Strange tales from outer space

When I was little, there was a patch of grass at the bottom of my garden where nothing would grow. It was a big round patch of black, scorched ground where, it turned out, my dad had had a bonfire. I was about 7 years old, and didn’t realise this, so I asked my dad what it was.

I should say for starters that my dad has always found questions from my sister and I either really irritating, or a fantastic opportunity to mess with us. Or both. Either way, he took most opportunities to basically lie to us and see just how much we’d believe. As it turned out it was a hell of a lot because we were children and he was a clever grown up. And our dad. So it’s not surprising that, for example, we grew up thinking that those big spiders you get in your house are called budgerigars. This came about because we once had the audacity to ask him what he’d caught under a glass, and didn’t understand sarcasm or know what budgerigars were because we were very young children.

The best example of this was, when we were walking through an underpass, I asked him why we could hear our voices after we spoke. “That’s an echo” he said. Being 4 years old, I’d never heard this word before. “What’s an echo?” I asked. Now, echoes are hard to explain, I’ll give him that. I still don’t really get what they are. But instead of having a guess, my dad said, “Oh. That’s bats in the walls shouting back at you.”

Bats. Bats in the walls. Shouting at you.

So of course I believed him. And it would have all been fine until one day in school the subject of echoes came up. My teacher couldn’t explain what it was, so I leapt at the chance. “It’s bats, Miss. It’s bats in the walls who shout what you say back at you.” My teacher went from thinking I was a bit of an odd child, like the rest of the class did, to thinking I was a right little smart arse. Thinking about it, I can probably trace all my problems in education back to this day. Cheers Dad.

I’m not sure what I’d done to deserve the lie my dad told me about the burnt patch in the garden. To be honest I was an insufferable child, so I’m not surprised. I was about 7, and when I asked why nothing would grow there my dad told me this: He told me that it was because the little girl who lived in the house before us had been abducted by aliens while she was playing in the garden, and when the tractor beam came down and picked her up, it scorched the grass. What’s more, if you went and stood in the spot, you could still hear her calling “Mummy! Daddy! Help me!”

Naturally I never went down to the bottom of the garden again. I was probably 13 by the time I’d realised it was a lie and mustered the courage. I also became petrified of spaceships, waking up and screaming every time an aeroplane flew over at night, which was literally every five minutes because we lived under the flight path for Stansted Airport, so it backfired for my dad, really. Sucker.

Lying to your kids has a lasting impact. I’m still terrified of space to the point that I can’t even look up at it without wanting to be sick. Then again, it’s probably been worth it. My dad still finds it hilarious and is very proud of himself. And I can’t quite articulate quite how awful a child I was, I did deserve it. I’m certainly going to lie to my kids. What better way to get their imagination sparkling? Definitely worth the years and years of night terrors. Definitely.

Jen Pritchard

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