My two smallest cousins appear to be singing My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean. They are prone to bursting into song at the slightest pretext. I discover that I like this very much in children. It makes me think, in an idiot sentimental way, of the moment in The Sound of Music when Christopher Plummer looks at Julie Andrews, and says something like: Fraulein, you have brought music back into my house.
The Smallest Cousin finishes singing and comes and gazes at me, quizzically.
‘Are you doing your blobby blob?’ she says.
She laughs immoderately. She is four years old. She clearly thinks that doing The Blob, as the children call it, is a fairly absurd activity, and she might be right.
‘Who are you sending it to?’ she says.
I explain about the Dear Readers, all around the world. I feel stupidly proud, as I tell this small person that I have readers in America and Sri Lanka and Australia and New Zealand and parts of Africa.
‘Have you been to Africa and Australia?’ she says.
‘I’ve been to the very northern bit of Africa,’ I say. (Egypt; one of the greatest trips I ever took.)
‘Do you go on a plane to Africa?’ she says.
‘Yes,’ I say. ‘You could go on a boat, but it would take a very long time.’
She thinks for a bit.
‘I’m not sure they have very much stuff,’ she says. ‘I’d have to take some stuff for them.’
She pauses. ‘There are not a lot of rich people in Africa,’ she says. ‘But there are some.’ Another pause. ‘Maybe one or two.’
She raises her eyebrows. ‘Or four rich people?’ she asks.
This is because of school. They do charity drives; the children fill shoe boxes and send them off. I think how funny it is, that the children of Africa still live so large in the minds of children in Britain. Forty years ago, when I was small, I was told that I must eat up all my supper because there were people in Africa who had nothing to eat.
It’s a lovely thing, in some ways; it makes you appreciate your great good fortune. It leads people like the remarkable Martha Payne to raise money for Mary’s Meals. But I remember being struck by a piece on the Today Programme a couple of weeks ago about Sierra Leone. It is most famous here for the civil war which split the country; now its economic growth is at mighty percentages which any European country would dream of. Not all the children of Africa, it seems, are going to bed hungry. One should not, I remember thinking, write off a whole continent, in a simplistic, patronising manner.
I lost another day today. There was so much to do, and so many things to think of, and so many deadlines to meet. I had logistics a go-go, and some possibly life-changing emails to send. The rescue gent comes closer. There are just some things I must show and tell; mostly that I have a safe garden and that I am a responsible adult, not some random nutter. I sincerely admire the rescue people for their care; they are kind and reasonable in their requirements, and I feel happy and pleased to try and tick all the politely requested boxes.
Part of the thing was to send photographs; I had to trawl through old files. I saw picture after picture of my lovely old girls. I missed them so much it was like a hole in my chest.
But then the four-year-old comes up and sings a song and asks about the blobby blob and worries about the people in Africa not having enough stuff, and my cracked old heart gets a little glow in it, and I know that it shall mend.
Are a little odd. They are mostly from the archive, because that is where I have been, and they are of the Dear Departed, because that is of whom I have been thinking:
A very old picture of me with my girls, taken by the Older Niece:
The sisters together:
I came upon this glorious one too, of my old dad:
And these were the flowers I did for his funeral:
I was really proud of those.
And the living. The galvanising, antic, funny, beautiful, restorative Red the Mare:
Please forgive is this is filled with typographical errors and non-sequiturs and general nonsense. It is another day when I did not sit down to write until after seven, and my brain was good for nothing. But you must must MUST have a Blob.