2016: New year, new films

You know, I didn’t do badly with my 2015 list. Some of the things on there (*cough* Pan *cough*) dropped off, a few move into this year, other things got added as I went along, I got a few really great bonuses courtesy of the BFI London Film Festival, and there were some other great experiences – most notably being in the first public audience to see the lost-for-decades Oswald the Lucky Rabbit short Sleigh Bells on the big screen – that I didn’t get to writing about.

I’ve finally also got round to joining Letterboxd (let’s stalk each other there!), so now I have a slightly more orderly way of keeping an eye on my watchlist – and seeing just how many things I still need to mop up from the year(s) before.

Here’s a screenshot of the most recent few I’ve added (sorted so the earliest release dates go last). What else should I be adding? You can probably tell I really enjoy ridiculous big-budget stuff, adventure, drama and animation; however, I’m very very definitely open to a much wider field than that (except horror. I just can’t. I have nightmares for weeks). My top films of 2015 included Mistress America, Mr Holmes and High-Rise, if it helps.

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(Note: I have no idea when Artemis Fowl is actually happening, but I’m pretty sure the paroxysms of unearthly joy that I unleashed when I heard one of my favourite kids’ series was getting the directorial treatment from His Royal Bloody Brilliantness Kenneth Branagh were felt on the International Space Station. So much love for the K-Bran. Just saw him on stage in Harlequinade and it was outstanding.)

I need your recommendations, friends, family and randoms of the Internet. Don’t go letting me down.

10 New Year wishes for my 5-year-old

Eight out of ten ain’t half bad. As wishes go, failing to watch Ratatouille I can give a pass to (especially since you’ve seen more films in the cinema in one year than ever before) and not letting me brush your hair, well… there are worse things.

So given that the other eight wishes – all of them endless, forever wishes apart from WDW and we had a ROLLICKING time – are going as strong as I could hope for, what else is there left to hope for?

When it comes to you there is always  more.

1. I wish for you to keep surprising me. I mean, it was no surprise to me that you had a spectacular time at Walt Disney World, but every day you managed to do something unexpected – liking a ride I didn’t think you would, bravely agreeing to do something that scared you, playing brilliantly with your cousins. And really it was the trip to Stockholm that was full of little joys; it was great to know that you could get as much pleasure out of a city trip as we could, that you enjoyed exploring and tea shops and the unusual (that, in fact, you’re more like me than I thought, at times).

2. I wish for you to continue fighting your fears. I know that you find the unexpected difficult sometimes; you’re already better at being brave at your age than I was. But there are some times when I know you’re keeping yourself from something you’d love because you’re nervous about what might scare you – even for a second. I was majorly impressed that you kept going on the Nemo ride despite Bruce (even more so that by the fourth ride, you kept your eyes open), but I look forward to a day when you will judge which film you want to watch, book you want to read, place you want to visit and ride you want to go on more by level of interest than by likelihood of not being scared. There’s a world of enjoyment out there for you, and I promise you that sometimes, to slightly redirect the words of the man himself, being scared out of your pants may be the best thing in the world for you.

3. I wish for you to continue being brilliant at making friends. I’m sorry it took so long to have a proper playdate with your bestie. She’s awesome, and there will be many more, I promise.

4. I wish for you to lose that sense of embarrassment! It shocked me when I realised you meant it that you were bashful and embarrassed whenever anyone talked about you. I’ve always considered my overly honed sense of personal humiliation my greatest weakness. I simply do not want you to inherit it. So please – be like your dad. Give not one flying… fart… what anyone says about you. Because you are the best.

5. I wish for you to unleash that creativity more than ever. You come up with the best, maddest, funniest most bonkers stories. I simply insist that you keep them coming. And I shall uphold our deal: when I come up with an idea, I’m free to write it, draw it and play with it any way I like. And when it’s your idea, it’s your intellectual property, no matter how frustrating I find it that you won’t let me develop it. Humph.

6. I wish for you to stop licking our hands and faces. Seriously, kid, it’s revolting. And while we’re at it, could the foot-tickling go on hold? Ta.

7. I wish for you to keep being delightfully affectionate. In line with number 4, I’m dreading the day that cuddles and kisses start to dry up and start being embarrassing. For now, I am taking full advantage of being carpeted with snuggles and I do not wish it to stop. Also, you can keep telling me you love me and you’ll stay with me forever; I mean, in the fullness of time I shall want you to be independent and want to leave me, for your own good, but in the meantime I am very happy to be clung to and generally adored. As you were.

8. I wish for you to keep growing like a weed in the sun. You shot up 10cm betweeen March and December! Your legs are just like your dad’s – long, lean and always tripping over themselves. You are so outrageously strong. I love it, I admire it, I’m a little jealous of it.

9.I wish for us to travel again this year – perhaps nearer and more cheaply, but for us to have some sort of adventure together and you to experience some more new things and discover fresh likes, dislikes and interests. I’m keeping fingers crossed for the trip we talked about in the summer – a new way of travelling for us as a family too, so let’s wait and see!

10. Finally, I wish for you to be ever more you, a simply wonderful person whom I consider myself privileged to know. You constantly make me want to do better for you, and I know you enjoy hearing how proud you make us. In keeping with my theme of finding the value in myself and others, I hope we three continue to constantly inspire each other to show the best of ourselves to each other and to the world. And that we continue to feel safe disclosing and battling the worst of ourselves, too – which might even be the more valuable bit.

Happy new year, Pickleface.

My word of the year for 2016

Every year, I read a plethora of posts that say “I don’t do New Year’s resolutions” and then go on to list New Year’s resolutions. Hell, I’ve probably written one before.

I think the problem is that the format of the resolution sounds like putting pressure on oneself – “this year I will lose arbitrary amount of weight as if each lb taken away signifies 1lb of added happiness”. There’s a negativity about it, a beating of the self with the pointy stick of “why haven’t you done this already”. It’s a checklist, rather than a spur for growth.

The thing is,  the changing of the calendar is as good a time as any to get your thoughts in order. No, you don’t have to do a damn thing just because it’s January 1st. Neither does it make it any less of a resolution if you make it on June 17th. But emotionally, I think it is easier to allow yourself to be carried on the tide of hope that inevitably wells up at this time of year. The days begin to lengthen again, we spend weeks correcting ourselves every time we write down the date, and it just seems to be a serendipitous moment to do a bit more brain training.

This is why I like to set myself a theme, rather than specific goals. For one, some goals can be forced but some depend on the right opportunity presenting itself, and the resolution is more about the groundwork – being ready to seize that moment – than about the moment itself. For the last few years I’ve sought to develop mindsets, rather than attain specific rungs on my mental ladder. So for each year, I’ve assigned a word, and let that word be the theme that guides me, and that I can come back to when I feel stuck.

In 2013, I was feeling a little scared and set in my ways. So I chose Decisiveness, and I changed jobs and took a new career path which has helped me learn a lot. In 2014, Creativity ruled the roost; I started to share more of my writing and drawing online, and I found that each time you do it the walls do come down a little more and it becomes easier. In 2015, the year of Asking, I applied for and received funding for an art course, negotiated some things at work I would usually find difficult and, crucially, learned when I could ask, but also when I didn’t need to anymore.

And these things are cumulative. I shared more stories, and more art and came up with better creative ideas in the year after I made Creativity my guiding principle, because I’d exercised the muscle and it was working more smoothly. My decision-making has been better this year than the last two; it will continue to improve, I’m sure. I speak up more now than I did at the beginning of the year. So, the time has come to choose the word that I think will pick up these three strands and continue to pull them along, while giving me new challenges.

That word?

Value.

I frequently underestimate mine and, frankly, I’m not sure I always see it in other people as much as I could or should. It could be my own financial value, or it could be the emotional or practical value provided by another, but more than that I think it’s understanding that – even if you can’t itemise it – everyone has value, just by virtue of being here. It’s really seeing that, and living it, and getting it. I feel like the best thing I could teach my daughter is to be kind, and at the root of kindness is appreciation. I’ll find it a lot easier to teach her that if I truly have a grip on it myself. As things are in the world now, compassion is desperately needed and not always easy to come by. But it has to start with recognising the value of each person, and really, truly, knowing one’s own.

And hey, it sounds pretty Agent Carter, right?

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Canon Fodder

goblet of fiyah

Canon.

lumos maxima

Also canon.

Neither of these moments appears in the Harry Potter books but they are now, technically, film canon. (Alright, the first one does, but it’s specifically described as Dumbledore delivering the line “calmly“). How Harry can be almost expelled for flouting the Decree for the Reasonable Restriction of Underage Sorcery while trying to prevent a disaster one summer and then, with nary a slap on the wrist, cause temporary retinal damage for no reason the next, who knows? But there it is, for anyone to Google.

The thing is, they make for good movie moments. As much as I have many conflicted feels about the way Michael Gambon interpreted a Dumbledore he never read, and the way David Yates directed him in that, the fact remains it was an interpretation. I was free to watch it or not watch it. Like it or not like it. There are three universes at play here: the books, the films and the one in my head. It is neither realistic nor desirable for those to all be identical (if nothing else, book and film are very different media; as sorry as I was to lose Hermione’s impassioned S.P.E.W. campaigning, I concede it would have made pretty dull viewing).

Now, enter a new galaxy. Along comes a play, based on an idea none of us have yet read, with the original author’s involvement, in which some characters make the leap (though only in a form vaguely similar to how we last saw them, briefly, in a train station, and not at all how we spent the most time with them). In this completely fresh creative effort, which – not actually being the next book or film in either existing series – has pretty much full freedom to stand alone, one character is a different race from her mainstream portrayals thus far (ie book covers and film casting). And in a virtuoso display of how quickly the commenters of the internet can race to the bottom, every single individual who cannot cope with their white-centric world view being nudged even a tiny bit turns to the text to prove that it’s not ‘canon’.

I am not going to argue the point over Hermione. How I feel is pretty much summed up in this one tweet; I also couldn’t face battling the hordes for tickets, so it’s going to be a long time before I get to see The Cursed Child (sob!) and whoever is in it by then I shall be very excited about it. But this canon malarkey has got to stop. This obsession with picking over the details – as if authors can’t be fallible! As if there are not inconsistencies within universes! As if art can’t just bloody change if we want it to! – is taking the very joy out of being an enormous nerd.

Look, I get the geekery, of course I do. Two nights ago, on the way home from town to see the Christmas lights, my husband got my full spiel – not for the first time, frankly – on the individual nature of each individual and group strand of the MCU so far, and why Captain America: The First Avenger gets away with being the world’s longest origin story while Iron Man dispenses with the practical bit in the first ten minutes. He got the Shakespearean Thor spiel, and my speculations about how the use of Spider-Man might be the bit that prevents Civil War coming across as an Avengers movie. The thing is this: it is enormously enjoyable to deconstruct and reconstruct, to Google original comic book references, to spot Easter eggs, to come up with elaborate theories and to be, frankly, a bit paranoid – the interlocking successes of the MCU surely rest in part on this irresistible urge to neatly link things together. But it is also nonsense. Because between the myriad comic book strands, the visions of Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios, the scriptwriters, the directors, the editors, the cinematographers and the interpretations by the talent (plus the audiences themselves) there can be no such real thing as canon. It’s simply impossible. There are too many people involved. Messy, messy people.

It is, of course, disappointing when something you see does not satisfactorily chime with the contents of your head – or when your favourite paper moment doesn’t make it to the screen. But it is not necessarily wrong. There are times, I think, when one can be critical – for example, I think Yates made a downright peculiar choice to have Bellatrix and Voldemort dissolve rather than be real dead bodies, as I thought the whole point of those battle scenes in the book was to show the brutal, damaged, evil but very real humanity of the man who was once Tom Riddle. But that was less to do with having it be exactly as I pictured it, and more to do with making that point as I had understood it; I didn’t want any hint that the pieces of Voldemort could be swept back into a pile and reanimated (as if Otto Chriek and his emergency blood had just teleported over from the Discworld). Or any re-affirmation of his belief in his own exceptionalism. And yet I understood that it made for a much more cinematic moment, and had to concede that even when we’re both staring the same source material right in the face, Yates and I might yet be reading it differently.

Let me get things straight: of course I’m not saying that everyone should like every interpretation, neither that it’s necessarily wrong to argue it (it can be fun). But I think you do have to ask yourself why it’s bothering you and if your objection doesn’t come from the text, but an unexamined prejudice. And even when it does come from the text – does it really matter? When people argued that Jack Reacher, continually described in the books as being a huge dude, could not be embodied in not-quite-so-massive Tom Cruise, I did have a moment’s pause. But actually, it made little or no impact on the final result (in fact, it actually heightened the tension in scenes where gangs of rent-a-muscle thugs sneer at Reacher’s cast-iron self-confidence).

When it comes down to it, canon, despite being apparently pegged to the page or screen, none the less still lives entirely in the eye of the beholder – and the beholders of Hermione live in a world where whiteness is regularly the default. Our lenses are scuffed and blurred, and it sometimes takes someone making an unexpected choice to unfog them a little. Canon is a security blanket; reassuring, familiar, warm and comfortable – but if you look at it a little closer, frayed, full of holes and overdue for a wash. Sometimes adding a little embroidery or a patch can change it into something newer and more beautiful. And even if you run in desperation to Mama, you might not get the answer you want to hear.

 

Season’s Readings: win Pop Art – A Colourful History by Alastair Sooke

Admit it, your brain immediately re-titled that book as Hogwarts: A History didn’t it?

But look! Look at how gorgeous! The generous folks at Penguin Random House have given me a beautiful Christmas present of this delightful book – plus an extra one for me to give away. So here we are.

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Pop Art – A Colourful History is a lovely little hardback, engagingly written (from the Viking imprint, if that kind of detail floats your boat), taking in – of course – Lichtenstein and Warhol but also delving into the lives and significant works of their less lastingly famous contemporaries, like Marisol Escobar and Rosalyn Drexler.

In a classic example of plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, the introduction opens with the idea that by the early 60s, the art world had become unshockable; that there was nothing “despicable enough”, in Lichtenstein’s words, that no one would hang it (and to think, this was before the heyday of Jeff Koons’ highly explicit works or the Chapman brothers’ deliberate grotesquerie). Sooke then takes the reader through the emerging landscape, the collision of media and the artistic period which might have had the greatest influence on the way we create art and content today.

So, fancy a copy? Then please comment below telling me one of your favourite ever pieces of art – any medium, any era. Let’s just talk lovely things.

Note: Please make sure you use a valid email address when you do so; it’s the only way I will have to contact the winner and will not be visible to anyone else or shared publicly, ever.

A few conditions:

  1. Only UK entries can be accepted. No purchase necessary.
  2. Entrants should be aged 18+.
  3. There is only one prize, and no alternative can be offered.
  4. Postage is standard UK first class delivery.
  5. The prize is one hardback copy of Pop Art: A Colourful History by Alastair Sooke.
  6. The closing date is 23:59 on 27th December 2015. The winner will be drawn at random using an online random number generator, and notified by email by the 31st of December 2015. The winner should provide their details within 3 days of being notified; should they not do so the prize may be re-drawn.

 

Disclosure: My copy of the book and the prize copy were both gifts from the Penguin Random House team.

My top films of 2015

When this year started, I made a list of films I wanted to see. Some have yet to be ticked off because I haven’t got round to them yet, a couple I changed my mind about, a few more I missed in the cinema and some others got added in my head but not on the list. At least one I wasn’t sure would actually come out this year and I was right to think so, so that’ll transfer to 2016 quite happily.

But now it’s mid-December, and in the spirit of the endless reviews of the year that are already a sprinkling and will soon become a deluge, I’ve been having a think about my favourite films of this year. Despite my quiet, semi-shameful addiction to award shows, I don’t actually like to rank films – in no universe does it make sense to pit some of my favourite films against each other: superhero flick, period drama and Issues Film cheek by jowl – but I do like to celebrate them. So here, with just one winner in each category, were my favourite films of 2015.

 

The Life I Lead: Mistress America

As is often the case with things I really, really, really love, I struggle to write about Mistress America. I feel like I’ll either end up writing 35 unnecessary, unwanted thinkpieces that get increasingly overwrought (“NUMBER 35: ONE FOR EACH YEAR OF MY WASTED POTENTIAL”) or I’ll just end up nagging people to “just see it so you’ll understaaaaaand”. This Guardian piece goes a long way towards unpicking some of the reasons why Mistress America was such a gem of a creation; all I know is, I could have sat in that cinema and watched it from beginning to end all over again without pausing for breath or to wipe away my tears. And it features one of my favourite OMD songs in the soundtrack. When it comes down to it, it’s practically perfect in every way.

 

Sister Suffragette: Suffragette (with an honorable mention to Carol)

At the heart of any debate about feminism lie issues surrounding the female body’s ability to bear children; it is no accident that each of these films features a child being ripped from their birth mother due to her unstoppable desire to be fully human. But, just as it is so often a mother that nurtures a sick child, these films delivered a much-needed dose of medicine to the UK and US film industries. Anyone who cares about battling sexism on screen rejoiced at seeing these films succeed, standing on the shoulders of all the female talent that has gone – frequently unsung – before to give an enthusiastic shove in the right direction. Yes, Suffragette could have better anticipated and avoided whitewashing claims, and Carol, I thought, needed to deliver more of a gut punch. But both were still unquestionably important films, and Suffragette had an undeniably profound impact on me.

 

Let’s Go Fly a Kite: Tomorrowland

Poor Tomorrowland. It received a drubbing from disgruntled Disney fans (mainly, actually, nothing to do with the content of the film itself, but its marketing). Reviews were so-so. The box office receipts didn’t set the world alight (although it actually did just about turn a profit). And yet I absolutely loved it. You can accuse me of Disney bias if you like, but I promised myself I would only include one of theirs and here it is. There is so much to love about Tomorrowland I wrote two separate – lengthy – posts on it and I could easily fill a few more sides of A4. The annoying thing is that whenever there’s a blatantly feminist film or TV programme people fall over themselves to say how they dream of a day when all of these things are just normal ways of making a film, without it having to be a Thinkpiece Issue. And then Tomorrowland comes along and there’s a girl in the lead role and she’s smart (but not a Strong Female Character) and she has no love interest and she wears jeans and a t-shirt throughout and there’s another girl and she’s a goddamn ass-kicking robot and the men are all drama queens. It turns everything on its head, and it’s gloriously, deliciously, overwhelmingly optimistic, and, and, AND it references two of Walt’s own flagship attractions. I mean for God’s sake, people, what more do you want?

 

Step in Time: Mr Holmes

Maybe it’s because I watched it in Baker Street, but Mr Holmes was simply delightful. It’s quite the precarious tightrope walk to balance dementia, suicide, missing parents, near-death experiences and strained familial relations without ending up dropping into a quagmire of cloying, saccharine predictability. Mr Holmes, however, steers well clear, deftly avoiding the soft-focus glow that suffuses so many period dramas in favour of a more timeless story of personal regret. It’s one of the most restrained and beautiful performances I’ve ever seen from McKellen, eschewing the kind of deliberate scenery chewing we’ve become so used to in his more recent fantasy roles. A chocolate box that’s full of  decadently rich and bitter pure cocoa – as good for you as it is occasionally hard to swallow.

 

A Man Has Dreams: High-Rise

If I had to choose a film to stay with me, one that opens with a battered but still beautiful man catching and eating a friendly dog probably wouldn’t be high on that list. But for all my misgivings and squeamishness, High-Rise left a lasting impression. I could probably come up with some distressingly insightful self-analysis around sometimes feeling rather blank and grey and battling to keep up with my own expectations. Or I could sagely examine the blistering satire on modern living that’s as relevant now – if not more so – than it was when the source material was written. But peeling back my own public face wouldn’t be done with half as much elegance, so I’ll just say that of all the films I saw this year I’m not sure any other one surprised and unsettled and (frankly almost grudgingly) impressed me as much as this one. Now, if only I had the balls to watch more Wheatley…

 

And with that, I’ll leave the cinematic pontificating for, oh, a few weeks, and eagerly look forward to more time spent sitting in the dark and avoiding reality next year.

 

 

The Wild Tickle: a story

I don’t know if you’re aware of it, but when babies are born, so are Tickles. Wild Tickles.

At first, Wild Tickles are very confused. They try to latch on to nearby adults, but they frequently get mistaken for strange, grown-up things like “hormones” and “gas”. So they generally end up scuttling away – peering from bookcases, snuggling between sofa cushions, daringly dangling from lampshades. They’re waiting, but it’s not until it comes that they know what they’re waiting for.  And that is The First Laugh. When the First Laugh comes, they know, and they leap.

A Wild Tickle’s favourite places to latch onto are the centre of the belly and directly under the chin. These are where First Laughs generally come from (and if they’re honest, the Tickles enjoy the jiggling and squishing). Once a Wild Tickle has found its home, it can stay there for anything from a few hours to several years. In the first few years, Tickles develop and grow. Sometimes one will hang around the toes for a while, getting cheesy; other times it’ll reappear behind the ear or nest in the crook of an elbow. They jostle for space with the other Tickles. Sometimes they even work in pairs or groups. You’ll know when Tickles are working together when you laugh so hard you can’t breathe and dribbly things come out of your nose.

Children are never more than about three hours from an encounter with a Tickle, so they’re mostly thoroughly infested with them. (It’s disgusting if you think about it, but also pretty funny.)

One Tickle, however, was without a home. Its previous owner – Josh, aged 12 – had recently banished Tickles on a semi-permanent basis, and a smart Tickle knew when its time was up. The only thing to do now was to find a baby (tricky, as they were usually surrounded by brand new, very Wild Tickles) or find a new friend, a small child. This particular Tickle especially liked the proper belly laughs you get around the age of four, and appreciated that this was the age at which children traded Wild Tickles back and forth in the playground more or less daily. It considered it might prefer a girl for a while, just in case there was a difference (there’s no difference, but Tickles are just as silly as people when it comes to these things, and must learn it for themselves).

As luck would have it, Hema was in the market for a new Tickle. She had recently given away a Wild Tickle to her best friend, Natasha, and she tended to quickly go through Tickles. (There was a game – the Start / Stop Tickle Game – that they played at home. It exhausted the Tickles until even they had to run away and take a breather. Some just didn’t choose to come back, though the one that jumped onto the cat and got scratched to pieces really regretted that move).

When Hema was made to put her itchy cardigan on in the playground and it scratched through her shirt, the Wild Tickle spotted its chance. It leaped into her armpit, barrelling into another Tickle that was on its way up from a shirt label, and was immediately rewarded with a giggle.

It settled in, jiggling around a bit and evading Hema’s scratching fingers. It thought it might very well grow to like it here. After all, every kid loves to be Tickled, right?

“What are you laughing at, Hema?”

Hema stopped scratching and looked appraisingly at the new girl, who looked confused.

“My cardigan. It’s tickling me!” The Tickle bristled a little at not being given full credit and Hema wiggled and laughed.

“Oh,” said Lauren, who was new, and shy, and now just felt weirder than ever. “I don’t get ticklish.”

“What, never?” Hema had never heard of a person who was not ticklish, except some boring adults, who barely counted as people. All children were ticklish. They had tickle fights. They had tickle wars. Tickling was a major form of communication, and anyone who could not be tickled was surely some kind of superhuman. Which was cool, but also kind of strange.

“Never,” agreed Lauren.

“I don’t believe you,” said Hema. “Can I tickle you and see?”

Lauren was used to this. “Alright,” she said. “But you’ll see.”

The Tickle – just as confident and doubtful as Hema – got ready. This was its big moment. It was going to make Lauren giggle. It would make her laugh. It might even stretch to a guffaw and be the Best. Wild. Tickle. EVER.

Hema put her hand under Lauren’s chin, and the Tickle jumped over. Hema’s fingers danced around, and the Tickle wriggled and jiggled and shuffled and crawled.

Nothing.

They moved together to behind Lauren’s ear. With Lauren’s permission, they tried the crook of the elbow, her tummy and even under her arms. The Tickle jumped and juddered and bristled and wobbled.

Not. One. Laugh.

The Tickle was distraught. I must be a broken Tickle, it thought. I must not work anymore. And what use to anyone was a Tickle that couldn’t make people laugh?

Hema took a step back. “You’re right,” she said to Lauren. “You really aren’t ticklish.”

“I know,” said Lauren. “I’ve never been ticklish.”

The two girls stood staring at each other for a moment. The Tickle curled up tight, a ball of scared misery. When Hema suddenly spoke again, it jumped slightly in surprise.

“Wait! Does that mean that I can be un-ticklish too?”

“I dunno,” said Lauren. “I think you are or you aren’t. I’m just not.”

“Tickle me!” demanded Hema. “Tickle me. I want to see if I can not laugh.” She held out her arms expectantly.

Lauren’s hands moved towards Hema, and the Tickle swung over with them, still clinging on but barely. So despondent was it at its failure, it considered just staying put, and refusing to help her out. There were other Tickles, after all. There thought there was no point bouncing back over, full of prickly pride, only to meet another wall of silence and mild itchiness while the rest of the Tickles proudly showed off what they could do.

And it had noticed that it was all alone on Lauren. It was sure the other Tickles, busy showing off, wouldn’t welcome back a broken Tickle too enthusiastically. What if it was infectious and stopped them all working? What if there was a world-wide epidemic of non-ticklishness?!

But in the end, the idea of being a lonely Tickle, all alone, made up its mind. If it was going down, it was taking the rest of the Tickles with it. It simply couldn’t be broken alone. Maybe if it could just hear laughs and be around other Tickles for a while, it would recover as suddenly as it had broken.

As Lauren reached out to Hema, the Tickle scuttled over in shame. It ran straight along her fingertips and right under Hema’s chin. The chin seemed like a safe place to hide. And as it went, it shivered under Hema’s chin and shuddered into its hiding place, expecting silence until the other Tickles caught up.

But wait!

Hema laughed!

The Tickle took a quick glance around, but it was the only Tickle under Hema’s chin right now. The other Tickles were heading up from under her arms (one was currently stuck under a foot in a rucked up bit of sock, trying to get out), but the laughing must be coming from it. Maybe the Tickle wasn’t broken after all! Maybe Lauren really was just immune to Tickles!

Now, this was still pretty worrying. Tickles knew that sometimes other things made children laugh, but they didn’t really take those other things seriously. After all, Tickle laughter was the best laughter. Or so they believed. But if Hema was laughing, then this Tickle could still live its best life. And it could still deliver the best laughter!

The Tickle continued to jiggle around under Hema’s chin, but its mind wasn’t entirely on its job now and the giggles started to subside. It wanted to work out how it might still make Lauren laugh, even if she couldn’t be tickled. Distractedly, it gave one more little squirm, and Hema let out a fresh, high-pitched squeal from her throat.

And also a low, short, sharp noise from somewhere else.

Both girls suddenly stopped dead. There was a moment of stillness and silence.

“Have you… farted?!” said Lauren.

The Tickle was suddenly very warm from the red hot glow coming from Hema’s face.

“No!” she shouted. But it was very obvious, even to the Tickle, that she wasn’t telling the truth.

“Yes you have,” insisted Lauren. “That’s… that’s… that’s…” Lauren could barely get the words out.

“That’s… REALLY FUNNY!”

The Tickle watched in amazement as Lauren boiled over with hysterical laughter. Then it clung on for dear life as Hema started to shake like jelly. The giggles bubbled up through her. Within seconds, both girls were laughing so hard tears were beginning to leak from the corners of their eyes.

For a moment, the Tickle was confused. How could Lauren be laughing if it was Hema that had been tickled?

But then it understood. Hema’s ticklishness had made Lauren laugh, because if there’s one thing that can be guaranteed to be infectious, it’s laughter. The Wild Tickle realised that even if a person could not be tickled, they could still laugh because of tickling. Tickling is, and always will be, the funniest thing in the world, thought the Wild Tickle. And I, as a Tickle, am therefore the funniest thing EVER.

The Tickle, bouncing around on Hema’s shoulder the girls clung to each other and giggled, was extremely proud of itself. Its moment of self-doubt over, it celebrated with the other Tickles and danced around, setting off more giggles and making sure that Lauren didn’t feel new and awkward anymore and Hema most definitely had a new friend to play with.

A little way down, the Fart let the Tickle have its jubilant moment. After all, Tickles are quite sensitive and skittish, but Farts don’t really care who gets the credit.

 

if you enjoyed this in any way, you might also enjoy my beloved Tom and his paper cats, or any of the Once There Was a Girl challenge stories and fragments I actually managed to write.