|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, . 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. Hampden Park
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.