Monday 15 September 2008

Quackerjack Jones, duck detective

Saturday, mid-afternoon, on one of the weekends in the middle of the so-called British 'Summer'. True to the spirit of the nation, it has been raining biblically now for nine days solid; a constant soul-embittering torrent of misery that has lashed down at us from beneath a grim sky painted the colour of bruised fruit. The continual rain has meant that the children have largely been trapped indoors, and have spent the last week or so dividing their time between yanking all the damp washing off of the radiators, and screeching like banshees. Everyone's nerves are more that a little frayed - Nini, in particular, does not have the respite of sitting in an air-conditioned office during working hours, and is rapidly developing the thousand-yard stare of the seriously combat fatigued. I decide we will go the Walter Rothschild museum in Tring, because on previous visits their extensive collection of stuffed animals has calmed both girls down. Apparently there's something about Victorian display cases full of frozen endangered species, their mouths open in a permanent snarl, glass eyes staring out at you, that can usefully drive even the most fractious toddler into a mood of nervous calm - even if they don't sleep so well that night.
Sadly, when we get there it transpires that the main gallery - where all the really nasty looking beasts are, those which normally cause Neve to shrink back against my legs - is closed for refurbishment. Nonetheless, the girls defy expectations and behave very well, and in a moment of uncharacteristic largesse I announce that they can each choose a toy animal from the gift shop.
The range of toy animals is, as you might imagine, immense. There are some truly exotic animals to choose from - I see ocelots, flying squirrels, star-nosed moles, armadillos, anteaters...this will be great fun for them, I think - what exciting and exotic creature will they choose as a souvenir?
Both girls return within about 15 seconds, each clutching identical soft toy ducks. Boring, bland, yellow ducks. I look at them with unmasked disappointment.
"Those are ducks", I say, somewhat unnecessarily.
"Yes," agrees Amelie.
"Ducks!" adds Neve.
"You've already got soft toy ducks at home"
"We like ducks' says Amelie.
"Ducks!", her sister confirms.
"Look, there's all of these to choose from. " I say, with a grandiose sweep of the hand to indicate row upon row of cuddly wildlife. "You can have a....a mandrill. Or a cheetah. Or a lobster. Or a wild boar, with tusks..."
"They want ducks." says Nini, in a carefully selected tone of voice that manages to confer an entirely different message, that being: "I want a fruit scone in the tea room, and whatever it is you are doing is likely to delay that, so I would very much like you to stop."
"We want ducks," agrees Amelie. I press on, ever the patron saint of lost causes.
"Look, a zebra. Or a parakeet...octopus....snake...or this, look, I don't even know what this is.....ah, a frilled lizard. Isn't that great? A cuddly frilled lizard? Wouldn't you like that?"
Amelie looks at the frilled lizard dubiously - as well she might, it is the single most unpleasant looking soft toy in the history of the world and not helping my campaign in any way.
"We really want ducks" she says finally.
"Ducks!" says a voice at knee height.
I sigh, and head to the counter with the ducks.

Later, in the team room, Nini explains 'what my problem is'.
I do so enjoy it when she takes it upon herself, unasked, to do this - these little chats are always a delight, and I am apparently lucky enough to have great many faults/problems, so it looks like I'll be enjoying the benefit of her corrective wisdom for many years to come. I don't resent these little diatribes in any way, oh no, not me...
"What your problem is," she tells me, waving her scone expansively and showering me with crumbs, " that you project too much on the girls. Just because you think something is brilliant, it doesn't mean they will too. They are different to you by over 30 years and a full chromosome. They don't like the same things that you do, and they probably never will."
"Hmmmm, how fascinating, please do go on..." I reply politely, meaning exactly the opposite and using the force of my contained rage to tie a teaspoon into a serviceable reef knot under the table.
Fortunately, at this point, we are interrupted by Amelie.
"Daddy," she asks "what shall I call my duck?"
I ponder this for a second.
"Quacky? Quackers?" I suggest.
She looks unimpressed.
"Mr. Quack? Or maybe Jack Quack?"
"Those names are silly..."
"Wait, wait, I've got it! Quackerjack! Quackerjack Jones!"
"Quackerjack Jones! Duck detective!"
"He is a detective, but also a duck!" I say. "He can have adventures. He can solve crimes!"
"Projecting again..." says Nini from across the table.
"Ssshhhh!" I hiss. "We can make up stories about him. He can investigate fowl play!"
"What is 'crimes'?" asks Amelie.
"Why can't it just be a duck?" asks Nini wearily. "This is exactly what I was talking about. Why does every soft toy have to have a backstory with you?"
This is sadly true: previous soft toys that fall into this category include 'Mitch Brannon, Oil bear' (Teddy bear that worked the oil rigs), Nelly Trunkado (Operatic elephant) and Pierre le Bear (Aristocratic French teddy bear, once an amorous ladies bear but who lost an eye in a duel and is now seeking out the rival that scarred him and also stole his one true love).
In each and every case my children have been singularly unimpressed with the wild tales I have made up for them about 'what your toys did before you got them' and have then further snubbed me by refusing to call these toys by the names I have given them, choosing instead to name them 'Brown bear', 'Elephant', and 'Winky' respectively (sadly, he really has lost an eye).
But Nini's suggestion has come too late - I am already running away with myself. In my minds eye, 'Quackerjack Jones, Duck detective' is already a hugely successful range of children's stories, and the movie rights have just been sold for a million.
"He can have a catchphrase, Amelie!" I shriek. "When he catches the villain, he can say 'Another case quacked!'"
Amelie looks at me wide-eyed.
"I think," she says, after a pause,"I will call him Ducky."
There is a longer, sadder pause, during which I deflate visibly.
"Oh." I say "OK. That's a good name too."
I brighten, and turn to Neve. "What about your duck, Nevey? Shall we call him Quackerjack?"
"No? Why not? What is he called, then?"
"Just 'Duck'?"
"Ess. Called 'Duck'."
"Fine" I say sourly. "Good. Nice name. That way he will match the other 3 ducks you already have..."
"Ess. Duck."
I stir my tea sadly.
"The gift shop is probably still open if you want to buy a duck of your own?" suggests Nini.


Anonymous said...

Does "Quackerjack Jones, Duck Detective" work for the old "Bill"?

Have you met his secret agent friend, James Pond?

He just had a call from Chief Inspector Mallard (of the Yard) asking for help in solving the mystery of "WHO KILLED TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE?"

Apparently his best mate Dynamo Drake will do anything to earn a crust!!

His arch enemy lives on a remote island near Hong Kong - Dr.Wing Ling - or DocLing as he's known.

I'm here all week!!!!!!!
Collins, I reckon QJ:DD is the future

PDC said...

You've really sat thinking about it, haven't you?

Anonymous said...

nah, it just comes naturally - some see it as a gift, others (in fact most others) see it as a curse.

Episode 3's special guest star could be Chris WADDLE!!!

sorry!!! Can't help it!