A few years ago, while my heart was still dying, before it was re-born to its present glory, I used to walk upon the beach between Penzance and Marazion early in the mornings. All weathers, all tides, walking, breathing, looking, watching, being.
One morning I found a message in a bottle, a plastic bottle that had reached the shore and blown up the sloping sand to the glacis breakwater. Here on this grey windswept shore a message. From where? From whom? How exciting, what opportunities lay in that tightly rolled piece of paper?
It took ages to winkle that piece of paper out of the bottle but when I did here is what I read.
"My name is Daniel, I am 4.
I go to Mousehole Play-school.
I like Dinosaurs.
My Favourite is the Triceratops."
Included on the paper in a more adult hand was Daniels full name and address.
He had obviously struggled with triceratops because he had been helped but apart from that he had obviously done everything else himself. I was so impressed, and particularly touched by his liking of the triceratops. Most boys would have gone for the T-Rex's or the other renders of flesh but here was a little boy who liked the triceratops, admittedly quite fierce looking but otherwise quite bovine. A grazer or a browser, almost the cow of the dinosaur world. I, who have spent much time being graced by the company of cattle, and who was for several years the district cow-lifter, liked that. A lot!
Any boy throwing a message in a bottle into the sea must have dreams of it being carried to strange and magic shores. Daniel just didn't need to know that his message, so carefully constructed had only crossed half way across Mounts Bay. This was a message in a bottle destined to cross oceans and land upon magic shores and to cross not only space but time as well. I conceived of a plan!
I searched the book stores of Penzance and finally discovered what I wanted.
I found a bed-time story book about dinosaurs, with pictures, where, as the story unfolded the dinosaurs came to life and all gathered round the bed of the boy in the story. The other book I found was a sort of Observers Book of Dinosaurs, a sort of Dictionary of Dinosaurs, an ideal first scientific book whose interest might possibly last Daniel for years.
All this I carefully packed into a neat parcel, I do do a neat parcel though I say so myself. Rather than include any explanation that an adult would take on board or misconstrue, I just included Daniels letter as an explanation, and also to cut loose the connection, because that wasn't what it was all about.
Then I did the unforgivable. I lied to an innocent. And this is the lie I told.
I Am very sorry to tell you this but
It took longer for your letter to reach the North
Pole than we expected. Your Christmas Present
Is therefore a little late. Thank you very much for your letter
and here are two books about your
Favourite subject. Lots of Love
Then I included this Lie in the parcel. And I posted it. Just like that.
And the rest, as they say, is History! Or is that pre-history?
Occasionally, I wonder if there is an twelve year old boy called Daniel in Mousehole with an unshakable faith in Father Christmas. Or a young man well on his way to becoming a Palaeontologist or puzzled parents who are still wondering what's going on. But these are idle wonderings, I shall never seek to know because that is the pact made with the God of Giving. The not knowing is part of the delicious secret.
Copyright © Res JFB 3rd December 2008