We were telling jokes around the tea-table, my nieces, nephews and I. They were the old standards, mostly knock, knock jokes: Annabel. Annabel who? Annabel is needed on a bicycle; Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce in, it’s freezing out here.
The three oldest children all own joke books, and had memorised a good repertoire. The youngest, who is just four, joined in with the chorus of cheers as we took turns.
Inevitably the pace quickened as we raced to get our chance at the easily remembered ones. The noise-level increasing after each punch-line.
Then, amongst the cries of ‘Me, I’m next.’ And, ‘I’ve got one.’ Sam’s voice broke in. He had been listening carefully. ‘Knock knock,’ he said.
He repeated his chorus several times before we managed to call a hush and respond, ‘Who’s there?’
‘A tractor and a trailer go out in the field,’ said Sam, looking round proudly as we began to laugh.
Encouraged, he made up another, and another, delighted with our delight.
When we moved onto the, ‘black and white and red all over’ ones, Sam quickly picked up the formula. Forget our blushing penguins and read newspapers, he took his turns and gave us first, ‘an orange’, then, ‘Postman Pat’s cat’ and ‘Scoop’ as his solutions.
There were no barriers to his inventions. Although his sister and cousins are only a few years older, they had already forgotten going through that same process and made an enthusiastic audience.
I suppose you are wondering what it is I am writing about here?
I’ve been thinking about that as I put it together, and wondering how to draw this piece to a close neatly. I suppose, as it stands it could be an anecdote, or perhaps a sketch…
It lacks a lot of the standard constructs we use to create story. I’ve given no description, though I can see, hear and smell the scene clearly: the way the september sunset slanted in through a side-window to light up the serving dishes and bowls shouldered together on the large table; the emptied plates with their smears of ketchup, pickle-vinegar and chewed crusts and the noise as six adults and four children competed for attention.
It had movement too. We fidgeted on chairs that were crammed too close. Our feet tangled beneath the table as above it we passed dishes and cups. Only Sam was small enough to roam, finding spaces to squeeze in between elbows and drive his Lego boat between the debris on the shiny table-cloth.
Do these details matter?
Depends on the writer, surely?
Why have I told you this?
Perhaps because I am in the process of working something out, and the best way I can think of to tell you is not by creating a fully worked out and rounded situation, it is by showing you some of the steps I have taken. I’m not sure I’ve reached a neat conclusion, so I cannot sum anything up.
Should I have written it?
How could I not?
I suppose the more relevent question is, ‘Should I have posted it?’