Tales of The Unexpected
I don’t know if this one would have made into the show or been introduced by Roald Dahl himself, but as I write, Ron Grainer’s upbeat theme tune to the TV show waltzes round in my head.
I’d better start at the beginning; that’s traditionally known as a very good place to start.......
Time: 11:28am Place: Wiltshire
Tail backs elongated our journey from Kent to Somerset and ‘gawping’ delayed us on the Salisbury plain as drivers slowed to look at the Stones. Stonehenge: A place of legend and tale-telling, and also the scene of Tess of the d’Urbervilles self sacrifice at the end of Hardy’s most compelling novels centred around illegitimacy.
I gawped at the stone circle, as I always do. N kept his eyes fixed on the snaking traffic ahead and muttered about building a tunnel under the Stones. I said it was never a good idea to dig beneath things like that, as you’d never know what you might find.
Time: 1pm Place: Sparkford, just outside Yeovil
We finally arrived at the homestead. We devoured lunch and then caught up on news. My only complaint: N’s non-participation in the general chit-chat. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed his reluctance to engage in conversation with his elders. It happens a lot. He’s not unique either. All my girlfriends moan about the very same issue. Men. They don’t like to share information with their mothers.
N’s reluctance to speak, much, isn’t a problem. But it does mean that the owness is on me to chat. I’m quite good at opening my mouth and letting words fall forth. I can do it all day long. I often do it in the dead of night too, when everyone, including myself is asleep. It would be helpful though if someone would invent a filter that I could fit to my cake-hole to stop the social tourettes which I suffer from, frequently.
My social tourettes comes from a fear of ‘small talk’. I’m not brilliant at it. I’m not sure what actually constitutes ‘small talk’ – the weather? Aches and pains? Future holiday plans? The new car?
Time: 7:28pm Place: The Dinner table
After a super chicken stiry fry I’d run dry on small talk; I’d run through our house renovations, the weather and Nipper, so I threw it open to Q&A. So, how’s Uncle C? Have you seen Rupert and Jill lately?
N’s mum dished up her Zabaglione. I don’t know whether it was the sugar, or the sherry, but my social tourettes kicked in with force.
‘Do you remember when we took Rupert and Jill to House on The Hill?’
I knew why he was giggling. Rude devil. I caught his twinkly gaze and giggled.
‘What’s funny?’ asked his mum
‘Do you remember that meal at House on The Hill with Rupert and Jill?’
‘Yes – it was lovely’
‘Well......’ I look at N to double-check, silently that it’s ok to share the information.
‘Well, that’s the night we “conceived” Nipper’.
N coughed and choked on his pudding.
Was that a frown?
‘What did you eat that night?’ Asked N’s mum
‘Mmmm’ she nodded sagely.
‘ I felt sick for days after, we’re pretty sure it happened that night’.
More coughing from N in the corner.
Time: 8:28 Place: The Sparkford Inn
‘I can’t believe you!’
‘Telling my parents when we conceived Nipper!’
‘I thought you were ok about it – you were smiling away!’
‘I was laughing at the way Rupert and Jill rhymed with House on The Hill – I didn’t for one moment think you would share the information about what occurred later that night. Imagine if I’d done that to your parents!’
I’ve always prided myself on my communication skills – I make a living using them – but clearly I’d mis-read N’s expression. I’d mistaken his smile as a ‘knowing’ one. I’d never had him down as a Pam Ares fan either – never having heard him laugh at a rhyming couplet before.
Travelling home passed the Stones yesterday, on our way back to Kent, I ruminated on how long the Stones had been there. What they’d seen. And, more crucially, how far we’d come in just over a century. We now threw up our own stone circles in tribute to the millennium and we ate dishes from around the world. We’d come a long way in a hundred years since Tess felt the need to sacrifice herself at the holy alter of Stonehenge for her shenanigans out of wedlock.
I tried to imagine Tess sitting comfortably across the dining table from Alex’s parents, sharing their tale of illegitimacy over his mother’s Zabaglione. Nope. That tale of the unexpected belongs firmly in 2010. May 2010 to be precise. Place: Somerset.