Slowly I’m getting to know the area. And the area, very nearly, got to know me. And not in a good way. It happened like this:
The Easter weekend dawns bright and sunny and I’ve looked up the local listings. There’s plenty to do. I could stroke a goat at a nearby farm, wear an owl like a bracelet at a woodland falconry and appreciate the arts at any number of local exhibitions.
I even consider the Passion Play being performed amongst Saturday shoppers in a neighbouring High Street but reject this as more of a spectator sport, which given there’s to be a re-enactment of the crucifixion, is probably just as well.
And of course, there are Easter egg hunts. Or Chocolate egg hunts as they are now called apparently. And I happen to be a big fan of chocolate. Well… who isn’t? Decision made.
The entrance tent where the hunt is to begin is packed with families. “How many are you?” asks a middle-aged woman in a rabbit-eared headband.
“One please” I say and hand over my tenner.
“One adult. And how many little ones?”
“Little one’s?” I ask blankly
“Children” says Rabbit-Ears “There’s no entry without children”
Of course there isn’t. I should have checked the small print.
“Sounds like discrimination to me” I joke .
No response. Not a flicker. I take another stab at it.
“I’m a free-lance writer” I explain “I may be doing an article if my editor…”
“No child, no entry” she says, her felt ears nodding earnestly “It’s a strict rule”
I’ll have to give up the idea, I think… Or will I? I feel the crowd getting restless behind me and Rabbit-Ears is beginning to look tetchy. Perhaps the headband’s too tight? It’s time to improvise. And therein lies my first mistake. I cast a swift look around. Children everywhere. I’ll just pretend one of them is mine. Easy.
“I just mention the press angle out of courtesy really… but I do have a child with me… obviously I do”
I gesture to a gaggle of children and spot a spindly boy of about six years old clutching a Superman back-pack.
“Over there. That’s my son” I wave vaguely in his direction.
“Enjoy your afternoon” says Rabbit-Ears, clearly glad to be shot of me. Now, here I want to make it quite clear that at no point was the abduction of a child my plan. I was just claiming temporary ownership of the boy in theory. Not in actual practice.
I pass a pleasant hour egg rolling and clue solving (Question: is it really cheating for an adult to solve riddles set for children and so pocket a healthy cache of mini-praline eggs? Discuss.) I’m on the last clue when an announcement comes over the loud speaker.
“We have a boy here who has got separated from his mother. Could she please report to the Information Desk?” And I’m just making for the exit when I’m spotted by Rabbit-Ears.
“Thank goodness” she says taking me firmly by the arm and leading me to cordoned-off area at the rear of the tent “The poor boy is really quite upset.”
And he is. There sits my “son” fiercely holding on to his back-pack, his face sticky with tears and with chocolate.
“Here’s your mummy at last” says Rabbit-Ears. The boy looks bewildered. As well he might. Because I’m not his mother. I know this and he knows this. And any minute now the chic woman in a wrap-dress who rushes over and swoops up the boy will know it too.
“Augustus how could you go off like that?” She exclaims “I’ve been so worried”
Rabbit-Ears looks uncertainly from me to Wrap-Dress. I can practically see her mind working. The boy could have two mothers. It is possible. I hazard a cautious step towards the exit (and it’s here I make my second mistake) which Rabbit-Ears immediately takes as a sign of guilt.
“I think perhaps we should contact the police” she says and once again she grips hold of my arm.
“The police?” I squeak “There’s no need for that. It’s a simple misunderstanding. I told you I’m a writer and if it’s about the chocolate I’ll give it all back…”
Wrap-Dress is really very nice about it. And so is her son… probably cheered by taking ownership of my cache of mini-eggs. It’s Rabbit-Ears who won’t let it go. I’m heading to the car when I catch sight of her talking to a burly man with a camera.
“There she is” She calls loudly pointing straight at me. Everybody within earshot turns around to look at me. I pick up my pace.
“Hold up” yells the chap with the camera “I’m with The Gazette and I’d like to ask you…”
I break in to a run and after dodging behind an overweight clown pretending to throttle a plastic chicken, I eventually manage to lose him by the tombola.
On the drive home although still mourning the loss of the praline eggs, I am grateful for the fact that I’d paid the entrance fee in cash. I’ve evaded the press and they can’t trace me, I think. I could have ended up on the front page. All for pretending to be a mother. One thing I am certain of though, if he had been my son I would never have saddled the poor child with a name like Augustus.
TO BE CONTINUED.