Thursday, July 14, 2005

Tortoise's Dinner

We went to visit my Mum and Dad the other day. They live in rural Somerset and when we were growing up they had quite a menagerie of goats, dogs, cats, rabbits, ducks and a tortoise.

It’s fifteen years since I lived there and all the pets have died except for one: the tortoise. Theresa was more than fifty years old she when was given to us to look after, so she must be in her mid-eighties now. A grand old Dame. She was called Terry for years until a visitor who knew about sexing tortoises looked at her shell shape and told us she was female.

Theresa spends her autumn days plodding around her hut on the lawn, bounded by a low fence about a foot high. Occasionally she eats a strawberry, a piece of banana or a salad leaf, or gulps water from a shallow terracotta bowl.

Jack was mesmerised. He’d never seen anything move that slowly before, I suppose. At first he was very wary of going too close, but we lifted Theresa up so he could see her closely several times over the weekend and eventually he became brave enough to touch her shell.

Just before we were leaving I was chatting in the back garden with my Dad. Jack was playing near the tortoise run. I turned away for no more than twenty seconds to point something out to Dad and heard a wump sound, followed by Jack crying.

Jack had been leaning on the fence to try and touch Theresa and pivoted on the fence. He’d tipped forwards and landed right in the tortoise’s water dish. He was dangling upside down, his legs kicking in the air, the top of his head in an inch of water.

I laughed so much I could hardly pick him up. I turned him the right way up and water dripped down his face and mixed with the real tears that were flowing by this time.

I comforted him, dried him off with a towel, changed his top and pretty soon we were on our way home. I told the Mrs what had taken place, and we laughed again. After that, I didn’t think any more about it.

But Jack clearly did. The next day were sat at dinner when the following conversation took place:

Jack: Happened? Happened?

Me: What happened Jack?

Jack: Grandma’s house

Me: What happened at Grandma’s house?

Jack: Oh-oh. Head. (puts hand on his head)

Me: You fell and bumped your head? Where?

Jack: Tortoise's dinner.

Me: You bumped your head into the tortoise's dinner? Then what happened?

Jack: Soggy (looks sad)

Me: Your hair got all soggy. Oh dear.

Jack: Had dry (looks happy)

Me: Yes, we had to dry it didn’t we?

And that’s Jack’s story. For the past two or three weeks, Jack has been telling anyone who will listen about the dreadful incident with the tortoise's dinner. The telling of it gets more melodramatic each time. He loves us to act surprised and thoroughly enjoys communicating the event.

I don’t think Jack is very worried about the accident; he just thinks it’s a story worth telling. Perhaps to illustrate his father’s carelessness, or to let us know that he didn’t think it was that funny.

For the record, Theresa the tortoise didn’t seem to suffer any ill effects. She’s seen it all before.

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