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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Hard shell

Image of Lonesome George to illustrate this story about tortoises and dullness at Friendly Encounters

There are spells in any conversation with my son and sister that make my head spin. It's like when you hit a foreign language film, while channel-hopping, and don't realise at first. The lips are moving and sounds are coming out, but they don't make any meaning.

"As dull as what?" my son asks, over a pizza and pasta lunch, his mobile in one hand, thumb poised above the keys.

"Dishwater," Sis suggests.

"Too obvious," he tells her.

"Tortoises," she says, and he raises an expectant eyebrow.

"You always think they're going to be interesting," she explains. "Then they're not."

"How many tortoises do you meet?" I say, but they ignore me.

"You're right," he says to her. "They just sit there on the grass with their heads waving."

"And lift a foot every three hours," she says.

""Would turtles work?" he asks. "Less letters."

Helen sips her latte and considers. "Maybe," she says. "But they are quite interesting. One died recently in the Galapagos that was at least a hundred years old. They called him Lonesome George because he had no friends."

"I know how he feels," I say, but they ignore me.

"How about those immortal jellyfish?" he says. "Wouldn't that be good?"

"Great," she says. "When they start getting old they reverse the ageing and go back to being kids again."  

"Just living forever would be crap though," he says. "You'd get more decrepit every day."

"When you woke you'd wonder what else had dropped off in the night," she says.

"You'd be bald, deaf, daft and toothless," he says. "Till the end of time."

"Being old isn't that terrible," I say, but they ignore me.

"As dull as Tuesday?" Helen suggests.

"Not bad," he says.

"I like Tuesdays," I say.

"Mud?" she suggests. "Linoleum. Tax returns. Teachers. Politicians. Forms. Flies. Football."

"How about 'As dull as my dad'," I suggest, and for the first time my presence registers and they turn to study me.

"Perfect," he says and starts to text again.

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