Friday 13 July 2007

Giant pencils, tiny hands.

This conversation took place on the M6, just North of Wigan, as we headed off on holiday. Nini had just opened a bag of crisps to feed Neve, who was howling throughout all that follows. I say 'crisps', but in fact they were an organic, preservative-free maize puff containing no artificial colourings or flavourings - and so were only really 'crisps' in the same way fossils are dinosaurs: you could get a sense of what they could have been, but in fact they are just a distant memory of the real thing. These pseudo-crisps smell faintly like an onion but taste like polystyrene packing, and are wholly unsatisfying - they actually make you immeditaley crave proper crisps. After eating just one of them, I was filled with the desire to stop at once and get the biggest packet of cheesy Wotsits you can buy, then eat them by the fistful, before inhaling deeply of the orange dust you get at the bottom of the packet - but I digress: Nini gave Neve a 'crisp', and then...
Amelie: "There is a hand, Mummy"
Nini: "What? A hand? Where?"
A: " wants a crisp."
(Sure enough, a tiny hand had snaked its way from the back of the car and was waggling its fingers suggestively between the two front seats, in a 'give me a crisp' kind of way).
N: "OK hand, here is a crisp."
A: "Yum!" (crunching noises)
Paul: "So, what do we want to do this week, girls? On our holidays?"
N: "You know what I want to do. I've told you. But you're being a misery about it."
P: "Is this about the pencil museum again?"
N: "Yes, it is. I really want to go. Why don't you?"
P: "Because - and I think the clue is in the question, really - it's a pencil museum. A museum, of pencils. A museum, with nothing in it, except pencils."
A: "Mummy, the hand is back... it wants more crisps."
N: (doling out organic crispy puffs) "Here you go, hand. What's wrong with a pencil museum? It'll be interesting."
P: "How? How will it be interesting? What's the appeal? Because from where I'm sitting, it just sounds like a big room full of pencils."
A: (crunching noises) "Yum!"
N: "It might have famous pencils."
P: "Riiiight. Like what, exactly? Name me a single 'famous pencil'"
N: "OK, not famous pencils. But, you know, different pencils. Different....types of pencils."
P: "I think I would struggle to tell the difference between different types of pencils. I think I would struggle to even feign interest in different types of pencils."
A: "Mummy, the hand is back..."
N: "They have a giant pencil as well, though - the biggest pencil in the world! The musuem is attached to a factory where they make pencils and they made the biggest pencil in the world."
P: "How big is it? Because I have to say, it's fifty miles out of our way, so unless this pencil is seriously massive, I can tell you right now I will be disappointed."
A: "Mummy, the hand! The hand is back!"
N: "OK, OK, here you go, hand"
P: "I bet it's not even a giant pencil. I bet it's just a long pencil. I bet it's just the same diameter as a normal pencil, but longer. I can't tell you how angry I'll be if we drive fifty miles to see the biggest pencil in the world and its just a long pencil because they haven't bothered cutting it down into shorter pencils."
A: "Yum!" (crunching noises)
N: "Actually, I think it's not quite the biggest pencil in the world. I think it's the biggest coloured pencil in the world, but only the second biggest pencil."
P: "I am not driving all the way there to see the second biggest pencil in the world. It's barely worth going even if it's the biggest, but the second biggest? No way."
N: "You are dead inside, aren't you? Where's your sense of wonder?"
A: "Mummy, the hand is back! The hand is still hungry"
P: "What colour is it?"
N: "What?"
P: "The pencil. The biggest colored pencil in the world. What colour is it?"
N: "I have no idea. That will be the surprise."
A: "Mummy, the hand is back. The hand! It wants something crispy..."
P: "That's a surprise? That's it? You think that's worth going all that way for?"
A: "THE HAND! MUMMY! The hand is STILL hungry."
N: "Alright, stop shouting! There, that's the last of them. The hand will have to wait until teatime now."
A: "Yum!" (crunching noises)
P: "I bet it's red, or blue. Just a really dull, mundane colour"
N: (sheepishly) "Actually, the guidebook only says they made the biggest colored pencil in the world there. It doesn't say if they still have it onsite. They might have made it for somebody else. But I'm sure they still have a photo"
P: (slightly incredulous)"You want me to drive all that way to see a photo of the second biggest pencil in the world? On my holiday? No way. We are so not going."
(A sulky silence briefly descends, during which Neve spits out the mushy remnants of the single crisp she has managed to eat onto the back of my headrest)
N: "You know what I hate about you?"
P: "Yes, you've shown me the list. Can you be a bit more specific?"
N: "What I hate is that now, if we do go to the pencil museum..."
P: "We are not going to the pencil musuem..."
N: "...IF we do go to the pencil museum, and it's great, and you have the best time ever, you will still be completely unable to admit it even to yourself - and so it's pointless going because you have already killed stone-dead any enjoyment you could possibly ever get from the trip."
P: (smarting slightly from the truth, and looking to change the subject) "Well, at least it's cheaper that way. It's a funny word, 'pencil', isn't it? If you say it a lot, like we have. Pencil. Pencil. Pencil. It's a fun word."
N: "Not with you around."
A:"Mummy, the hand is back and it's STILL HUNGRY!"