“I quite enjoyed Saturday,” said Mum, thoughtfully. ”I found quite a few graves.”
“Err, great!” I replied, wondering yet again about the normality of some of the conversations that take place in my family. You have to bear in mind that this phone call took place right in the middle of a lazy, sprawled-on-the-sofa-talking-rubbish sort of evening with Sister and Kat, in the middle of which I had taken a break from my essay on The Merchant of Venice to perform a Google search on the phrase “are elephants really scared of mice?”.
Incidentally, they’re not. The question arose tonight because Sister was looking through a child’s colouring book and discovered a picture of a happy mouse sitting on the back of an equally happy elephant. “That can’t be right,” she said, “What about that scene in Dumbo?”. My argument that Dumbo was a work of animated fiction fell on deaf ears, and so Google was once again called upon to resolve the situation. Apparently elephants are actually frightened of “unlocatable noises”, but not of mice themselves. One article (which appeared to be taking itself seriously but was really quite funny) went on to explain that “another wrong assumption is that elephants are afraid that, while they are asleep, a mouse might crawl up their trunk and suffocate them.” Yes, come to think of it, there may even be helplines for traumatised elephants, too frightened to go to sleep. Elephants are famously pessimistic, after all, and are renowned for sitting around worrying about what might happen in the dead of night. “Even if this were likely to happen,” the article continues patiently, still on the whole mouse-crawling-up-trunk issue, “it would most certainly trigger an enormous sneezing fit which would prove disastrous for the mouse in question.” Mice are also advised against getting too close to elephants while they are awake, because the elephants will lash out and kick at them. “Overly cheeky mice will not usually be able to evade the blow,” our helpful source informs us, “for elephants are agile animals, capable of moving with unexpected speed. What is more, an elephant’s foot measures several mice in size.” Another fair point. Mice are warned in no uncertain terms that “the effect of an elephant using its foot against a mouse” can be potentially lethal. The internet is becoming a real Mouse Survival Kit, isn’t it? No rodent should be without it.
I’m pretty sure I was going somewhere with this. Oh, Mum and the graves. Actually, the elephant thing turned out to be a whole lot more entertaining, so let’s just leave it at that. I was only trying to point out that I’m a little concerned about the random comments I hear in any given day. Elephants in need of Valium, Mum’s slightly disturbing idea of a good weekend… and it’s not even restricted to my family; it’s everyone I come into contact with. Earlier today, for example, I was chatting to McBouncy when Kate arrived in from a morning of driving to here, there and everywhere. “Your dad was looking for you,” I told her as she threw down her keys and struggled out of her coat. “I know,” she said, looking harrassed, “I had to pull over to speak to him because my parrot has no brain.” McBouncy nodded in a consoling manner. “Are you sure?” she asked gently, “because it might just have very little brain, and you can fix that.”
“No,” said Kate firmly, “My parrot has no brain.”