11 June 2004

Out of the mouths of...

I took Dan, four and a half years old, out for the morning, Wednesday. I discovered that he has a passion for statues: we spent a large part of the morning looking for them, and discussing them.

As the morning wore on, it dawned on me that he thinks statues are real people who have become fossilised - like the prehistoric creatures whose fossils he has seen. He thinks that people are buried after death and, at some future time, are recovered and venerated in fossil form as statues. Which is a wonderfully logical idea as well as a beautiful one.

Looking at statues he came out, in all seriousness, with some hilarious lines – and I had to keep a straight face. Like these, for instance...

Standing in front of a larger than life statue, on a high plinth bearing a plaque with the word "Burke"

DAN: "What's his name?"

FELIX: "Burke."

DAN: (laughing) "No it's not!"

FELIX: "Yes, it is. See this writing here? It says B-U-R-K-E - Burke. That was his name."

DAN: (after a long and thoughtful silence, gazing upwards) "He's a big Burke, isn't he?"

(Note for transatlantic ears: in Britain, 'birk' is another word for 'fool'.)

Standing in front of a statue of Queen Victoria:

DAN: "She's a fat queen, isn't she?"

In the cathedral, where we have examined numerous statues of long dead knights, deans and bishops, Dan examines the memorial stones in the floor, over which we walk. They are only about half a metre square, perhaps less; not grave stones, but Dan thinks they must be because they say the same things as gravestones. He points at one...

DAN: "What does that one say?"

FELIX: (desperately translating Latin in archaic script, on the fly) "It says ... ummm ... he was ... er ... loved by his family and ... and ... saved the city from the ... plague, I think; a disease; ... and the city is indebted ... grateful ... so this memorial is to ... to ... remind us that we owe our ... something or other ... to him."

DAN: (looking at it thoughtfully) "It's very small. They must have dug a thin deep hole and dropped him in head first."

And so on.

A wonderfully educational and enlightening morning - for me, at least.


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