I’ve been hearing the opening notes from the rhyme This Old Man in my head.
Up until recently I would have considered the reason for this to be early onset dementia, but thanks to the Coronation Street actress Judy Holt and her brilliant portrayal of the condition (sadly overshadowed by one of the most irritating and implausible storylines in soap opera history), I knew that was not the case.
As the notes chimed again, I realised it was, in fact, coming from one of the many playthings in what was once our dining room and is now the son and heir’s ‘toy room’.
The confusing thing was that the son and heir was not in the house at the time. Nor was anyone else. Apart from me, obviously.
Could it be that one of the 18 assorted teddy bears that have also taken up residence in the Toy Room had sprung to life and decided to try out the Leap Frog play table? No, they hadn’t, although reading back that sentence perhaps I should say that Speller Junior, without doubt, has no shortage of teddy bears.
So what was the cause?
As an avid reader of horror novels, there are plenty of possibilities, although as a grown up I am bound to dismiss most of them and not be afraid.
Unlike the time, as a teenager, I was reading Salem’s Lot until about 3am one morning. If you are not familiar with Stephen King’s masterpiece, it is about vampires. Proper ones; not angsty teenagers for whom vampirism is merely a metaphor for feeling isolated and worrying about bad skin
Put it this way, Salem’s Lot is a seriously scary book and if you have either read it or seen the TV adaptation starring David Soul, you’ll know this.
So, just as I was reading the section when a child vampire starts scratching at the first floor window of his brother’s bedroom, I was less than impressed to hear the sound of something hitting my window. It turned out to be my brother, also wanting to get in.
Fortunately he hadn’t been turned into the undead by someone with questionable dental fashion sense; he had forgotten his keys and, sensibly, reasoned that scaring his younger brother witless by throwing grit at the window was a safer option than waking up our parents at such an ungodly hour.
Anyway, I digress.
The truth is the cause of the Leap Frog outburst referred to higher up in these musings is unknown.
Most parents will be familiar with the phenomenon of children’s toys setting themselves off for no apparent reason.
There’s a small fire engine in our house that cries out ‘bye bye’ if you walk within six feet of it.
Most toys seem to have a setting somewhere between Never Working Again and Never Off. It appears to be an inbuilt reminder of their existence should a child grow out of them. Something Woody and Buzz could have done with in Toy Story.
When the random noises happen at night, you greet them with a mixture of sleep-disrupted shock, resignation and fear.
Not the fear of things that go bump in the night, but the fear that all your work getting your two year old to sleep in the first place is about to be outdone by the present Auntie Beryl bought for them; the one you have been meaning to ‘lose’ for quite some time.