The Son And Only tells his little boys that there is only time for a really, really short bedtime story tonight. They are later to bed than they should be, after an exciting day, he tells them, and they need their sleep.
This is as much a warning to me, the story-teller, as to my Little Welsh Boys.
The thing is, I can’t cut out the preamble because this sets the scene for
every story and, anyway, the boys wouldn’t let me. So I gabble my way through it – how the boys don’t live in a bungalow, or a house “or a flat, or a tent,” interjects Sam. “Or a caravan,” James pipes up. “No!”
they say together, “They lived in a boat – and the boat was called The Jolly Boy!” I try to cut down on the description of the Jolly Boy but the boys know it off by heart and won’t have a single phrase omitted.
Well, with my son’s stern warning echoing in my head, the Jolly Boy sets sail in double quick time. We had to leave behind all the close relatives who usually tag along in a log boat. Don’t
blame me, the log boat wasn’t my idea, it was Sam’s, about six story-telling sessions ago. Their Mum, Dad, Mr B and I and the boys’ other set of grandparents, Mama and Bampi, apparently all fit into the log boat which is towed along
behind the Jolly Boy whenever it sets sail. Some log. Some boat. Sometimes I forget to include it but I can count on the boys to remind me. I do always remember to include someone called Panda, who is an integral part of every story: “And Panda
ate lots and lots and lots,” James will add, sagely, at intervals throughout each story. It seems to be the only contribution Panda ever makes to the story but at least he’s consistent.
The whole basis of the Jolly Boy stories is that the Fearless Adventurers always land on an island inhabited by some kind of animal, bird or fish. This time, I tell the boys, they have landed the boat on an island where
the inhabitants all stand up on their hind legs, like furry sentries - “It was Meerkat Island!” I announce, triumphantly.
But - “We went to Meerkat Island last time,”
Sam reminds me. I seek confirmation from the Boy in the Other Bed. James looks up and nods his agreement. I think I have just had a Senior Moment. I need to change tack, and quickly, before I lose all credibility with my little listeners: “Well,
of course, it wasn’t REALLY Meerkat Island, “ I say, hastily, “The meerkats were just lined up on either side of the path leading from the harbour into the centre of the island as a welcoming party because they knew that Sam, James and Morgan...”
“...and Panda,” James reminds me, kindly, patting my hand.
... and Panda would find it hard to see the actual inhabitants of the island because, because, because...”
Sam is jumping up and down on the bed, quite beside
himself with delight: “Because it’s CHAMELEON Island!” he cries, excitedly.
“...because it’s Chameleon Island,” I agree,
weakly, trying to remember everything – well, actually, anything – I ever knew about chameleons. I mean, I know they can camouflage themselves but that’s about all. I’m even struggling to remember exactly what they look like. They have
coiled tails, don’t they? And funny shaped heads. With horns? But where and how do they live? And, most importantly, how am I going to get out of this one?
Well, I make it to the end of the story with the help of magic binoculars which Panda found in the sand when he was looking for food and which enabled our Intrepid Trio to see the chameleons even when they were camouflaged. They thought about
taking the binoculars with them when they sailed for home but decided to leave them there for the benefit of other travellers. It isn’t my finest hour as a story-teller but the boys seem happy enough as I tuck them up and kiss them goodnight.
“Next time,” suggests Sam, “We could go to Liger Island. Ligers,” he explains, helpfully (clearly my poor showing on the chameleon front is still
on his mind) “have lion dads and tiger mums.” I decide that between now and the next story-telling session, I will research everything there is to know about ligers.
And, possibly, tigons, while I'm about it. When you are telling stories to my Little Welsh Boys, it pays at least to try to be one step ahead.....