Nothing To Add But What To Do

To write nothing now feels neglectful, like I don’t care. To write something is to draw pointless scribbles on an already overworked canvas. This virus has funnelled everything into one topic of conversation, punctuated by one walk in the park per day. I have a small baby so nothing much has changed except I can’t spend three quid on a coffee as part of the walk. Now that I’ve got my #LondonTwatFirstWorldProblems out of the way, I can put my mind to finding a vaccine. And I can tell you one thing, you’ve got to stick to what you know because the experts have their thing and all that, but they may not think to look off the beaten track, outside the box.

Sorry. There’s nothing worse than being told to “think outside the box”, a phrase which seems to just place us all firmly within a new, larger box with firmer sides. Think outside the idea of “box”, that’s what I do, like, all the time. Just pure thought, drifting on the air, free and easy. Boxes are out…all that wasteful packaging…

As a free thinker, I started early.

Our sports teacher at school said he would give us a mars bar if we caught him out at softball. He got in to bat, huge and high, all these kids in oversized shorts ran up the field anticipating the long shot. Never had the term “long shot” been so full of meaning…starry eyed kids staring into the sun as a small leather missile hurtled towards them, waiting for the terrible moment of impact, then the fumble, then the weeks of classroom taunting.. I went behind him, on the off chance that if he clipped the ball, I’d be able to hold it because it was only going at the pace of the bowler (the bowler was standard issue oversized shorts guy.) He clipped it, I caught it and, with the hollow victory of my Mars bar melting in my pocket, I thought: this will be in a blog one day, whatever that is.

But I have to go back further, back, back into my early youth. Had you come round to play at my house (particularly on a Sunday) circa 1973, or the houses of any of my friends in the neighbourhood, I would have got my crayons out. From old scrap paper spread across the floor, the masterpieces would start to emerge. But something was missing. If we drew fruit, there were no peaches, oranges or nectarines. If we drew flowers there were no marigolds. And if we drew religious processions, the Hari Krishna movement was nowhere to be seen. In short, there were no orange crayons. Anywhere. Not at my house or anyone else’s. This is what happened.

My friend, who’s anonymity I shall preserve, had a big brother, and this big brother loved crayons. He particularly loved the orange ones, in fact he exclusively loved the orange ones. But he was not particularly interested in art. Not for him the glories of the family fridge door gallery…no, it was a more unnatural love. It was the love that dare not draw and colour in its name.

He ate them. He would burrow like a weevil through the boxes of the neighbourhood, leaving a perfect orange hole, an absence of orange, like a tangerine ghost. The thing was – and this is something I might not be remembering right, but it’s so vivid in my mind, 47 years later – he was never ill. He was remarkably well throughout this period. Kids, you know, they catch colds, flu, measles, chicken pox, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t. His body sensed something in the wax- while we were all wasting it on pictures of fruit, he was building up his immune system. He had a smile that burnt like the sun.

“While crayons are not edible, they won’t make your child sick” says this website. That’s a strange statement; what is edible? That which is not ejected by the stomach back the way it came? And could this strange hinterland between food and poison be the place we need to look for our own protection? The discovery of penicillin was due to an accident, a Petri dish left by an open window. And orange crayons are as much a match for mould as anything else. Start with what you know. It would have been easy to gloss over this strange property of orange crayons at the time, I was five, I was into other stuff. I didn’t join the dots, I didn’t draw the right conclusions. This low hanging orange fruit was just proud of my grasp.

Now is the time. Grasp it. Think outside the box filled with the people thinking outside the box. Crayola, your time is now. When it looks like there’s nothing to add.

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