NEITHER mystical mind reading nor the deductive powers of Sherlock Holmes were allotted to me when the Almighty dealt the talents. But the look on the face of the middle-aged Brummie grandfather told me everything.
With six primary school-aged children, two young mothers – one with a babe in arms – Grandad Keith desperately needed help in knowing how to reach the Natural History Museum. Being decanted from the park-and-ride bus in George Street had compounded his confusion.
With no pressing engagements, I happily led the group into Broad Street, coming to a halt at its junction with Parks Street and pointing northwards.
“Are you coming with us?” The question that turned into an offer came from a six-year-old girl with the bluest of blue eyes – eyes that doubtless leave her father and grandfather powerless. I was no exception. Amy – for that is her name – got her way, with the blessing of the adults in the group.
“Are there any dinosaurs?” she asked, quickly adding that she had one at home. Why hadn’t she brought it with her? “It’s too big – it’s 90 feet high; it’s called Eric.”
“She does exaggerate a little,” said Emily, her mum. “It is only a toy – but try telling her that.”
So began the most delightful hour and a half I have spent at the museum since my children were small. The youngsters were fascinated and fascinating, a joy to be with – in spite of Amy showing disappointment on learning the museum’s dinosaur was not alive.
We parted with handshakes from the boys and a peck on the cheek from the girls – and tears of joy in my eyes.
NEXT day I felt like shedding more tears – but of a different kind. I never hide the fact that I am proud to be English by birth (and a Yorkshireman by the grace of God) so on St George’s Day I sport the familiar red cross on the white background. Wednesday was no exception.
A slightly-built young man, at a guess in his early 20s, stopped me and asked about my badge. I explained and pointed to the considerably larger flag fluttering above a nearby building.
Both were racist and prejudiced, he declared. That was nonsense, I replied.
“I do not recognise national flags. I am a citizen of the world,” he said, loud enough to earn disapproving glances from passers-by – and a comment from a squatting figure asking if we had ‘any change’.
“God help us!” he said.
“What God? There is no God,” yelled the citizen of the world, his face scarlet and contorted with rage.
With reasoned discussion unlikely, it seemed a good time to move on. But it did cast a cloud over the day.