How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit Introduction


The idea of an Intergenerational Creative Writing Project came to me as I was walking in the woods, at the foot of Annagh Hill.

I had worked with children many times in Coolfancy and Tinahely, as well as when I was researching my plays The Thaw and Hunting the Strawberry Tree. Over the years, I had worked with groups of adults umpteen times: Traveller groups in Wicklow and Wexford, older people at Carnew Community Care, residents of Wexford Women’s Refuge and Shelton Abbey Open Prison. But I had never yet had the opportunity to mingle both age groups together and see what happened!

These workshops were a quiet pleasure: silence descended over Ballythomas School with only the thud of tennis balls to disturb this group of serious writers. It was the same over the road at Hollyfort Schoolhouse, with the sound of the fire crackling away in the background, while pen was put to paper in this wonderfully atmospheric building. All of the writers gave their best attention to the work and to one another. Jaws dropped as the technique of skinning a rabbit was described, or the ghostly apparition in a dark kitchen was relived…

Children surprised one another with their capacity to dig deeper, reaching for new words and lost memories. For all these reasons, this has been one of the most delightful workshop series that I have ever had the privilege to facilitate.

Sincere thanks to Garrett Keogh who took on the challenge of trying out something new, under the umbrella of the Gap Arts Festival. And to Mary Fleming, who gave so much time and energy to the planning stages of this project, as well as the booklet you now hold in your hands.
I will finish by remembering the words of Albert Camus, reminding us why words matter so much:

‘Were it not for the storyteller, civilisation would destroy itself.’

Enjoy these precious tales by young and old!

Sylvia Cullen

How to Skin a Rabbit Copyright Information How to Skin a Rabbit

Copyright Information

All authors retain copyright in their stories. All rights reserved © 2019

The Gap Arts Festival and Wexford County Council are permitted to reproduce the work.
Please contact regarding permission to reproduce or reprint.

Design by Mary Fleming Design, 086 8059039 Printed by Wexford County Council.

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit The Ghost in the Kitchen



When, one summer, Ma, Da, little brother and I were on holiday in my grandparents’ house, I saw a ghost.
I didn’t know at the time that I was looking at a ghost. I was about four years old and terrified of the dark. My grandparents’ house was a Victorian redbrick on the South Circular Road in Dublin. My impression of Victorian houses is that they were always dark. And it was a long way from the dining room to the kitchen.

On the day in question, we were eating our dinner in the dining room. Dinner time was one p.m., always. My brother and I were the only children around the table. I think there were about six adults present. I never enjoyed eating in that room. I don’t know if it was because it was dark, or because my grandmother’s policy was that small children shouldn’t be acknowledged: seen and not heard.

There came a blessed diversion: my grandad, who we called Pa, spilled gravy on the white, linen tablecloth. I loved Pa dearly. He was a very entertaining man—an engineer, who invented things. He was also a brilliant rat catcher. Pa would set the traps, designed by himself, show me where they should go, and after a few days, take me along to check the situation. I particularly remember one day when I followed him into the sitting room.

Pa went over to the top left-hand corner of the room. He lifted the carpet, then listened carefully. Finally, he whispered

‘We’ll have a look.’ Lifting a floorboard, he took out a trap. ‘Look at that! Mammy, Daddy and ten babies!’ I was surprised at the number of babies but the trap was designed to catch as many as possible.
I followed him through the house again as he triumphantly carried his prize out to the shed at the end of the garden.

My hero! However, my grandmother wasn’t as happy as I was. And now, Pa was entertaining me by spilling gravy on the snow white, starched, linen tablecloth.
Granny changed the mood very effectively, by ordering me to the kitchen for a wet dishcloth, in order to mop up the gravy. At the time, I felt that Pa should get it, but I was also worried about having to go alone down the hall, down a silent flight of stairs, down across into the lower hall. And no window to lighten the gloom. And I was never allowed switch on the light.

But on this day, when I reached the lower hall, I could see someone—a stranger—in the kitchen. I knew he wasn’t a family member. I had never seen anyone like him. He looked just like my soft toy doll*, given to me in 1944, the days when you couldn’t get toys. In my eyes, he was a six-foot tall version, with the same tall bristly black hair. And he had the smartest, polished black boots, that I had ever seen.

What was he doing? He was washing dishes. The sink was under the window and he was, very calmly, wiping plates then drying them. I watched as he walked across the kitchen to the dresser where he carefully placed them on the shelves. I had never seen anything like this before.

I don’t know if he saw me or not, but he didn’t stop his dishwashing. As I said, he was extremely tall and wore a strange, furry helmet on his head. He wore a red jacket and black trousers. And of course the shiny, black boots. He didn’t frighten me but I wasn’t very comfortable with his presence. I turned and hardly daring to breathe, made my way back up to the dining room. I hoped I could slide in next to my mother without being noticed. No such luck.

Granny, as serious as Pa was entertaining, turned towards me. ‘Did you bring the cloth Brenda?’ I managed to shake my head and tried to get closer to my mother. Granny looked at Ma and remarked, ‘You’re going to have to do something with that girl.’

My grandfather winked at me and started cleaning up with his table napkin. After the meal was over, the table cleared and everything put away, Ma asked me what happened. I told her as best I could about the man in the kitchen and how I just couldn’t go in there. My mother didn’t seem too surprised.

‘Nothing in this house would amaze me,’ she replied. And that was the end of the story… Or so it seemed!

About ten years later, I came in from school and checked that day’s post. In our house, letters and cards were always left on the kitchen window sill. I couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a postcard of a guardsman in front of Buckingham Palace. In those days there was no television and very few photographs in the newspapers, so there was no way I could recognise a British guardsman.

Very excitedly, I told my mother. She clearly remembered the day of the spilled gravy and suggested I should go back to the house on South Circular Road and talk to my Auntie May, who was still living there. So off I went, after school one day and told my story.

My Aunt was very interested. She was able to tell me that the family who had lived in that house before them, had two sons. When these boys were about eighteen and twenty years old, the First World War broke out. Both boys joined an Irish Regiment and went off with the British Army, to fight. They never returned…

Ghost stories are supposed to be sad. However, the ghost I saw wasn’t sad. I think he was happy, back in his childhood home. I didn’t feel sad when I saw him, and I could see how good he felt to be back in his mother’s kitchen.

I was glad that he decided it was me who should see him. My Aunt was thrilled to bits that he had come home. We talked about him over tea and scones and decided that he must have been a thoughtful, caring son. He was doing the dishes after all. And you can’t do a nicer thing for your mother.

* The Chambers’ dictionary definition is: ‘a child’s soft doll with a black face, bristling hair and bright clothes.’ A doll like this dictionary definition featured in certain American children’s books; the first of which was illustrated by Florence Upton and was published in 1895.

I own a similar soft toy doll now, although it’s not really mine. It was my husband’s. Before he got it, some of his older cousins had it. They always said that it came to them from someone else. My daughter, now aged forty- six, had it when she was little. And then three of her four children did—the youngest one wasn’t interested. I imagine he must be almost a hundred years old now. But that’s not the one I had as a little girl. That one, my brother threw into the sea.

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit The Den



It wasn’t my idea.
I wish it had been because it was my garden. But no, my friend came up with the idea. A den. A base. Our secret hideout, where we could escape to whenever we wanted. There is a row of trees at the front of my garden. Some small, some tall and a gigantic Sycamore tree, right at the centre, two or three times the height of my house. Myself, my friend and my younger brother all marched towards the wall of green, which was looming above our heads. Why? We were desperate to know what was behind those trees.

My friend had asked and I, feeling ashamed, told him that I hadn’t a clue. This was due to the fact that we had only been in the house for a year and a half. But that wasn’t an excuse for not wondering what was behind the trees. Whenever I bothered to try and see what was there from the roadside, I was again prevented by another blockade of trees which hid this mysterious place. It was almost as if these spectacular trees were hiding something that you had to prove you were worthy of seeing.

We needed to prove we were worthy. So, we stooped under the lowest branches, stomped through sharp, pointy briars and stinging nettles, to come face to face with… a wall of clay. That was the biggest challenge. Not giving up then.

We could see shrubs, bushes and one or two flowers above us, so we retrieved all the shovels we had, which was a grand total of two. Regardless, we hacked away at the clay until we had something that resembled a staircase. It was steep and hard to clamber up but we couldn’t turn back now.

I glanced to the left and then turned my head back to ogle the shrubs, bushes, birds and the amazing trees. There was a path, but made by what? I still don’t know because the house was new and I doubt the hardworking builders would have had much time to walk about this hidden wonderland. We trudged forward in single file, gasping and pointing at all the different sights. It came to a drop, which was where my parents dump the dead grass and compost. They had never looked up and noticed the ledge we were standing on.

During that summer, whenever my friend came over we would sometimes take turns jumping down into the place where the rotting grass was. After a few minutes of exploring, we ambled back to the entrance but we didn’t stop there.

Instead we continued on to the place we named ‘The Den’. It was perfect. Probably impossible to describe completely, because it was overwhelming. Bees buzzed, flowers danced in the cool breeze and even the trees looked vibrant. The spring sun filtered through the Sycamore leaves, casting a lovely light over our new hideout.

The roots of some trees actually poked through the surface of the ground. We were raised above ground level by about a metre and a half and we could see the road through the gaps in the Sycamore’s leaves. We could see but not be seen. Just what every young child wants.

Over the next few years the den changed. The trees on the road side were cut back making us more visible to the many people who glanced in at the den, probably wondering as they drove past, if they had seen a flicker of movement. That flicker was most likely us. Our parents were eventually allowed to come up. My Dad made us a tyre swing and a rope ladder, which nobody ever scaled until my eighth birthday, when the very same friend who asked the question ‘What’s behind those trees?’ managed to climb up and get stuck.

I had forgotten all about that. Now I’m going into second year and haven’t been in the Den for more than a year and a half. I’ll go up there soon. Maybe all this time I thought I was too old for such things. Too old to have fun up there. I now know that you’re never too old to have fun. |||

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit Melting Moments



“Answer that bell,” commands Susan, the night sister in a busy London hospital. It’s three a.m.

Beth started training to be a nurse in 1970. This is her first time on night duty. The ward has full glass panels from ceiling to floor, with no blinds. It was previously used for patients getting treatment for tuberculosis.

Beth hides behind the sluice room door, peeping out slowly. Outside, thunder is raging. The windowpanes shake and rattle, as the lightning strikes make crackling noises. The night sky explodes with rays of light, like fireworks against the ominous dark.

Fellow workers hurry past, shouting in Cockney accents. “Come look at the storm, reminds me of Guy Fawkes night,” as they stand and gaze out the long glass windows.
Electric lights flicker and dim. Bells are ringing all around, as Beth’s legs slowly melt beneath her. She feels sweaty. Barely able to breathe. Her head is dizzy and her mouth dry. “If I was at home,” she thought, “I could hide in the dark wardrobe and put blankets on the bedroom windows…”

It happened when Beth was nine years old.

One hot summer’s day in 1964, she ran from the hay field as her father stopped Bob the workhorse and parked the hay binder on the headland of the Brow field. Her brothers and sisters chased each other home through the long, mossy lane.

The sky got darker, as loud bangs of thunder and explosive flashes of lightning cracked out. Horses neighed loudly and kicked up their hind legs. Squawking hens, ducks and geese ran, as they pushed their way through the iron farm gate.

Beth’s mother shook holy water as she handed them all rosary beads. The last one in got the old, worn, brown beads.

“God save us all,” whispered their mother, as she recited mysteries and litanies.

Kneeling, the children pinched and pushed at each other, to get the best space around the hearthstone. Two huge, black kettles hung on pot racks over the fire for making tea. Beth looked up at the wide, tar-covered chimney, remembering her Granny’s stories of hiding uniforms there for men on the run, when the Black and Tans were in Ireland in 1919. Santa also came down the same chimney if you were good, filling everyone’s socks hanging on a massive beam over the fanners, that kept the fire lighting.

Without warning, a ball of lightning as big as a football came rolling down the chimney, blazing hot fire and hitting Beth’s sister Nan on the elbow as it rolled along the cold kitchen flagstones.

Everyone screamed as the ball of lightning blazed through the house, shooting out the open kitchen door into the storm outside. Their father hurriedly got everyone out as some cried, while others were stunned into silence. Flames and smoke suddenly appeared in the sky as their neighbour’s house went on fire.
Beth hears her name being called to Matron’s office immediately.
Taking deep breaths, she puts on her starched white hat and in full uniform, head up, she marches purposely past the wall of windows and in through the Matron’s door.

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit Ill Got, Ill Gone



In Tipperary, where I come from, they say the Devil’s children have the Devil’s luck…
When I was growing up in Portroe, my home was in the townland of Ballingeer, and there was always a few of us coming home together after school. I was the eldest at that time because my older sisters and brothers had moved on. Well this day, a few of my sisters and my brother were with me. School finished at three o’clock and there was a rush out of last class to get our coats and home with us, as quick as our legs could carry us, starving with the hunger.

Our mother would have lovely home-cured bacon and cabbage ready for us, with home-grown potatoes. Delicious food. At that time, most people in the country killed their own pig for bacon. Streaky bacon would be my own favourite. Of course, almost everyone around in the countryside had a kitchen garden and provided all the vegetables for the household.

Coming home through the fields, we would see plenty of rabbits, big and small. There’d be the odd hare and lots of foxes. Years ago, farmers would kill foxes, cut the tails off and sell them for ten shillings in old money. The odd person would skin the fox and cure it with almond saltpetre, to make a rug. Big work!

That time, people would go walking through their fields with their gun. They’d see the rabbit and shoot! It was brought

home and left hanging by the legs for a few days, before it would be prepared for cooking: sectioned into eight pieces, fried or put into a casserole with onions and other veg, and cooked for a few hours.

Walking home from school, we always went the same way— cutting across fields on a short cut, instead of going around the roads. There was Boland’s Field and Hogan’s Field. And then our own: Grace’s Field. These all had cattle in them, so we always thought when we reached our own gate, that we were safe at last!

This day anyway, we decided to go through an orchard that belonged to Mrs Boland. She was a poor old lady, average size, with black hair just going grey. Getting on a bit without a doubt! She lived with her son who never married. Well this particular day, we were in and up the tree trunks, as if we had never seen an apple on a tree. Now our parents would not have been pleased at us, upsetting the old lady—and sure anyhow hadn’t we apples galore at home?

Well we’d shake the branches for the apples to come down and if you weren’t quick, they’d fall off and hit your head. Eaters and Cookers they were. We’d take bites out of some and throw others away—the sour ones. We often thought about throwing them at the old lady—such bold children we were! Sure we were only young ones that time…

Eating apples had a nice smell. They were small with reddish colours. Cookers were green and bigger. When peeled and sliced, if the seeds were white they were not ripe. Seeds had to be brown and well-fit for cooking. In July, the eating apples were ripe and suitable to eat. One type was called Beauty of Bath and kept well until October.

We also used to get Bramley apples, which were cookers, specially for stewing and making tarts. These consisted of shortcrust pastry, rolled out and put on a dish, filled with peeled and sliced apples and sugar to taste. Then, covered over with pastry again and baked in a very hot oven. The folk in the household would have them eaten up in a minute!

In those times, our parents were always very friendly with the Boland family. Of course they were—sure they were our neighbours! But as we were busy up in the tops of the trees shaking the branches like blazes, suddenly, didn’t Mrs Boland appear, looking very cross! She was after coming out her door to tell us off. She gave out like she never did before: told us not to be taking her apples, finally threatening us with a stick.

At that, we’d run! Racing home through the fields and leaping across the drains, just like cattle would do—except we’d make sure not to get our feet wet. Mrs Boland’s angry words would be ringing in our ears: “Ill got, ill gone,” she’d call out. Bold enough we were and would answer her back, shouting out ‘We don’t mind you!’

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit The Babysitting Nightmare



‘Stop pushing me!’ Róisín screamed. ‘I’m not even touching you,’ I cried.

‘Now you’re pushing me!’ Aoife shrieked.

‘Get out! We’re here now and I don’t want to hear you for another second!’ Mam snapped.

We froze but started to crawl out of the car eventually. Mam was quite surprised at how we quietened down so quickly, but tried to keep a firm face. Once we were out of the car, we ran inside my Aunt’s house.

My sisters, Aoife, Róisín, and I, were going to be babysitting our cousins Katie and Billy for the first time ever! Katie was a cute toddler but always let off a tantrum or two. As for Billy, the baby, he was a little on the quiet side. He was so good, he wouldn’t even cry if someone turned off the TV when he was watching it.

When we went in the door, Billy and Katie exclaimed, ‘YAY, YAY, YAY!’ They were so happy. The adults set off to their concert and we were left all on our own.
It was now seven o’clock so we were facing our first job, which was to put Billy to bed. That was hard… He screamed for Ireland and kicked too. He was two years of age and was well able to crawl and walk. He also loved attention.

Luckily, I had stayed downstairs with Katie, so that was alright—quiet and peaceful. She was watching a TV programme called Octonauts. I sat on the couch and closed my eyes… I imagined Mam crashing into the hedges and being rushed to hospital. I could hear screaming and roaring and shouting all around me.

I woke up in a panic to find Katie jumping on me. It was her doing all the screaming. I tried desperately to stop her because I knew she would wake up Billy, but she just wouldn’t stop.

Next thing I knew, Róisín and Aoife came rushing downstairs and started screeching at me to stop her. I tried again and again to shush her and finally she stopped bawling. But by this time Billy was screaming too. I really wanted to do a runner, but I knew I couldn’t.

All of a sudden, everything went strangely quiet… The three of us ran out into the hall. We froze for the second time. Billy had got out of his cot and he was right over at the banister! One more step and he could be DEAD. Aoife tiptoed up to him, but tripped over a step. Róisín jumped over her but then fell backwards. It was all up to ME.

Billy started smiling and jumping on the spot at the top of the stairs. I was terrified out of my skin. Taking a breath, I began to walk up to him. Billy quite liked me so he lifted his little foot as if he was going to step towards me. I grabbed him into my arms and hugged him so tightly. He kissed me on the nose so I kissed him back. I was so happy! Aoife and Róisín started clapping.

Katie walked out into the hall and started cheering and laughing, even though she didn’t have a clue about any of it. So then, we all started laughing—even little Billy!

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit When you were Ten



A number of differing shades of green battle for dominance, shafts of early morning sun filter through the gaps in sizable branches. A soft breeze caresses your

skin; you can feel it capturing your straw-coloured locks in its gentle gusts.

The cacophony of singing birds merges with the crunching of leaves underfoot in glorious harmony, the redolent scent of wildflowers invading your nostrils.

You’re alone, but not really… The forest doesn’t belong to you, not even a little bit—instead it belongs to the bugs, the birds, the bees and whatever other creatures have chosen to make their homes here. This is their abode and you… You are merely a visitor, thanking them for granting you entry and hoping they’ll forgive your ingression.

Footsteps echo as you stroll, a gentle thwack, thwack, thwack as your shoes meet the worn-down soil of the beaten forest floor. There is such an incomparable sense of freedom here, such an aura of wonderment—one you feel you haven’t lost since childhood.

You have lost a lot as you grew, as do most; everything is changing at such a rapid pace that you’re beginning to lose your footing. Though here… Here is liberating, it’s familiar, as though everything you fear, your doubts, your confusion— in here they’re reduced to nothing but an irritating buzz that is suddenly far easier to drown out. Suddenly you’re free.
You remember coming here in the company of your brothers,

your parents; it was a warm July evening, the only reason you remember that, is because it was the day after your mother’s birthday. Much has changed since then, that is undeniable.

You weren’t as reserved as you are now, nor as respectful, though you aren’t as carefree now as you were then, nor as excitable. In a way you suppose it’s an odd sort of balance, though also a stark realisation that you are no longer who you once were.

The forest at ten, was a whole other place than it is at twenty-two and you don’t just mean in relation to the thinning of the groves of trees, or the fact that this time, this time you’re alone.

You realise that it is probably the first time you’ve been back to this particular forest since then.

When you were ten, it was bigger. When you were ten, mystery lurked around every tree trunk, every grassy hill and overgrown path. Every tiny, inconsequential thing had a story behind it, an adventure to be had.

When you were ten, you and your brothers were on a treacherous quest—though the importance didn’t lie in the end-goal, but rather in the journey that awaited you.

There were dragons here too you know, witches also; in fact, when you were ten, there was a hodgepodge of magical, mythical creatures living alongside the birds, the bees and the bugs. You had to tread carefully and you remember warning your parents to stay behind, that you’d secure a path through the endless, impassable rows of towering barbs and thorns. Though now they’re merely thistles, daisies and dandelions.

When you were ten, a fallen branch was a sword. And armed with a series of twigs and random flowers that could absolutely heal any ailment that might befall you, you were finally ready to go.

You weren’t sure whether you were going to fell a dragon or tame a wolf, but regardless, it didn’t really matter. After all, when you were ten, the thrill was in the unknown.

When you’re twenty-two the unknown frightens you, it’s no longer a call to embark on another mystical quest, instead it’s unappealing, almost… unstable.

When you were ten, this same forest was a whole other world. You didn’t realise then that there was more to the world than just your backyard, or your school, or your local town. You didn’t realise back then that there was more to the universe than what you were familiar with and way back then, this now tiny forest was gargantuan. It seemed so far removed from the world you knew, just waiting to be explored and that was exactly what you did.
You spent hours in here, searching every nook and cranny, no stone was left unturned, no tree left unclimbed. In fact, you conquered every single one, even the giant oak that you fell from multiple times, though you didn’t give up. Instead you merely laughed. You laughed and laughed until tears streamed down your flushed, freckled cheeks and your brothers thought you were crying.

Though it seems that tree is dead now, that same determination has remained with you to this day and probably will for the rest of your days.

The seasons have changed, people have changed, you have changed.

But as you stand there, in that same old forest, some of the old you from when you were a child, still remains.

After all, there’s a lot more you can change now, than when you were ten.

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit The Hoover



Iwas only a year and a half old but away in a world of my own. Young, but already so independent. I loved being outside because out there, I could do anything. Helping my Dad in the garden was my favourite thing to do. Dad planted peas, spuds, carrots and onions. I always helped him because I was afraid that if I didn’t, I wouldn’t get any peas. And peas! Ahhh peas were my absolute favourite. I just love peas. I’m always robbing them, whenever I get the chance.

How can I describe why I love them so much and hoover them up like a Dyson?

Well, first of all the amazing taste. Fresh, juicy peas—there’s nothing on earth like them. The smallest ones are the sweetest. My Grandad Seán calls the big ones cannon balls!

This day anyway, I was outside playing in the garden. I strolled over to where the peas were growing, sat down and started to pick some. You have to hold the stem tightly and pull the pod right off. Or twist it, to get it off completely. You pinch the bottom of the pod to get it open. If you don’t do that, it’s hard to get the peas out. But if you pinch it and rip it open, the pod comes apart and you can just pop the peas straight into your mouth. They’re way nicer, way juicier than any of the ones you buy. Little balls of juiciness, so tasty.

So there I was this day, sitting and robbing peas. I’d say I was after eating nearly the whole garden! But what I didn’t know was, that back at the house, the big hunt for me had begun.

Everyone was out looking for me: my two big brothers, my Mam and Dad. They were frantic. Searching the whole house inside and out, top to bottom. My two brothers were sent off to search along the road, because I loved to go walking there with my Mam.

My parents tore outside and began searching our back garden. There was the big garage down the back and another shed up the top for all the shovels and tools. Perhaps they thought something could’ve fallen on me in there?

Nothing showed up. Still absolutely no sign. Next, my Mam would’ve started ringing people. My Uncle Kieran up the road, because I used to just love going off up to the farm or John, Betty and Ernie Evans, our neighbours, further up along the road. None of them had seen me.

At this stage, my parents were probably about to puke! I can’t imagine how dreadful those hours were for them.

I’ve a feeling that it was my brothers, J.J. and Achille, who thought of the pea plants. They know me well! J.J. and Achille ran up to the garden to check and when they saw me, they called Mam and Dad. They were delighted and relieved but most of all they laughed: ‘Should’ve known!’ Being so young, I didn’t understand the fuss; I was content hoovering up the peas, yum.

How to Skin a Rabbit How to Skin a Rabbit Under the Bridge



It started on another one of those dewy, misty, pale Saturday mornings.
We had just finished our breakfast of brown soda bread and some local honey from Tinahely. We were all gathered around the dining table having thoughts about what to do that day in our favourite place—Loggan. I usually love going for a walk up the road with my dog, Sammy, especially in summer. It’s so nice walking up the hill towards Ballynabarney, with the sun on your back and a warm breeze blowing. And the newly-born lambs playing and bleating. I love the way the air is so fresh where we live in the countryside and I really like looking at the lush, green fields. They are the perfect picnic spots—especially the ones near the stream that flows into the Derry river.

So this summer’s morning, I had a strange longing to take a proper look at the local stone bridge. Every time we passed it in our car, it looked like a rather strange and dark place down there. So after my brother and I had gotten dressed, we went out the gate with our mother and headed straight off towards the bridge. I noticed nice big stems of Cow Parsley growing and some pink foxgloves up in the hedges. The road seemed quiet as we walked along, with only the sound of the wind blowing in the alder trees.

By the time we got there, I realised that we had a problem. You see, I wanted to actually go underneath the bridge, not look down from the top by the roadside. But we couldn’t descend to the water’s edge because of all the nettles growing on either side. After a few minutes of thinking, I realised that we had no choice. We would have to just risk going through the nettles.

After a few long minutes of careful climbing, stepping cautiously, we finally got down to the banks of the stream. I was the first to wade under the bridge and I was soon to realise that it was the perfect spot for a creature like Gollum to live. Dark and wet, with hardly any light.

As I walked on through the shallow water, I began to explore the place and realised that the underneath of the bridge was rather cold and damp. Next of all, I looked up and noticed that overhead, there were ten or eleven green blobs sticking to the underside of the bridge. As I looked closer, I realised that the green blobs had eyes and legs and that they were actually frogs! I was about to tell my brother when suddenly one of them dropped and landed on my neck. I cried out and tumbled backwards into the stream. I was going to warn my mother and brother to watch out, when suddenly they both tumbled backwards into the stream too! All three of us quickly got up and were particularly wet and forlorn. Pushing and shoving to get back up onto the road, we trudged home, soaking wet, but with a tale to tell.