Monday, 28 May 2012

The Road Goes Ever Round and Round

I had an epiphany on Saturday, it wasn’t dramatic, not like a bolt from the blue, it was just as the result of spending some time with my daughter.  Before I tell you what it was however, let me sing you a song. 

Round and Round the Garden
Like a Teddy Bear
One Step
Two Step
Tickle you under there

Before having N, I always assumed that the first line of that rhyme was just to mirror the actions as you swirled your finger round and round their hand.  What else could it possibly mean? 

Turns out, following an extensive internet search, it might not mean anything at all, historically speaking at least.  The definitive guide to all things nursery rhyme, The Oxford Dictionary of Nursery Rhymes, says not a lot more than that it might be a corruption of an older rhyme, 'Round about there, went a little hare.' But offers no more elucidation as to what the rhyme means at all.  It was likely written in its current form around the early 20th Century, which also doesn't help. 

Anyway, that's not really the point, the point is that I have finally come to understand the first line of that nursery rhyme and I would like to share it with you all.  It all started when we went to the park on Saturday, my wife, N and I with a couple of friends.  We perched ourselves under a tree, enjoyed a superb picnic, and then it was time to play.  This was easy for the grownups, there was a park and a ball and sunshine, including, of course, the obligatory sun cream, what more could be needed?  For the child however the balls weren't the main attraction. 

What was was exploring, which meant walking round and round in circles.  Sometimes pushing her pushchair, sometimes just wandering around.  Unfortunately, because there was a big hedge in between us and her circuit, one of us always had to go with her.  I'm quite an easygoing parent, and I would be happy just to let the child wander around, as long as I could see her, as soon as she goes out of view I start to get flustered.  I'm a lot like a dove in that respect.

This led to a lot of walking round and round in circles with the daughter as she established her territory by encircling it.   It was like a very big, very slow roundabout, as though someone had tipped the London Eye on its side and expected people just to walk from one carriage to the other in a big circle.  We went on almost exactly the same path each time as we walked round together and we found ourselves passing the same people over and over again on our merry route march.  Perhaps they thought I was practising Sherlock Holmes' style of deduction, walking past and then seeing how much I had remembered each time, actually that would have been quite fun, I really should have done that.

As it was I was finding small talk hard to make as I would just see someone for about 30 seconds before moving off again, and whilst my daughter is quite talkative she's not much of  a conversationalist.  This meant it was a quiet few minutes and I got to thinking about how young children, or at least mine, do seem to love repetitive tasks.  My daughter once spent twenty minutes filling a small bucket with water and pouring the contents on our rhubarb plant, although every now and then this would be varied by pouring it on the garlic which is next door to the rhubarb. 

I wonder when we lose our love of the repetitive, when the thought of doing something over and over again doesn't fill us with unutterable delight.  I suppose it’s the point at which we feel that there is nothing left to explore, that in fact we know all that there is to know about a certain thing and are not eager to return to it.  Perhaps we miss a lot of the magic of life when we stop doing things over just to see what it’s like the second, or third, or twentieth time.  Happily my daughter is not at that stage yet and for a little while on Saturday I got to experience it with her.  The things children teach us.  I wonder if she can shed some  light on the rest of that rhyme now because I, for one, have never seen a teddy bear go round the garden.

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