Monday, 7 March 2016

Dib Gringe by Bill Kirton

The sort of place which Dib might inhabit
Let me tell you about Dib Gringe.

It’s not a small, eerie village, with cowed residents slinking about, fearful of what new horrors may be inflicted on them by their evil landlord from his dank castle on the hill overlooking the swamp on which the village was built.

It’s not the swamp itself, some modern equivalent of Conan Doyle’s wonderful Grimpen Mire, into which strangers have wandered to disappear with a gurgled scream, only to reappear at Halloween with dripping rags of flesh still clinging to their skeletal forms, moaning their souls’ agony into the echoing night.

Nor is it a wasting disease with a much more impressive Latin name but with symptoms too nauseating to describe, brought back from the southern ocean in the late 1700s by the crew of Captain Cook’s barque Endeavour and transmitted to the inhabitants of the brothels of British ports and from them on to the towns’ residents.

No, Dib Gringe is not an ‘it’, he’s a ‘him’.

He was born several years ago, just before breakfast, in a bedroom only a few minutes walk from Scotland’s national stadium, Hampden Park. In fact, Dib, as he lets me call him, came into being some five minutes after his mother. There were no midwives, nurses or obstetricians present – just me and my then five year old grandson. And the bed was mine – at least for the duration of my stay with him and his 11 year old brother.


Mrs Gringe came about as part of a story we were telling together. She has no husband; Gringe is her maiden name and her given name is Mrs. I know little more about her because, as I said, Dib arrived a few minutes later and immediately, like all children, became the centre of attention. He was, however, not like other children. When he was born, he was already five years old, six feet two inches tall and an accomplished basketball player. He wore soft leather trousers, no underpants, and a top made of seaweed. (The soft leather was a somewhat disturbing revelation but one which, fortunately, we didn’t explore further.)

We were called to breakfast and Dib was left to his own devices but, periodically, during the day, my grandson reminded me of him and asked questions about his habits, many of which were grotesque distortions of his own interests and activities. I think he began to identify with him and suspect that I was compiling his own biography.

In the evening, the whole family – Mum, Dad, two sons and me – went to a local restaurant. And Dib was there. Not in person, of course, but once we started talking about the sort of food he preferred (don’t ask), the questions started coming again and my grandson began to insist that Dib didn’t exist, that he was simply a figment of my (and his own) imagination. I protested, of course. (All my creations are real to me.) I then called Dib on my mobile but he rang off before I had a chance to pass the phone to my grandson.

I must confess to being a little surprised when I did, in reality, get a text message from him just a minute or so later. It read:
‘Hi. Dib here. Hope you’re having a nice meal. Wish I was there. Give my love to everybody.’
I showed it to my grandson, who remained relatively unimpressed. (Rightly so, of course, because it had been sent by my daughter from the other side of the table.)
Then, as I was telling him about Dib’s FaceBook page and debating with myself whether I should set up an email account in Dib’s name, I started wondering whether I’d gone too far. My grandson’s scepticism was refreshing, his hold on reality secure, and yet he wanted to believe – no, not believe, pretend to believe – that there was such a being as Dib Gringe.

Kids are the best readers to have. They’re so open and 
The current Stanley Henderson
receptive, not yet indoctrinated with the idea that everything is explicable. Their ‘normality’ is much wider than ours. (For two granddaughters, I once invented a fairy called Stanley Henderson, who lived under a dripping tap in our bedroom. He featured in several stories over the next few months and, eventually, the older granddaughter took my wife aside to ask – seriously – whether she’d ever seen him.) Kids are also quite trustful and if we’re insistent that fictions are real, they want to accept them as such.

That’s fine for a while, with Santa Claus, tooth fairies (whose fees, incidentally, are ruinously high nowadays), and the disappearing coins which Granddads invariably retrieve from behind ears, but the world around them is changing. They’re having to grow up much too quickly now, and computer graphics, iPads and the rest are stretching reality’s continuum. Their erstwhile tolerance of magic and the impossible may wane and those who cling on to it may be persecuted for it. I imagine them trying to convince less imaginative friends in the playground that the 3 inch tall fairy who lives in Aberdeen and the six feet two, newborn five year old basketball player in soft leather pants are real. They’d be lucky if ‘Aye. Right’ was the only reaction they got.

12 comments:

Wendy Jones said...

You mean he's not real? You've shattered my illusions. You are right about the world of childhood disappearing too quickly. It's a shame but indicative of our changing times, as you say

Jan Needle said...

You're making this up, Bill. Shame on you

Susan Price said...

"Their erstwhile tolerance of magic and the impossible may wane..."
Aye. Right.
While there are adults who hunt for the Loch Ness Monster, Bill, I don't think we need worry about infants' much more sensible belief in Dib Gringe.

Chris Longmuir said...

Ah, but has your grandson questioned you about Dib's status. Poor Dib is illegitimate born to a Mrs with the maiden name of Gringe, although perhaps she married her brother! In which case there are still interesting questions to be asked. The other thing I wondered about was his diet, and will he keep on growing until he is an adult, in which case, how tall will he be? Questions, questions, too many questions. I do hope your grandson is on the ball, because I'd love to see you wriggle out of them!

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, all.

Of course he's real, Wendy. Whatever made you think otherwise?

Jan, you wouldn't understand.

Susan, I've sailed on Loch Ness and driven along it many times and - like the majority of others, I'm sure - the temptation to look for tell-tale ripples is irresistible.

Sadly, Chris, those fascinating questions won't get asked. The last time I saw him (just over a week ago), he was playing Grand Theft Auto.

julia jones said...

I love it. Thank you Bill. Please reassure your grandson that if Dib isn't around with him today it's because he's paying a visit to an elderly friend in Essex

Mari Biella said...

You tease, you. Now I want to know more about Dib too. How tall will he be when he grows up - if he grows up at all, that is? Why the unconventional sartorial preferences of seaweed and leather (but then again, why not?)? More importantly, what will befall such a peculiar child in our world?

(I couldn't help but keep an eye out for Nessie when I visited the Loch either. Rationally, I know that the chances of a small colony of prehistoric aquatic reptiles surviving in the Scottish Highlands is small but, as they used to say in The X Files, I want to believe...)

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks Julia and Mari. Your curiosity and willingness to subscribe to the fiction(?) suggest there's always something of the child's openness about writers. Now that the said grandson's on the edge of teenagery, he seems much more grown up than I am. I don't think I'll ever get cynical about Dib. He was (maybe still is) way ahead of his time. I mean - a seaweed jacket. Can't get much cooler.

Reb MacRath said...

Who could have guessed that a post with such an unpretty title would turn into such a pure delight? Well done, Bill.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks Reb, but Dib is far from unpretty - at least, he was then. God knows what he's like now.

Dennis Hamley said...

Brilliant, Bill. Magic will never die.

Bill Kirton said...

Thanks, Dennis. I agree (and I hope we're right).