Scarier things than whales

I AM not impressed.

John Andersen’s fine story in the Townsville Bulletin on Thursday (August 24) about the 45-tonne whale and its calf surfacing near his tinny was… well, fine. But it didn’t scare me.

The playgroup has just been held at my house. Six mothers and a battalion of calves on solid ground are a lot more scary than whales – even when there’s no more than 50kg between the lot of them.

Did you know that caterpillars taste a lot like orange cream biscuits? I am reliably informed.

Or that it’s possible to pick snot from both nostrils at the same time? I have seen it done. Only it seems that you can’t eat it simultaneously off both fingers. The only solution, when you have bogies on both fingers, is to wipe them on the sofa.

If you are growing old, as I am, and the rate of the change in the world makes you increasingly nervous, attend a playgroup. It’s very… reassuring. Because at playgroups nothing changes.

Oh, they make the cups out of plastic now, and the nappies may be disposable, but the essential ingredient — the children — are exactly the same.

Give the girls a rock – they wrap it up and pretend it’s a doll.

Give the boys a fairy wand – and they turn it into a cudgel with which to beat someone’s brains to porridge.

Not someone’s. Mine.

I was minding my own business. I was working in my study. I was focusing.

The door burst open.

I didn’t look up. I didn’t make eye contact. I said nothing. So did they.

I said, “Go away. I’m busy. Go and find your mothers or I’ll eat you.”

“Are you a pirate?”

“No, I’m a grumpy old man. Go away.”

Then they attacked me. All of them. Boys and girls. This is where mugging begins. In the nursery.

One of the older ones was wearing a crocodile puppet on his hand and it bit me. Again and again. “On his bum,” shrieked the owner with the hysteria that very small boys reserve for unfunny jokes about bottoms.

If I could have grabbed the fairy wand I would have beaten his brains to porridge, but the end of it was up my nose, wedging the contents so far into my brain that no finger would ever reach them.

We compromised eventually. They agreed not to kill me if I would agree to set up the railway for them.

“We haven’t got a railway.”

“You’ve got a train. We found it. On a shelf.”

“That’s not a shelf. It’s the dresser. The top of the dresser. And it’s a very old clockwork train that belonged to my dad. It’s an antique. How did you get it?”

“We climbed up.”

“I hope you haven’t broken it.”

“The train or the teapot?”

“What teapot?”

“The broken one.”

A whale wouldn’t do this. A whale would stick close to its mother and be nervous of anything unfamiliar, especially pirates.

Hang on – where were the mothers!

They were in the garden, drinking tea, and engaged in intellectual discussions about the dangers of sexual stereotyping, disciplining toddlers, and clever ways to stop them picking their noses. They were swapping opinions on the best way to stop children growing up to be muggers of old men.

It occurred to me that I could use this opportunity to kidnap the lot of them (the kids, not the mothers) and drop them in into ocean off Magnetic Island where, hopefully, they’d fall foul of something dangerous, like a whale.

But that wouldn’t be fair.

On the whale.