englishman abroad, royalty

Trying to explain the Queen to my five-year-old daughter

I have a new pair of rather British cufflinks. They are styled after first-class stamps, which means they have a picture of the Queen on them. Yesterday, my daughter got a good look at them and asked, “is that Granny on your earrings?”Queen Cufflink 2

No, I explained, it wasn’t Granny and they weren’t earrings.

I explained what cufflinks were for and then she asked who the lady was.

“That’s the Queen”

“what queen?”

“The Queen of England!”

“What?”

“The lady on the stamps, money –”

“Birds?”

“No, there’s no lady on birds. You know I come from England?”

“Yeah!”

“England has a Queen!”

“Papa! No it doesn’t! Show me!”

Aurelia proceeded to watch the entirety of the Queen’s 2016 Christmas speech without complaint or distraction.

“What does she do?”

“The Queen is a nice lady who gives speeches like that one and –”

“She talked about Jesus!”

“… Yeah. She occasionally does that because she’s in charge of the Church in England”

“It’s not a real church though”

“Yes, it’s a real church. I was baptised into that church”

Aurelia’s eyes widened as she misunderstood this last sentence, thinking that the Queen had personally been at my baptism or something.

“Wow…”

“and she lives in a big palace with lots of dogs”

“What dogs?”

“Corgis” I said, showing her a hastily googled picture of corgis.

“Can they talk?”

“No”

“Can she fly?”

“No”

“Are you sure she’s a queen?

englishman abroad, stories

The strawberry who didn’t listen

I previously mentioned that I make up a lot of fictional characters for my daughter, as well as some short stories. What follows is a bedtime story that I made for her a little while ago, it’s called The strawberry who didn’t listen. This story really needs to be read aloud, it doesn’t work quite the same otherwise. Here we go:

There was once a little strawberry who lived with his family in a flowerpot in the garden.

One bright, sunny day the strawberry was looking around the vegetable plot and saw round, red things (they were tomatoes). He saw long, green things (they were cucumbers). He even saw pointy, orange things (they were carrots). But the little strawberry couldn’t see anything that looked like him.

So, the little strawberry went to his mummy and said “Mummy, what am I?”

“that’s easy,” said Mummy Strawberry “you are a strawberry!”

“a sore belly?” asked the little strawberry

“no, a strawberry!” said Mummy

“a snore jelly?” wondered the little strawberry

“no, you silly little strawberry!” said Mummy Strawberry “go and ask your father!”

So, the little strawberry went to speak to his father.

“Daddy?” asked the little strawberry “what am I?”

“That’s simple!” said Daddy Strawberry “you’re a strawberry!”

“a claw deli?”

“no, a strawberry!”

“a raw telly?”

“no, you foolish strawberry! Go and bother Grandpa strawberry with your questions!” said Daddy Strawberry.

So, the little strawberry went to see Grandpa Strawberry, the wisest and oldest of all the strawberries.

“Hello, young strawberry!” said Grandpa Strawberry “what are you up to?”

“I’m trying to find out what I am!” said the little strawberry.

“haven’t your mummy and daddy told you? You’re a strawberry!”

“a poor smelly?”

“no! A strawberry!”

“a jaw Shelly?”

“No! you confounded little strawberry!” said Grandpa Strawberry, who was also a very grumpy strawberry

“you are wally! a twit! a twerp! a nut!”

“OH!” said the Little Strawberry “a strawberry! why didn’t you just say so?”

 

 

 

 

englishman abroad, parenting

Home-grown Fairy Tales

It’s not easy to get a child to behave themselves sometimes. In an ideal world, a parent would always have the patience and temperament to sit the child down and explain exactly why certain behaviour is unacceptable. In an ideal world, the child would have the inclination to listen!

But this isn’t a perfect world and I’m not a perfect man. I have, however, discovered a way to avoid yelling too often. The answer is fairy tales.

It all started when my then-three-year-old daughter had to give up her dummy, which is called a ‘Schnuller’ in Germany. No matter how long her mother and I tried to explain that all Big Grown-up Girls of Three give up their dummy, no matter how rational and simple the argument for better teeth was, no matter how tempting the bribe was, my daughter simply wouldn’t countenance giving up her dummy.

Then my mobile rang and I received a telephone call from none other than The Schnuller Fairy herself, what are the odds of that? The Schnuller Fairy had a word with me and I passed the message on to Aurelia. Job done, dummy surrendered.

I have employed similar tactics recently. After the great success of Santa Claus’ omniscience for the last two Christmases, I decided to invent a new character. The Birthday Hen.

The Birthday Hen is male, by the way. Aurelia’s never questioned it. The Birthday Hen is from Australia and spends all day flying around the sky looking for naughty children. If he finds one, that child has their birthday postponed for a year and the child remains 4 (or whatever) for two years. If the child is naughty on their birthday then woe betide them! The Birthday Hen would swoop down and dive-bomb the party with rotten eggs and peck people on the ankle. Sometimes the Birthday Hen himself would telephone me and enquire as to Aurelia’s behaviour:

“Oh, no Mr Hen! I’m sure she’s in bed right now. I’ll just go and check!”

Lo and behold! Aurelia was suddenly and very convincingly asleep!

She’s had her fifth birthday now and I’ll admit it, I’m running out of ideas. Just today we were in Wilhelmshaven visiting The Pirate Museum when she became somewhat piratical herself. I very nearly invoked the April Eel, a wrathful eel who lurks omnipresently and sneakily nips the ankles of kids who don’t listen.

Not every story I’ve invented is of some omnipotent babysitter, however. I made up a story called The Little Strawberry Who Didn’t Listen, it’s one of Aurelia’s favourites. It’s a little bit long for this blog entry though, so I’ll share it with you next time.

englishman abroad

Märchen wird erzählt

We just got back from the  Wild- und Freizeitpark Ostrittrum, which is essentially a zoo / amusement park. As well as the standard fare (animals, rides, climbing frames, junk food) they also had that curiously German detail: The Märchenwald. It seems that any family-friendly amusement park has one of these but this is only the second one I’ve seen in my time in Germany. A Märchenwald is basically a ‘fairy tale wood’, I cannot ever remember seeing one of these in Britain so bear with me and I will try to explain.

Imagine a wood with a circuitous path running through it, every few meters along this path are little spectacles often in the form of a hut with a button on it and inside some life-sized human or animal figures.

Next to the button is a sign that says:

“Please press button once. Fairy tale will be told”

We pressed the button. The figures sprang into life and a detached voice told us the story of Rapunzel, or Hansel and Gretel, or Little Red Riding Hood or another well-known fairy tale. There is something horrible, I think, about animatronic figures, something uncanny, unsettling and weird. Nonetheless, Aurelia seemed to enjoy it.

Funnily enough, I recognized most of the tales because they were mainly Brothers Grimm tales. German but well-known in the UK. There was a smattering of other fairy tales that I didn’t recognise, of course, but I was surprised to see that Jack and the Beanstalk was missing. It turns out that Jack and the Beanstalk is one of a few truly English fairy tales, ones that weren’t inherited from Germany, Scandinavia or elsewhere.

After the fairy tales, we went on a giant wooden pirate ship and lots of slides, climbing frames, swings and all sorts, Aurelia had a lot of fun and Andrea and I were kids again. We stayed at the amusement park for over three hours so I think we got our money’s worth.

Maerchen