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Archive for January, 2014

It’s summer and it’s hot. When I get the kids from school, they’re cross and squabblish. So I take them down to our village beck and sling them in to cool off.

The beck with a duck

Our village beck is lovely. When the weather’s right we can all spend hours pottering around in it. Today, the weather is definitely right. Within about a minute of getting in the water, all three of us are happy and relaxed.

Becky in the beck

One of the kids’ favourite things to do is to prospect for treasure. For some reason, the river bottom is full of little fragments of dinnerware. Maybe previous villagers used to come down here and throw plates in when they were mad, I don’t know. Whatever: my kids love to dig around in the mud and the stones and find bits of plates and cups and so on, then carry them home in their socks with the plan that we’re going to make a mosaic with them. (To date we have never yet made a mosaic, but that’s okay. The joy is in the collecting.)

Playing in the beck 2

Playing in the beck

Today, we do loads better than that. Within minutes, my son comes bounding over to me brandishing a massive glass…thing…and begs me to interpret it. “It’s a lampshade,” I tell him, with no real evidence. He lays it on the side of the beck and returns for more treasure.

A lampshade, possibly

A lampshade, possibly

Within minutes, we find it. My daughter appears with a look of reverence on her face. “I think…” she can hardly speak with excitement. “I think I’ve found a glass bottle.” We rinse it off in the beck. I think she’s found a glass bottle too. Quite a pretty one. Today is a good collecting day.

Glass bottle, definitely

Glass bottle, definitely

Then my son comes back with something else. I can tell from the look on his face that he’s not sure about it.

“Look at this,” he says. “It looks like some sort of bone.”

Looks like a bone

Looks like a bone

“Goodness,” I say. “So it does.”

“So, what is it then?”

“D’you know,” I say, “I have absolutely no idea.”

We head home with the glass lampshade (possibly), the glass bottle (definitely) and the thing that looks like a bone. I wash them in the sink and then put them on the downstairs windowsill to dry. Then I sort of forget about them. The glass lampshade and the glass bottle and the thing that looks like a bone become part of the background.

Months pass. It’s next January and it’s cold. The British Gas boiler-man comes to service our boiler.

(Unsolicited plug for the British Gas boiler-man: he was ace. The boiler-man comes when he says he will, does everything he said he would, explains the paperwork, fixes our dodgy radiator for free with a part he happened to have on the van, tidies up after himself and leaves on time. This has nothing to do with the story and no-one is paying me to say this. I just mention it because it’s true, and it’s nice to acknowledge great service in public.)

Our boiler is in the downstairs bathroom. Naturally, this means the British Gas boiler-man spends time in there. Also in there are the glass lampshade, the glass bottle, and the thing that looks like a bone.

After he’s been there a while, I go in to offer him a cup of tea.

He is, as I mentioned above, ace. This is partly why I feel so bad when I see the look on his face. He is looking at the windowsill. Is he looking at the glass lampshade? No. Is he looking at the glass bottle? No. He is looking at the thing that looks like a bone. Rather belatedly, it dawns on me that there is a very good reason it looks like a bone.

Just like a bone

Just like a bone

He looks at me for a second, then looks back at the bone my son fished out of the river and which I carried home, washed and have kept on my windowsill ever since.

In any reasonable country, he would ask me, “What’s the deal with the bone on the windowsill, missus?” and I would reply, “Damn, I only just noticed. Here’s how that happened…”

But we’re British, so we don’t speak of it. Instead, I say, “would you like a cup of tea?” and he pretends to think about it for a minute and then says, “Um…no, thanks, I’m fine. But thank you” and then he gets on with fixing the boiler and I go and hide in the kitchen and no further eye contact is made between us and the bone is never ever mentioned again.

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Eye of Sauron

Somehow it feels wrong that we found this at the bottom of an empty mug of tea. If there is such a thing as a sentient supernatural entity who is the essence of all evil on this earth, you’d think he’d pick a coffee-cup.

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You know that whole Horror-Movie trope where someone’s adorably off-beat child receives messages that warn of the imminent arrival of terrible dark forces bent on the destruction of all humanity holds dear? And, because horror-movie children seem to be Pictures people rather than Words people, they choose to express what they know through the medium of terrifying drawings? Only the parents choose not to act on it because they are busy cooking dinner or working on their tan or getting divorced or something?

Here’s what I found propped up on my seven-year-old son’s desk on New Year’s Eve:

Angel Devil Spiderman picture

My first reaction was “Ha ha, I hope this isn’t like one of those drawings in The Ring or Silent Hill or Children of the Corn or The Butterfly Effect and I am one of those dozy parents who completely misses the signs of horrors to come.” My second (possibly more rational) reaction was “Holy shit, I hope this really isn’t like one of those drawings in The Ring or Silent Hill or Children of the Corn or The Butterfly Effect and I am one of those dozy parents who completely misses the signs of horrors to come…better do some parenting here and see what’s going down.”

Extensive interrogation revealed the following:

1. The picture is of a devil and an angel
2. The devil has a pitchfork because he is bad
3. The angel has a halo because she is good
4. The thing in the angel’s right hand is a candle
5. Yes, he knows that being naughty isn’t a boy thing and being good isn’t a girl thing
6. Oh yes, and Spiderman. Spiderman is in it too
7. That, um, that blobby thing underneath. Can we talk about something else now?
8. The candle is because. [This was probed further, but no further information was forthcoming. Apparently the candle was its own justification]
9. It’s all drawn in black because it is
10. Because it is
11. Because it is!
12. This is all the information he wishes to share on the matter, or as he put it, “I think I’ve finished talking about this now, mummy. Let’s read The Faraway Tree and talk about Lego.”

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