We nickname him "Mr Health and Safety" because that’s what he is (well when he’s not doing stunt somersaults over my sofa). His bedtime stories include the Railtrack ‘Safety on the Railway’ booklet and a pictorial version of the Highway Code. He is obsessed by the ‘Danger of Death’ signs on electricity substations and the ‘Don’t Run the Risk’ Level Crossing safety campaign. Circa 900 times a day I have to explain what would happen if you touched the electricity cables running into the pylon with the tip of a fishing rod (and no, he doesn’t own a fishing rod).
However, there is a form of hazard above and beyond that posed by pylons and level crossings (which, as long as you are careful, won’t maim or kill you) and that is the kind of hazard which sweeps all before it and kills indiscriminately. Namely THE NATURAL DISASTER.
It started with earthquakes.
‘Mummeeeee – what’s that? (watching news footage of an earthquake reducing a city to rubble).
‘But what IS it?’.
‘Well the earth is made up of plates of rock that are floating around on melted hot rock in the middle and sometimes these plates of rock move around a bit and rub together – and that’s an earthquake! Super isn't it!’.
‘WAAAAAAA’ (sound of inconsolable weeping.....).
‘Erm, now don’t worry - you don’t actually get earthquakes in this country' (which isn’t strictly true but it’s true enough to a 4 year old unfamiliar with the fundamental theory of plate tectonics..…..).
‘Where are they, these earthquakes?’
‘Oh thousands of miles away across the sea’.
And that satisfied him. He now enjoys a morbid fascination of earthquakes – because they are all safely contained within Japan.
Next it was volcanoes:
‘Mummeee – what is THAT!’.
‘Well it’s like this – you know those cracks in the earth that cause the earthquakes? Well sometimes the hot rock comes spraying out…..and that's a volcano!!’.
‘In Japan right?’.
‘Erm, yes, in Japan’.
‘Well that’s OK then’.
And then tornadoes:
‘Mummee – we don’t get those in this country do we?’
‘Just in Japan?’
‘Well yes, in Japan’.
And then tsunamis:
‘Yes darling – it’s Japan!’.
And ball lightening?
'Japan! Japan! Japan!'.
And vampire bats? (don’t ask – bad choice of nature programme).
'AAAAALLLL in Japan! Sucking Japanese blood - ONLY!'.
And Spitting Cobras? (yes yes I know – like Vampire bats they’re not indigenous to Japan but hey, if you are going to demonise entire parts of the globe you may as well keep it localised).
If he sees things with Japanese writing on he is wildly disturbed. I was eating noodles the other day and he wanted to know whether they’d been in an earthquake. Then he saw some Japanese people in the street and wanted to know if they had come to live here because their country was so terrible….I had a job trying to explain that actually their country was very nice and not everyone minded living in a place plagued by earthquakes/volcanoes/ and deadly creatures. He was far from convinced. 'NO MUMMY! NOBODY SHOULD EVER LIVE JAPAN! IT IS TOO DANGEROUS!'.
So basically anything he sees which scares him witless and could kill indiscriminately belongs in Japan. I guess it won’t be top of our holiday list for the next few years?
As if all this wasn’t odd enough, I was even more bemused when, on seeing a choir performing on TV, he turned to me and, with a very serious face, said:
‘They don’t have THOSE in this country do they?’.
‘Erm, what? CHOIRS? As in groups of people SINGING??’
‘Yes choirs. They are just in Japan – yes?’.
‘Well they might be….’.
‘No mummy – they are ONLY in Japan! ONLY IN JAPAN!!’.
Quite why choirs rank up there with The World’s Worst Natural Disasters I don’t know but he never was one for nursery rhymes..