ve used a bit of poetic license when giving this one, but they’re both based on true events.
Tonight I’d like to make my introductions to the audience. You see in addition to this being my entry into the humorous speech contest, it is also my first as a member of toastmasters.
My name, is Giles.
Giles Dickenson-Jones to be precise.
And with a name like ‘Giles’ you might think that I know which piece of cutlery to use first during my dinners with the highest echelons of society.You may imagine that I spend my nights smoking a cigar in a leather arm chair, in a brandy-fuelled daze.
You might even imagine that my weekends are packed to the brim with polo, murder mysteries and wine tastings.
However, tonight I’d like to start my time at Toastmasters by making my introduction in a way which illustrates exactly who this new face called ‘Giles’ is.
You see, Giles is the guy who brings cider and wedges to a formal meeting of toastmasters.
What I mean by this is that no matter how hard I might try to be the Giles that you expect.
The awkwardness of the Giles that I am will always prevail.
Now, although as an economist you might assume that I can skate past this claim without a shred of evidence, let me introduce you to exhibit A:
Stuarts Point Public School, New South Wales.
Me, a small, not particularly popular child with hair bleached white from the sun.
It’s recess, and although young, I was wise for my age, having already discovered the unmistakable sting of the bull ant, speed of the goanna and roar of the koala.
But until that fateful recess in October, I had not known the peck of the magpie.
Now, for those of you who don’t know, being more than an hour from Sydney means that I can claim an affinity with Animals, not unlike crocodile Dundee or Steve Irwin.
However, even I had not been prepared for the aerial terror of the native Australian magpie.
Nor was I able to hide my fear after my first encounter.
Week after week.
Day after day
Recess after recess
The Magpie sought out my bright white hair, like the target that it was.
So I hatched a plan.
But this wasn’t any plan, it was the playground equivalent of the great escape.
And It required, guts, determination and access to the sport shed.
In the words of Sun Tsu:
If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.
Whether he was talking about magpies is still subject to debate and may never be fully known.
But as a child seeking to become a man, I knew this was the key to victory.
For myself I knew my greatest weakness was my hair.
In fact it was my Achilles heel.
But what was the magpies?
Well, under cover of darkness with access to a library I found out….
Anything solid you could swing above your head.
And so there I was, in the middle of the playground, wearing a comically oversized hockey mask, wildly swinging a metal baseball bat over my head, while the bemused teachers and students looked on.
I can assure you since that day, magpies and I have had an unspoken understanding.
They don’t bother me and I don’t swing inanimate objects at them.
I’ve never been the sporty type.
I know what you’re thinking, ‘oh come on Giles, nobody is that good looking by accident’.
But hear me out.
God may have had a plan for my exceptional good looks, but it’s no fault of my own.
You see, throughout my school life, my least popular pastime was always sport.
Although I’m not sure where exactly this came from, it may very well have been from one of my first swimming carnivals.
Now let me set the scene.
There I was, a suitably awkward child of 10, dressed in my standard issue speedo.
As was typical at the Macksville public pool during that time of year, the sun was blaring almost as intensely as the hundreds of children crowding the grandstand.
Fortunately for me, underneath the grandstand there was respite.
So there I was.
Hiding under the stand with my friend, strategically avoiding as much physical activity as possible.
That is, unless it involved trying to escape outside from teachers by squeezing ourselves under the back wall.
Unfortunately, apparently I had a head which was sufficiently larger than my friends.
Large enough, to thwart my escape.
So there I was, ten years old with my head stuck between a slab of cement and a corrugated iron wall.
Hundreds of kids screaming, just loud enough to swamp my whimpers as I attempted to absolve myself of the corrugated iron and concrete prison through force.
But, it was to no avail.
The only choice that remained was to do the unthinkable and bring our Narnia to an end.
So my friend fetched the teacher.
Unfortunately, the adult world’s solution was no more sophisticated than the human equivalent of WD40.
What I mean by this, is that to add insult to injury, the teacher proceeded to pour inexpensive moisturizer on my head in an attempt to ‘slide’ me from the concrete’s clutches.
So there I was, lying in the hot sun, with hundreds of my schoolmates watching me.
My face covered in moisturizer and my eyes filled with tears.
But at this point, I would like to make something clear to you.
This story real…
In fact it’s so real, that all the time this was happening somebody was filming it.
In a time when portable cameras were far from common.
Somebody had the foresight to bring one.
And thank God for that. Otherwise they would have missed what was next:
A fire-crew and the Jaws of Life.
So there I was, lying on my side, dressed in my speedos, head covered in moisturizer with tears in my eyes, a jaws of life, a fire crew, hundreds of my friends watching and somebody was recording it.
This, my friends was the thing of nightmares and perhaps why sports has never been my thing.
But this is very much the guy who brings wedges to a toastmasters meeting.
And this is who I am.
Try as I might to be the Giles you might expect, the real Giles is still swatting at magpies in the playground.