The Middle of the Darling Daughters has suddenly realised why Lilia, Younger of The Twinkles and youngest of my Tremendous Ten Grandchildren - appears to be afraid of the bath.
No, it's not the water or the threat of Hair Wash Night. The Lovely Lilia, it seems, is frightened of the yellow ducks decorating the bath mat.
What a Scaredy-Cat! I hear you say. You won't hear any
such comment from me because Young Lilia clearly takes after her Nanni. We are both Scaredy-Cats of the First Order.
I'm not at all sure of the origin of the phrase Scaredy-Cat, as I have always considered
cats to be pretty fearless creatures, comfortable in their own skin. Or fur. Cat owners tell me, however, that many felines are scared stiff of the noise of, for example, the domestic vacuum cleaner which has them arching their backs and widening their eyes
in terror. It's enough to make me feel quite brave by comparison.
One day, when she is a little bit older, I shall make Lilia laugh at stories of my Childhood Fears. There was the Brownie Pack Holiday, for
example, when my Little Sister and I set off for the delights of a week at Great Holland on Sea. One day, I keep promising myself, I will revisit the scene of our Brownie Revels. The only thing stopping me is the fear of disappointment if I find the place
all built up, no longer an idyllic countryside where I woke up each morning to the sound of crickets in the long grasses outside our Home From Home.
No, it wasn't the crickets which scared me. It was the fear
of not sleeping next to my sister. A fear which was realised when I found that my camp bed was at one end of the hall, while Maggie's was at the opposite end. I took my worries to Brown Owl, explaining in despairing tears that I had promised our mother that
I would make sure we slept next to each other. This was, if not a downright lie, at the very least an Elaboration on the Truth.
My despair was real enough: at home, after all, we slept in the same bed and
each night I kept my poor sister awake by telling her ridiculous stories about the magical properties of something called Passepartout Polish. No, you won't find it on the shelves at Tesco's, or any other supermarket for that matter, as it was a Figment of
my Imagination, conjured up to keep my poor sister awake for as long as possible, so putting off my fear of lying alone in the dark and waiting for the nightmares to take hold.
My plea apparently fell on deaf
ears. I still have the letter I wrote to my parents which reads: "I don't sleep next to Margaret but I am not too far away..." I think I may have been trying to convince myself. My sister did not appear unduly worried, as I remember. I imagine she was looking
forward to a good night's sleep.
Fast forward a couple of years and I am a Girl Guide and Brownie Pack Leader. On a trip to a fun fair, I am put in charge of two youngsters who want to visit the Haunted House.
Oh, the humiliation as I emerged from the cobwebby depths, white-faced and shaking, having abandoned my young charges in my desperate flight from the House of Horrors. Fortunately no harm was done, except to my nerves, as the young'uns thoroughly enjoyed the
frightening experience, rattling skeletons, whispering ghosts and all.
Mr B, in the early days of our courtship (what an old-fashioned word that is!) persuaded
me onto the Big Dipper at Southend. He thought I was kidding when I said I was scared. He wasn't expecting me to sit there, frozen with fright, unable to speak while the other girls screamed in make-believe terror all around us. He has never made that mistake
again, not in more than fifty years.
The Middle of the Darling Daughters has discovered one benefit to having a Scaredy-Cat daughter. Young Lilia always used to make a bee-line for the cupboard where the DVD
player rests, complete with enticing wires just asking to be pulled. Her mother came up with the idea of stationing Young Faris's large toy Sully (he of Monsters Inc fame) in front of the cupboard. There's no way Lilia is going anywhere near it.
Dear Lilia. My Little Scaredy-Cat. We will work through our worries together, you and I.