Sam, who’s six, is an expert on Ninja turtles. He’s seen all the animations, loves the comics, can name each character, give you their histories and play the stories out in Lego.
‘The sword of Tengu,’ he says, watching his father and I load the trailer with chainsaw, ropes, ladders and safety gear, ‘can cut through trees.’
I suggest that this must need good muscles. Sam climbs off the gate, does an impressive spinning jump and as he lands has reached behind his shoulders with both hands and grabbed the two plastic swords that he has tucked down the back of his tee-shirt. ‘Only Shredder can use the sword of Tengu,’ he says, ‘and he’s evil.’ He strikes a new pose with his twin swords and makes a series of lunges at the fence.
The other day, as I took a short cut, I glanced over the hedge, and there was Sam on his trampoline. He bounced, did a forward roll, and as he recovered, reached back and pulled the twin swords out of his tee-shirt. By the time he was upright, he was poised for action.
It was only then that I was struck by how dedicated a student Sam is. Everything he sees and has to do is filtered by its reference to Ninja lore, and that’s been the way of things for at least a year now.
There was a time when I never left the house without putting a notebook and pen in my pocket, and since I often forgot to take them out again, this meant I generally carried several. I made notes in queues, shops, fields and carparks, during intervals at the theatre and cinema or breathers on long walks. But at some point, in an attempt to be more organised, my handy pocket-sized notepads got tidied away. My Mslexia diary was designed to double as a notebook and I kept it in my bag, so it seemed efficient concentrate on that.
The thing is, I don’t take my diary everywhere in the same way. Notebooks can be folded and crammed into pockets. The best of mine are only one step on from being the back of an envelope, ideal for long walks, or tree-felling expeditions.
Inspiration belongs in a different sphere to the public spaces where I might need to check a date or jot down a reference or idea. My notebooks are a licence to dream. The efficiency they reflect is my commitment to writing.
‘Sam,’ I say, ‘Tell your Dad I’ll be back in a minute. I’ve just remembered something else I need to bring.’