For Christmas my Mum got a Beatrix Potter box set for Boy and Baby. What a wonderful gift you might be thinking. Well it was certainly generous but I’m about to disagree with the wonderful.
Beatrix Potter might make sense a century ago in the countryside but today it seems to be causing no end of Boy and Daddy difficulties. The first time I read him The Tale of Benjamin Bunny I knew I was in trouble. Take this paragraph towards the start.
“A gig was coming along the road; it was driven by Mr McGregor, and beside him sat Mrs. McGregor in her best bonnet.”
Boy: “Daddy what’s a gig?”
Me: *looks at picture which isn’t helping as it’s of a rabbit*. *wonders if it’s too early to do a joke involving Black Grape at the Brighton Centre, tinnitus, snakebite and vomit* “Er I’m not sure really. Something they use to travel in I would think”.
Boy: “Daddy what’s a bonnet?”
Me (confidently): “It’s a type of hat”
Boy: “Oohhhh we all have hats. Does Mummy have a bonnet?”
Me: “Because she’s not a mental patient darling”
Boy: “What’s a…”
And so on. And so on.
Or this absolutely CHARMING bit later on. “then he came back to the basket and took out his son Benjamin by the ears and whipped him with the little switch”.
Boy: “What’s a switch?”
Me: *thinks it’s what you turn the light on with* “er I think it’s a stick.”
Boy: “Why does he whip Benjamin with it?”
Me: “Because the Edwardians were vicious un-educated bastards who could only discipline their children using physical violence.” (i)
But just as bad as that is the fact I find them so boring I struggle to stay awake reading them. There are whole SECTIONS of Beatrix Potter where nothing happens at all. For example “Peter fell down head first; but it was of no consequence”. So why tell us then? I do things of no consequence all the time. And then I tweet about them. OK on this one she’s forgiven.
But then there’s “presently he dropped half the onions” which has no bearing on anything before or after plot-wise, and isn’t even the least bit interesting. It’s not exactly Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. It isn’t even Charlie and Lola. It’s just noise. Polite, grammatically correct noise.
And this is just ONE book. There’s a whole box set to get through of violent beatings, confusing terminology and sod all happening. Great.
Of course two things do need to be said here. The first is that if you are elderly, middle class and rural I expect her books make some sort of sense. I’m NEVER going to blog about my Mum’s age but she grew up in a village and she listens to Radio 3. Nuff said.
The second is that Boy loves the books. Absolutely adores them. In fact, I think I can hear him calling me to read one now. Bugger.
(i) I might not have actually said that.