Dear Dave

Friday 7 August 2009

Tales from the countryside

Dear Dave,

I've lamented before about what complete townies my children are. True, I'm not much of a fan of the country life myself and I was only too keen to move to the city at the earliest opportunity, but I always imagined that they'd have some kind of genetic memory of all the generations of farmers before me that stretch right back to the roots of our family tree.

As always, however, a trip to visit my folks in rural Norfolk disillusioned me once again.

It started when Marie complained about her tea. "What's this green stuff on my garlic bread?" she asked.

"It's garlic," I replied.

She pulled a face, as if this information had spoiled her day. "Awwww! I like garlic bread - I don't want to have garlic on it..."

Since logical reasoning really had nowhere to go from there, I just told her to eat it anyway. Nonetheless, I was reminded of my previous efforts to educate the boys as to the source of common food items. Curious as to her understanding of such things, I asked her where sausages come from.

She giggled. "From sausage bushes."

"Are you sure?"

"I'm just joking," she said, clearly sincere. "They don't come from bushes really."

"Uh-huh," I nodded. "Good." I was about to continue my own meal, when I suddenly had a suspicion that I didn't have the whole picture. I still had to check something. "Er... So where do sausages come from?"

"Sausage trees, of course."

This time she wasn't joking. I was forced to explain where sausages actually come from and Marie was somewhat put out by the answer. She denied it all and then took her mind off the whole issue by concentrating on eating her tea.

It was sausages.

After she'd had second helpings, we went out to play in the garden. The kids decided to see how many ladybirds they could find and collect. Lewis sat on the lawn and made a small pen for the creatures with his legs. He had a couple of dozen of the things crawling on and around him in the end.

"One flew off," said Fraser. "It went over that grassy fence."

I looked where he was gesturing and shook my head. "That would be a hedge." I realised then that the genetic memory would need a helping hand. I was going to have to educate them. "Come over here and see this beetle."

"What's a beetle?" they all asked at once.

I kept pointing but they were quite happy not to look and to have me explain instead. To be honest, I didn't know where to start. Fortunately, Sarah was there to help.

"It's like a ladybird with worse PR," she said.

At this, the kids all nodded sagely and went back to hunting for red, spotted insects. I was left still pointing at the beetle. After a while, it looked me in the eye, shrugged and scuttled off.

I gave up and lay down on the grass to dream about sausage trees...

Ho well. Maybe I'm not the right person to teach the children about nature and the country anyway. They're unlikely to listen to me. They did learn two important lessons themselves a couple of days later, though, when they tried the same collecting game with different bugs. They learnt that with ants, it's not getting them to crawl all over you that's the hard part - it's getting them off again where the problem lies.

Then they learnt to dance around while shrieking...

Yours in a woman's world,


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