A fresh perspective on the Suarez biting controversy:
Have a great weekend. Keep your teeth to yourself.
See you on the flip side.
This was the letter that my seven year old daughter Millie left out for the Tooth Fairy. It suggests a certain familiarity, but it seems that they have met before. They are on first name terms, you know.
We have a student staying with us from Angola. I had to explain to him, in front of Millie, how difficult it is for the Tooth Fairy to remove a tooth from underneath a pillow, itself beneath a sleepy head, and substitute a few coins in its place. I had to emphasise the words ‘Tooth Fairy’ and do that thing with my eyes to ensure that he did not think that his English host was barking.
I think he got it.
Asked if they had similar customs back home, he replied that they left the tooth somewhere up high, above them, (that would be so much easier) and in the morning there would be a gift there instead.
Millie’s eyes grew wide. “You mean like a computer, or an iPad?”
That was before the recession kid, the Tooth Fairy now deals in shrapnel. At least in this house she does.
Everything still looks the same, but a line has been crossed.
Any change, any shift, will for a while be imperceptible. But things, as always happens, will gradually gather momentum until all is transformed.
“Time and tide wait for no man,” my father used to say.
They didn’t wait for him. He never attempted to outrun, or withstand. Once you reach a certain age, there is an air of inevitability about things. But there is no great hurry. We can live riding the rhythms of seasons, of tides.
The sun begins to set, it does not appear any different to the way it set last night, or the night before. But a person knows. That is our curse. But it is also a blessing.
Today has been a good day, shared with family and friends, and the things that count.
In the morning the rising sun will place another bead upon the abacus of the mortal man.
Local photograph by Drou Petrides
The wheel of the year continues to turn. We walk in a day carved out as the longest. Maybe with a sense of obligation, the sun shines down. My children gaze up at a horse chestnut tree, in the shade filled with an irrational, unseasonal hope.
They mark out the year only by conkers and snow.
Even the starlings were sunbathing.
Not in some stone circle, nor upon a mountaintop, but in a back garden, to the rear of a block of houses. A sacred square of confederacy. In each house the occupants are sealed in their tombs of un-knowing. On the roof of many, a totem bird sings, a blackbird, a starling, or a sparrow. Harbingers of light, stealing a march on everybody, except the sold out hippy in a cosmos of community.
A waning, sharp-edged moon peeks through the lightening clouds. Crows fly east, the seeking Magi. More-robins, swifts, gulls, cry out for other. A bat flies one final sortie before passing on the baton. Trees stand still in stupor.
Out of place, out of sight, girls shriek out from a passing car. A raiding hen party, scrambling at dawn. Implausibly, the birds sing louder, in a claim of ownership, as the day arrives fully, drowning in coffee.
Early in the week, while dropping my daughter off at school, a mother of one of the other children asked me:
“Is the World Cup nearly finished now?”
She said it quite casually, but there was a hint of something more.
I answered “Finished? Some of the teams haven’t even played their first game yet!”
There was a slight pause, then, in equal parts resignation and desperation:
“How much longer will it go on for?”
I shrugged. “I’m not sure, maybe three weeks.”
Hope dying in the eyes, like the embers of a once blazing fire.
When I went to Primary School, there used to be a name whispered in the corridors and classrooms that all of the kids knew: Annabella.
Annabella was the name of the ghost of a girl who was said to haunt the girls’ toilets. If I recall the story correctly, it was a girl who was supposed to have hung herself in there. This may be a recurring theme, as when I went to Secondary School there was a story of a boy who had hung himself from the bell tower.
What dark imaginations the young have. The thrill in being scared.
But that latter school story was more vague, the boy-ghost being anonymous. In my junior school the ghost had a name.
My wife went to the same primary school as I. She says that out of the few cubicles in the toilets, there was one whose door was always closed. All of the girls knew not to use it, because if you went in there Annabella would ‘get you.’
This was the story when we were pupils there, in the seventies to early eighties. The story came flooding back when, around the time of the Millenium, a niece of ours who went to that school mentioned, almost in passing, that the toilets in her school was haunted by a ghost named Annabella. The story lived on. The name lived on.
Well I thought it was great! Even more so, when, sometime later, I discovered an online conversation between people who were former pupils of the school back in the sixties, who were also talking of Annabella. For thirty years that story had been passed on to each new, fearful, generation starting at that school. I started thinking that maybe the story went back as far as the school did, back to the fifties. After this post was shared on Facebook (I’m adding this section to the original post) I learned from a former teacher that yes, indeed, the legend of Annabella was known when she started working there-back in the fifties. The passing on to each new wave of school pupils only came to an end when the school became victim to time and planning and was demolished.
I wonder about the person who first started the story. (Of course, assuming it is just a story.) Did they have any idea of the legacy that they had created? That the story they had given life to had continued to live right into the following decades, outliving its creator’s time there? Perhaps, also, outliving its creator’s time here?
And why Annabella? It’s an unusual name. I’ve never, ever, met an Annabella. Where did they get that name from?
The name was made popular by a poem by that dark writer Edgar Alan Poe, Annabel Lee, in the 19th Century, taking this more familiar form in the 20th. It tells of the death of a beautiful young woman, who the narrator/poet still loves, beyond death, and who sleeps by her tomb near the sea, dreaming of her.
Was it an unusually erudite young child that made up this story to scare his or her peers? Surely it wasn’t a teacher? Although I do like that thought.
Whoever it was, the story caught the imagination of those fertile young minds and grew legs. It outlasted the inventive mind that toiled there. That unknown person moved on, leaving Annabella behind. When I was there I tried to introduce the story of The Black Hand for the boys toilets. It never caught on.
I like the idea of stories being passed on. Taking on a life of their own in the constant retelling and shaping.
You may remember the post I did last year about the book East Of The Sun And West Of The Moon.
This is a collection of Scandinavian fairy tales. I shared these stories with my children, who thoroughly enjoyed them. Not long after, I read a piece by a Native American, telling of the many tales, both myth and history, that were passed on orally among his people. It got me to thinking about the old stories in our culture. How many of these are passed on today? How many are known? Or, would it be fairer to say, how many are being lost? I have begun to collect together some of the stories I invariably find in the things that I read. Some of the folklore that is connected to the various places that I visit in this group of islands that I live in. Some of the legends and stories that were told from each generation to the next centuries ago, later collected together in books such as The Mabinogion, and The Tain.
Tales and ideas, also, that were brought from various other places, Celtic, Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and were added to the melting pot to find expression in our own cultural flavour.
I have been selecting stories that I think that my children would enjoy. Stories of heroes and magic, animals and, yes, ghosts. But adapting and writing them in a way that makes them more attractive and entertaining to their modern minds. Explaining things that long ago, in their conception, the people of the time knew and didn’t need explaining. For example how Faery folk were not sweet little winged Tinkerbell types. Or how dogs from the Otherworld were white with red ears.
I think that these stories gain something over time,something quite powerful, in the retelling, the re-sharing. Thinking of all the people who have listened to them, people unknown to us, living in different times, yet enjoying them all the same. Being touched, and then passing them on. Breathing new life into them.
Stories that began orally-their creators, and then the authors who first wrote them down, now lost to us.
As happened with Annabella.
It is with this sense that I regard my family history. Yes, we can all uncover, (only so far) names and dates. When a person was born. What they worked as. Who they married. When they died. The bare facts.
But it is the personal stuff, the human stuff, that gets lost. The meat that is stripped from the bones. I write down the things that I know, the things that I have learnt from my parents, and their parents, however scant it may be. Otherwise it becomes lost. The tragedies, the struggles, the love stories. They all pass forever into shadow, leaving us with but a list of dates.
My children may not be that interested. For why should it be of importance to me, but say, not to my brother? Or to my cousins? But then someone else may come along further down the line-a grandchild. Or a great grandchild, someone who gets it. Someone who is moved and inspired by the things that this little known ancestor, some distant guy named Andy, who used to write a blog named City Jackdaw, has written down, and decides to add to them the things that have happened since those last words were recorded. For they may understand that people without roots become disconnected, drift, become disenfranchised if you like. They may see how important it is to understand beginnings and connections.
They may become filled with a zeal to hand these stories down.
And then we come full circle. Many years from now, someone, somewhere, may be sat in some strange, new world, learning of a ghost by the name of Annabella.
Well the country has become haunted by World Cup widows, wandering wraith like among our empty streets. Their lives lacking purpose, like drones after the death of the queen. I heard one bewildered, lamenting mother on the school run, telling the other how she had settled down the night before with a brew and remote control in hand only to find Coronation Street had vanished and the world as she knew it had ended. Faded away overnight to be replaced by an alternative reality of testosterone and Dark Age male bonding.
Homes and shop fronts, once offering promises of two for the price of one, are now festooned in St.George flags and banners, betraying a patriotism that seems to be absent until these sporting events come around. Although this time, I think that the expectancy levels are at an all time low. Woe betide a win tonight against Italy. Then an apathetic nation will rise and dare to dream again. Faces will be painted and barbecues lit, car horns honked and anthems drunkenly sung out of tune.
I try not to be a pessimist. But you get the feeling that a game or two down the line the inevitable will happen and the mood of the nation will take another dip. Probably after a penalty shoot out.
Still, anything that brings people together has got to be good, however brief it may be.
Here in our little corner of England, this is our paltry, patriotic effort:
It is actually a car flag that I salvaged from the middle of a busy, main road after being implored to do so by my lad James. Among the great, eye-dominating flags of the neighbourhood, it looks more like someone waving a farewell handkerchief through the open window, which may be more appropriate. Perhaps a flag of surrender.
My son, our little Englander, is pleased with it, which is all that matters.
So, anyway, relax ladies. Tina is already dead, it’s football time. You can look forward to a murder trial with your chocolate digestives later.
Do you hear that, Jen ? Normal soap opera schedules will resume after a glorious month of football. In the meanwhile, let’s ride the highs and lows together first, kick every ball and cheer every goal. What do you say ?