Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thunderstorm and Flower had a Baby

We have our friend Finlay round to play today. It's been a great day so far - lemonade scones with Nana's homemade raspberry and plum jam, hot chocs and chocolate freckles, and right now F & F are in the bedroom watching Are You Being Served? and eating strawberries and toasted cheese sandwiches, while Una who was beginning to fall apart cruises on Martin's computer with Boowa and Kwala.

Before they were playing a long narrative game outside. From where I was sitting I could hear snatches of them speaking and I wrote down the bits that I could catch. It's a fascinating insight into how kids can comfortably fit different agendas into one game, in how genres can blend, into gender expectations and fears, and into how they build a story together. I was interested in how Una played, a part of the game, but also still 'parallel' playing: she found her way into the story then did her own thing, occasionally reconnecting with Finlay and Fred, and though she was sometimes at cross-purposes, they accommodated her elegantly. The stars represent a break in time where stuff was happening that I couldn't hear.

Fred: lets play mums and babies
Finlay: no! no no no. I'm not the baby.
Una: You're the baby, Fred
Fred: No you should be the baby because you're the youngest
Una: (brews a tantrum)
Fred: (alarmed) Okay, okay! You're the mum
Una: You're the baby, I'm the mum and Finlay's the dad
Finlay: (considers) As long as I can be the karate dad.
Una and Fred: (shrug) sure
Finlay: And I'm the bad guy (jumps up, runs away making weeooweeoo police car noises, while the girls settle into fairy typical for them mum and baby dialogue)

Una: we didn't choose our names and how old we are. I'm thirty.
Finlay: I'm the highest so I'm 30-20
Fred: There's no such thing as 30-20. It only goes up to 39. You can be 35. You're very old.
Finlay: I'm not old. I'm not old. I'm twenty. I'm twenty.
Fred: Okay. What about you can be twenty-one?
Una: I'm twenty-zero.
Fred: Yeah that's twenty. I'm zero and I'm a baby. Let's think of a name. What about Poppy?
Finlay: What about Thunder?
Fred: No I want to be a girl name.
Finlay: What about Rhoda?┬║
Una: What about Rosetta?
Fred: I'll be Roseanna.
Finlay: I'm going to do my name. I'm going to be called Thunderstorm.
Una: What's my name going to be. My name
Finlay: Thunder?
Una: No.
Finlay: No, my name's thunder.
Una: My name is... Flower.
Finlay: And I said Flower? Flower? I don't want this baby escaped until I get back. If I get dead it doesn't matter. If you see a bird, that will be me.
Una: Okay! (exit Finlay)

Finlay: And I disappeared over there and you never saw me again?
Fred: But you come back in the game though.
Finlay: Yeah. And I crasheded
Fred: But you didn't hurt yourself because you were a magic bird.

Fred: And I was practicing to walk and to talk.
Una: And you fell over.
Fred: Uh oh. Uh oh. (*Stage Whisper*) You have to say up-a-days, up-a-days.

Finlay: And you go back to bed.
Fred: Not always. I have to get up sometimes!
Finlay: But when I get back from battle you go back to your bed.

Una: Actually I am the dog.
(the game threatens to fall apart because if Una is the dog and Finlay is going to be at battle there's no one to look after the baby, until I go outside and intervene, reminding them that in Peter Pan the parents go out and leave the dog to look after the children. They look incredulous, but agree, until, 5 seconds later...)
Fred: Actually, I'm the mum.
Finlay: (worries about this slippery switch of identities.)
(Penni produces (newly acquired by Fred with Christmas money) Baby Alive*. The game continues.)

Fred: (crossly) You can turn into things but no dying in this game.

Finlay: (flies in.) And now I'm a flying dog.
Fred: Turn back into a human right now. I need you to get the baby's bottle.

Fred: Hang on, my name is Annie.
Finlay: My name is Thunderbird.
Fred: Excuse me, can you look after the baby?
Finlay: But then I changed. Actually I have to go into battle.
Fred: I can do that.
Finlay: But I was already gone.
(Fred pursues, they do a lap of the house)

On their return Fred runs off to battle leaving Finlay with the baby.
Fred: (calling over her shoulder) Look after the baby
Finlay: (genuinely panicked) No. No. I really can't. (runs after Fred). Wait I have to tell you something. There's a GIANT. And you were afraid.
Fred: I'm never afraid.

Una crals into my field of view, on the veranda.
Una: Yip yip yip.
She picks up the baby and carries it away, whilst on all fours.
Somewhere I can hear Fred and Finlay negotiating over who is going to look after the baby.

Una: And you didn't know I was your dog.
Finlay: And I knew because I could see your tail.
Una: (flaps wings)
Finlay: And I said transform yourself into a human please I need to talk to you and you listened.
Una: But I was a bird without ears so I couldn't hear.

Finlay: And you were so amazed because I was doing flips in the air and those spiders could not catch me.

Una: And just pretend those spiders came to me and they put a spell on me that was a sleeping spell.
Finlay: Yeah, and I...(wanders off to find Fred)
Una: And Finlay! Finlay! Just pretend you couldn't break the spell.
Finlay: (wanders back)
Una: Finlay, just pretend you couldn't break the spell.
Finlay: Yeah, because you were shielded by that queen.
Una: And just pretend after when I had the sleeping spell I turned into a queen dog
Finlay: And you were still good and I said Dog, I need your help, you are the only one. (suddenly inspired, runs to Fred) Fred, just pretend I had an invisible spell on me and I got through the deflector field.

Finlay: When you get back you saw me dead.
Fred: And I used my power on you. SHA!
Finlay: And it didn't work.
Fred: And then
Finlay: And I woke up and it was just a dream.
Fred: and there were baddies attacking me and they took me away but you didn't see me.
Finlay: Because I was too busy looking over there.

(at this stage they are in three very different places in our garden (which is nearly an acre so they are all shouting).
Una: FREDDY! FREDDY! (says something Fred and I can't hear, but Finlay hears)
Finlay: No, that was just a big dream!
Fred: I heard you.
Finlay: UNA SHE HEARD YOU. Just pretend you got broken.
Finlay: I'm talking to Freddy!

Una: Fred. Fre-ed. Just pretend you came to me.
Finlay: NO! she's locked up and she's dead now.

Soon after this they all troop inside for hot cocoa and chocolate freckles.

┬║Where on earth did he get the name Rhoda?
*Thankfully the non-pooing, non-talking, non-blinking variety.


  1. Susannah1:08 PM

    Oh... playing. This made me desperately long to be able to just go and play.

    Maybe Finlay reads the wonderful 'Stanley and Rhoda' by Rosemary Wells.

  2. Brilliant post! Well done transcribing - imaginative play is so ephemeral and tangential, it's wonderful to enjoy it at a slowed-down pace and enjoy its lovely, random illogic!

  3. Love it, Penni! Especially the way they do take on board everyone's individual role-playing wishes and somehow bring them together into a weird and wonderful whole.

    Ah, I remember mine being that young and inventive, instead of merely quoting The Simpsons at me all day and saying 'do you remember the episode when ...?'. Haven't listened into him playing in a sneaky manner for a while now.

  4. Have Finlay's folk's seen this? I think there might be some extreme sport or something on the TV in that house. Hello P and D.

  5. this is my favorite bit:
    "Turn back into a human right now. I need you to get the baby's bottle."

  6. Sounds scarily like the sort of game playing adults indulge in - minus rules and prompts. The more things change...

  7. I could just read that all day. "Let's pretend" has a familiar ring to it!

  8. I had the same favourite bit too: Turn back into a human right now. I need you to get the baby's bottle.
    Just how many mum's have said that to dad just home from the pub?

    Love how complex it is. I had forgotten how convoluted kids games get.

  9. this is fascinating - i had forgotten it was like that... i watched where the wild things are the other day - have you seen it? also about child's play, and almost hard to watch, strange and sad and difficult and true.

  10. Totally adorable - thanks for transcribing it all! And you will thank yourself, in years to come (she sez agedly!) In fact, keep a copy, in case the Internets dies!

  11. I feel like I've just done a great writing class, reading this post. I love that you were so open to just recording what was. I think that's what's best about being a writer, just staying open. It's when you try to manipulate too much that things seem to lose their Flow.
    Thanks for reminding me.