Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Museum

'I'm going to open a museum,' said Aunt Bim. She's a bit mad.

Over the next few weeks, all sorts of oddities appeared; crates of bird and lizard eggs of various shapes and colours, trays of beetles and, last Tuesday, the bemused postman turned up with a pair of antlers, carefully wrapped in brown paper.

'Good,' said Aunt Bim. 'Now my collection is complete.'

Aunt Bim lives in a very small house on a very thin street and nobody could see where she was going to store all her curiousities, let alone display them.
'In the front room, of course. I can live quite happily in the kitchen.'

So all her furniture was moved out and she spent the rest of the week arranging her trays and crates and, of course, the antlers. They took pride of place over the the fireplace.

'What's this?' we asked, the day the Museum officially opened.

'That,' replied Aunt Bim, 'is a hurly whirly beetle, to be found only in deepest Madagascar. They only eat red fruit and, when startled, spin around and rattle their wings. Like this.' Aunt Bim did an imitation.

'And this?'

'That is the skull of the flip-toed lizard of Brazil. If they are caught by predators, their toes fall off. And those,' she moved to the next tray where we were pointing to a familiar looking object, 'are my spectacles. Good, I'm glad you've found them.'

Nobody came to Aunt Bim's museum for a while. She rearranged everything several times to create maximum effect. She bought some peacock feathers and started a small feather collection in a free corner of the room. Still no one came. So she enlarged the 'Museum - Free Entry' sign and painted the letters in red.

Finally, the man that lives at the next-but-one house visited and said he knew someone at the local newspaper, and then she came and took photographs (mainly of Aunt Bim), and then everyone started coming. Aunt Bim made them tea in her overcrowded kitchen and they stayed for a long time, although not many spent long in the front room.

Aunt Bim was delighted. 'I knew it would be a success in the end,' she said. 'Now, do you think anyone would be interested in unusual pine cones? I'm thinking of expanding my collection…''

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The stranger we met in passing

We liked to play in the field close to the house. The grass had just been cut and we collected it into great heaps with holes in the middles. Here we could sit, almost hidden, and make camps from which to throw missiles at each other.

As we foraged for more grass, a stranger appeared, although we had not noticed his approach. He was very tall, but stooped like an old tree and he wore a coat the colour of a pine forest, so long that it swept up leaves and grass clippings and small animals as he moved. The animals peeped at us from under the folds. They didn’t seem in the least bit scared.

In his hand he held a banana.

‘Excuse me,’ he said in a voice as deep and old as the hills. ‘Could you tell me what this is?’

We told him and he looked the banana, pleased. ‘Oh good,’ he said and flung the it far away from him with his long green-sleeved arm.

He waited.

We waited.

‘Oh,’ he said, disappointed. ‘Isn’t it supposed to come back?’

We glanced at each other. ‘You may be confusing it with a boomerang,’ we said.

‘A boomerang. A b–ooo-ooo-mer-ang-ang-ang.’ The word shuddered around the field and bounced off the trees back at us. ‘And where might I find one of those?’

‘Australia!’ piped up the youngest of us.

‘Ah Australia. Thank you so much for your time and assistance. I shall bid you good day.’ He checked a pocket watch that reminded me of the White Rabbit’s in Alice in Wonderland, and disappeared in quite the same manner in which he’d arrived. The animals, who’d been gathered up under his cloak, looked startled and scurried away.

‘How very odd,’ I said. And we all stood around for a little while, not quite knowing what to do.

Then Joe shouted; ‘First one to find the banana gets to eat it!’ And off we raced, flinging up the mown grass around our feet until the air was full of it.