Wednesday, 6 June 2012


I hope I can do this justice…..

Saturday, I’m in the garden and I’m strimming it.

You know, that big machine thing that you hold near you with a harness because it has enough power to fly off like a helicopter if you don’t.

It’s lethal, and normally I would do my best to avoid doing this, but the spring jungle had all but obscured the house. So I donned long trousers for safety, even though it was too hot and although I don’t follow ALL the municipal safety rules – de facto helmets with full-face visors  - I WAS wearing a pair of grimy wrap around goggles.

I looked and sounded like a gigantic electric beetle, an image that was helped by the fact that my trousers had no elastic. Although I tried to tuck them into the waste band of my shorts that I was wearing in the hope of spending an afternoon in the hammock, they were continually falling down.

Luckily I was alone and there was no one around to see this pathetic spectacle.

The strimmer is loud, so even if I didn’t live in beyond back I wouldn’t have expected to hear anything for the next couple of hours or so; I drifted into elsewhere mode.

Suddenly a voice startled me and I turned and found two children standing a bit closer to a crazed man with a vicious machine whose trousers were falling down than is usually advisable.

There mouths were moving so clearly they were saying something.

I switched the machine off, raised my goggles and grabbed for my trousers – a manoeuvre that requires three hands - and looked at them closely.

She was black, he was white and both were about six or seven years old.

They were really, really cute.

And WAY off whatever route they should have been on.

I looked around but there was nobody else present that would have explained their appearance in my vegetable patch.

I listened to what they were saying, which you should realise was in French and since I had a moment earlier been daydreaming in English and strimmer it took me a moment or two to tune in.

Blood, fell and plaster were the first words I caught.

I looked at them; they seemed to be in one piece.

I struggled out of the harness, tripped on my drooping trousers and grabbed them to stop myself from falling at which point they said, and I translate….

“Sorry mister to stop you strimming but Zoe fell off her bike coming down the track and there’s blood everywhere and we wondered if you have a plaster, we ran a kilometre.”

It took me YEARS to learn how to pronounce the French word for strimmer correctly (debroussailleuse) how could someone so young do it so quickly?

I was about to ask them when something else took over – and I found myself saying sensible stuff like – “Is someone with her?”

“Yes, Quentin and Arnold, Patrick and Sebastian are there.”

It’s been a long time since I have had a conversation with a six year old - my own children are adults really and mainly grunt at me – and all of a sudden I felt like a parent again.

Someone needed me, and – unlike strimming – I knew what to do.

“Ok, let’s go and look in the medicine cabinet and see what we have” – I said and marched off to the house.

My moment of grace was spoilt a bit by my trousers slipping again and me falling onto my face, but I turned it into a neat forward roll and was back on my feet and just in my shorts in an instance.

Six year olds are brilliant; they just accept this stuff as how it should be.

“We are sorry mister to stop you strimming, we ran two kilometres,” they repeated.

“It’s ok, it’s not my favourite occupation”, I confessed.

In the bathroom I realised that we don’t have a medicine cabinet and when I turned to get the half empty box of plasters from the shelf I realised that six year olds just follow you – they were right behind me.

“Ah, here they are,” I said to cover my surprise and reached for a packet of Mickey Mouse band-aids that have gathered dust ever since my daughter turned into a young woman.

Something she accomplished much too quickly.

I stopped and for a moment I was lost to my memories of a time that can never ever be again and a tear started to…

“We are sorry Mister to stop you crying but we really need you to click into being a responsible adult and save our friend, we’re sorry about the strimming too, we ran three kilometres”

I grabbed an empty tin with a red cross on it, a jar of sea-salt from the kitchen, a large coffee cup, a bottle of Volvic and a clean (I think) flannel and the plasters and headed for the garden again.

They were right on my heels the whole time.

“Should we take the car?” I asked – I was looking for guidance.

“Yes Mister, we came four kilometres.”

“How far?!”.

“Five kilometres.”

“Ok let’s take the car.”

I got in.

“The door won’t open mister.”

“It’s locked, hang on”, my French was holding up better than my trousers had been.

Then I remembered that the door won’t open without falling off and so has been fixed with gaffer tape.

“You have to climb in through the window.”

They climbed through the window.

We set off.

I found their friend at the bottom of a sharp decent, crumpled and sobbing at the side of the track.

She was seven.

She had a hole in her knee, a broken palm, a gash on her arm and gravel wounds on her chest.

Quentin, Arnold, Patrick and Sebastian were stripping leafy branches from the forest.

She let me bathe her hand whilst Quentin, Arnold Patrick and Sebastian gathered together, held up their branches and pretended to be a bush.

She wouldn’t let me clean her knee though it clearly needed it, so I did the best I could with just laying a sodden flannel on it.

I could do nothing about her chest without a warm soothing bath.

There was another adult there but she was clearly not the mother, besides she had her arms full trying to stop the boys experiment in total deforestation, gathering the discarded branches.

She looked like she was pretending to be a bush too.

I seemed to be in charge, so I dabbed away, stuck plasters everywhere I saw something red, made a few jokes, got Zoe back on her feet and then carried her to a car that had appeared, driven by a responsible man who seemed to know the bush.

I set her in the spare seat. She was light as a feather and I remembered as she slipped out of my hands how nice it is too carry a small child.

For a moment I wanted to hold onto this lost feeling of wholeness.

As she waved goodbye I realised how lucky I had been to remember that again.

Probably for a last time.


Anonymous said...

a master with feelings, special commpassionate ones for little people.
loved this story

popps said...

Look closely at the photo, there is some great movement.
Least ways i think so.

Anonymous said...


Mary said...

Now THAT's what I'M talking about!

Best post so far this year -- in my opinion.



PS -- Because it is an ordinary funny, touching slice of life that becomes extraordinary in the telling.

PSS -- Happy Transit of Venus to you and all BnB's readers.

Anne Hodgson said...

Lovely :)))

popps said...

Hi mary, hi Anne, thanks for dropping in.
Mary - best of the year? Have you read them all!?

Mary said...

I HAVE READ THEM ALL! [Note to self: 'Must get a life.]

So many great posts but sometimes it just comes together in that special way -- FOR ME. That's why it's good to have a diverse readership beyond just the Dickens/Austen fanatics.

We must just agree to disagree, you and I. :-)


PS - Just to open another can of worms -- the 'Monet' style photo of the poppies in the field was top 5 for this year. I printed it and stuck it up on the wall on my bookshelf so that I can enjoy it everytime I raise my eyes from the computer screen.

PSS -- One last shot -- thought the young singers who were soaked to the skin on the London Philharmonic boat were fantastic at the flotilla celebration for the Queen on the weekend. The sea shanty piece was wonderful. Those Brits are wild! One of the BBC commentators called the torrential rain -- 'unrelenting dampness'. Crazy!

popps said...

And i've written them all!
Need a life too evidently.
And as for the Queen she does rain .
Now What else is in the top 5?

Mary said...

Too early to tell which photos will be in my top 5. But today's is pretty good as is yesterday's at the acu-puncturist [the purple is brilliant]. But I would say that my favourites of your themes are -- cats, flowers, night sky,and interesting juxtapositions such as a leaning cardboard Eiffel Tower shot as you wait in line for the Da Vinci exhibit at National Gallery.

Dave's excellent undercover work in photographing the HQ of Bits and Bobs is right up there.

Now in terms of top 5 links to music -- where would one start?


popps said...

Where would you start!!?
Either with number one or number five Mary!
Go for it.

Mary said...

Still lots of year and many posts, links, and photos to go so will just keep notes for now.

Two more things though:

1) BnB's S&T is comprised of your thoughts, feelings, stories and therefore by definition, is YOUR life, so YOU don't need to get one.

2) Last line of today's post -- 'probably' is not the right word odds are quite 'likely', that you will get to hold a little one or ones someday again. Touch wood!


popps said...

That's my life Mary!
Look at it, it's a mess!