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Storytelling has changed somewhat in the Haslett household. I should’ve seen the change is coming when the old traditional story changed to “Winton Jack and the Beanstalk.” You’ve lost interest in most stories now unless you are the hero and you are usually interested in being the hero alongside Fireman Sam. And there is an increasing emphasis on action and participation.
We have quite a lot of stories where you rescue various animal friends from dire predicaments: trapped at the bottom of the cliff (behind the sofa in the study), trapped in a cave (on one of the chairs under the table), caught in an avalanche (in my wastepaper basket under a large cushion), trapped at the top of the mountain (on the top shelf of my wardrobe).
Many of these rescues involve my towing you on a blanket which serves as a rescue helicopter or fire engine depending on the situation. Sometimes you come in the fire engine that you and Nana built from a cardboard box and some paper plates.
You also come equipped with the necessary gear, axe, crowbar, fire extinguisher, hose, breathing apparatus, face mask as well as a fleet of fire engines. You also have all the gear including a four different fire helmets.
Last week after you had your bath and dinner, I asked you if you would like me to tell you a story. You agreed.
“Would you like the story of Fireman Winton and the fire at the fish and chip shop?” I asked. That would be fine.
It’s not so much storytelling any longer. It’s more a full-scale dramatic production.
The story begins one morning in the Pontypandy fire station when the fire alarm goes off and Stationmaster Steel says “There is a fire in the fish and chip shop. Fireman Winton you had better take Jupiter.” Jupiter is the big fire engine at the fire station. You have three different versions of now all ready for action along with the Paw Patrol.
You leap up, grab your fire hat and Jupiter. “Come, Papa. It’s an emergency.” We charge off down to the bathroom.
It is at this point that you need to go to the toilet. Suddenly you have to stop being a fireman and focus on more immediate matters. This is quite a protracted performance and involves a lot of running around, chocolate rewards and general congratulations. It takes about 10 minutes. Your instructor told me, “Winton’s problem is that he can’t concentrate.”
When you’ve finished all this, you come over to me and say, “Keep going with the story, Papa.” You slip back into your role as Fireman Winton and we head off to the bathroom/fish and chip shop again.
“Who do you think is in here,” I asked.
“I think it must be Dilys.” The appropriately named Dilys is one of the characters from the Fireman Sam series. She is Norman Price’s mother prone to setting things on fire.
“I think you better go in and rescue her and tell her to keep down low.”
“Roger that,” you reply. You go into the bathroom and search around for a while.
When you return you say, “She’s not here I can’t find her. I think she must be upstairs. I have to get the ladder.”
I think to myself, “Who’s telling this story?”
It’s getting late and I don’t fancy bringing the stepladder in from outside and you’re quite happy to pretend that the stairs constitute a ladder to climb up them to try and rescue Dilys from the burning bedroom upstairs.
When we get up there is quite dark and I suggest we probably need a torch.
You head off downstairs to find a torch. This proved more difficult than we expected as quite the right kind of torch is not available. After about 10 minutes, an appropriate one is found. You come back upstairs to begin searching around the darkened rooms.
While you have been away, I have put a teddy bear on the bed in the spare bedroom. As you are searching, you find the teddy bear.
“Do you think this is Dilys?” I ask.
“Yes!” you reply.
I find it amazing the extent to which you are prepared to enter into the imaginative element of these stories and accept, without a moment’s hesitation, that your teddy bear has suddenly become Dilys Price. You sling Dilys over your shoulder, in the fireman’s carry. Then, you go into your own bedroom and start rummaging around amongst your animal friends. You grab the baby leopard.
“Who’s that? I ask.
You look at me pittingly, “It’s Norman.”
Of course it’s Norman. Norman is Dilys’ son. Like his mother he is a bit of a dill and in frequent need of being rescued. Of course he will be upstairs in the fire and of course Fireman Winton would remember to rescue him even if Papa has forgotten.
Our work here is over. The story is complete.