Thursday, 9 August 2012

story teller

As I sat having lunch with Snooks today he told me a story.

It went like this: “Once there was a bean who lived under the sea. And he lived happily ever after.”

At this point I applauded and started to sing praise for such a magical and satisfying tale when he interrupted.

“Then,” he said ominously …

What a great way to open a novel, I thought to myself, with the classic fairy tale ending. What a marvellous malevolent twist to turn the familiar righteousness restored ending into a trick start which comforts the reader with a false sense of security just before the real drama starts.

Anyway, he went on ..

“…then, he and his friend (names were given but have been omitted here as they may relates to persons known and unknown) a park called Wavy Park. They played there, and then went home and went to bed. On the sea bed. There were waves coming out of the chimney. The end.”

I loved it and have recorded it here word for word.  The bean story was prompted by our lunch menu and my recounting of one of my Dad’s favourite rhymes (all together now) “How many beans make five? A bean a bean a half a bean a half a bean a bean an d a bean.” I shall have to check the origin of that one.

I was glad to hear Snooks tell a story. Just last night I was discussing with the Engineer (whom I am pretty sure was asleep at the time) whether we have stifled Snooks’ imaginative powers with too many facts.  When told or read fantastical stories he often demands an immediate audit of what is real or “true” and what is not. Funnily enough he then refuses to believe my answers insisting furiously that fairies do exist and that God doesn’t.

Yesterday he asked the Engineer if Voldemort existed. I was quick to ensure that the Engineer was very clear in the negative on this (though of course some may argue that in a way, he does) as I did not want our very premature venture into reading JK Rowling to backfire with fearful nightmares. I am not sure what the argument against introducing a four year old to the concept of evil and the prospect of one’s parents being killed by it is, but I am sure there is a good one. So in the reading I have been careful to discuss with Snooks his understanding of what the story is, what it means, who is good and who is bad and that the whole thing is made up.

His question also revealed another new development – that he does not trust my answers and needs to double check with the Engineer. I can’t blame him for this. It could be brought on by my too often deferring questions (usually about the gauge on railway tracks or at what angle the earth is spinning) to the Engineer for confirmation.  Or it could be a shift predicted for young boys around this age when their focus turns to Dad as the new guide and model.

However when it comes to good and evil and what exists and what doesn’t I must make sure he knows my credentials are as good as anybody’s and probably better than most.

And anyway I want to hear more of the Bean Stories.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

whole wide world

Ok the Olympics. I have to mention it. In ten years’ time when Snooks reads this he will understand the huge deal this has been. The Games are being held in our city. We saw the torch being carried past the end of our road. We were close enough to touch the runner. We have travelled across the city amid the panoply of Olympics visitors, identifiable not by their foreign tongues (as hundreds of these are already part of our city’s soundtrack) but by their expensive clothes and sensible footwear. We have visited the park (though not bothered to try to get tickets for any events, despite the Loads of Empty Seats row) and we happened to watch live on TV the men’s gymnastics which afforded the country a silver then a bronze medal for the first time in about 100 years. I cheered and Snooks mimicked as the young men leapt and topple-tailed around the place showing that spotty stocky shy teenagers can perform wonders

Speaking of wonders, the entertainment I conjured up for our weekly supermarket shop yesterday was that Snooks was to stand, wait for the starting beep and then sprint while I shopped and counted until he reached the end. His P.B. is 6 seconds. And yes, the joke is Aisles of Wonder.

Ok so that brings me neatly to the opening ceremony which we watched live and recorded so Snooks could see bits of it the next day. The world seems to have liked Danny Boyle’s creative fun filled spectacle although some of the references were a bit lost in translation. We got most of them and as a native of Danny’s home town and a pillar of the neighbouring parish I felt a particular warmth for the dark satanic mills, Abide With Me, the Brookside kiss, the Beatles and of course Oh Danny Boy(le). Why did no clever hack pick that one up? My sister who was at school with Danny’s sister reliably informs me that they used to sing it about him as a joke…

Snooks was mesmerised by the scenes from children’s literature which I had originally censored as Too Scary and he insisted on watching the towering Voldemort and the roller skating Child-Catcher over and over again. Such was the impact that we are ending each afternoon now with a short reading from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – his first venture into real big boy books.

And speaking of books (you see I did it!), thanks to a tip from a friend we have found further indoor, free, character building entertainment at the local library with Story Lab - a scheme whereby children borrow six books over the course of the summer break and earn stickers on their return after answering a couple of questions about the plot. Snooks is not a stickers kind of boy but does like a chat so being asked by the librarian what he thought of the books is reward enough.

Unfortunately the day we returned Edwardo, the Horriblest Boy in the Whole Wide World (all about a boy whose bad behaviour gets worse and worse the more he is scolded and improves only when the grown-ups start to praise the best in him) the librarian was so overwhelmed she did not have the time to hear Snooks’ views on it. I, for what it’s worth, thought it merited an extra copy on the Parenting shelves.

So what with all that – with the international hoards  travelling on our tubes, with the fabulous walk through the nation’s historical and cultural highs, with the dreams which watching these young athletes will inspire and with the battle between Good and Evil now lodged in his imagination, Snooks' whole world has widened considerably over the last two weeks. And that is pure gold.