My daughter is growing fast, but she still has time for toy owls.
Each owl has a character: consistent and generally comic. The owls play out what she would love to be part of: anarchy. A set of naughty creatures who transgress for the sheer joyous fun of it.
Her play generally runs like a polished script: something that would make a wider audience than myself chuckle.
But today I happened to be padding about, tidying up, when I heard her chortling. And then I heard Maddie supplying Lulu’s voice.
Lulu is one of the smallest owls in Maddie’s vast collection. She is impish. She is a confirmed arsonist. Her sins are rarely small and usually extravagant.
As I tuned into her conversation, Lulu had decided to dial a huge pizza without anyone’s permission. And she would put it on someone else’s credit card.
But there was a problem. Because Lulu did not know the number of the pizza takeaway store. But, it transpired, she had a plan.
Our local telephone numbers have six digits. So Lulu would try every combination, systematically, until she found the Pizza Takeaway Delivery Man.
“1-1-1-1-1-1” I heard the small owlish accent intone.
There was a pause. Maddie helpfully supplied the other end of the line too.
“Hello,” emerged the naughty owl’s tones: “is that the pizza delivery man?”
“Er…no. This is the local library.”
“Do you send out pizza?”
“Er…no….(in a flawless upper crust accent) “we only lend books.”
“”Oh, no” says Lulu, “That won’t do at all. I need pizza.”
“1-1-1-1-1-2” comes the little owlish voice.
“Hello? Is that the pizza delivery man?”
“No, dear; this is Lady Coventry….”
And so on. I listened to about six of these mock phone calls as Lulu the owl mounted her strigiform assault on British Telecom’s numbering system. The owl called any manner of organisations from all levels of society. The dialogue crackled, the one-liners were fresh and funny. As Lulu dialled 1-1-1-1-1-6, I was called downstairs to the washing machine repair man, and trailed off reluctantly, furious with myself for failing to record the scene.
Combinations: so near, yet so far. They feel as if they should be only just out of our reach: yet if Lulu had continued for hour upon hour she might not have stumbled upon the Pizza Delivery Man’s telephone number. Oh, the fun Maddie would have, a different scenario for every wrong number, if the combination were 989898.
Felix was gifted a very beautiful bike this week: my godson had outgrown it and my great friend Nicky, his mother, wheeled it out of the shed and said, would Felix like it?
Felix eyes glowed like blowlamps, and it was piled into the car. One small issue: around the handlebars was an equally beautiful quality combination lock. It did not limit the bike’s movement, but I soon realised Felix valued it highly too; and he wanted it to use with the bike.
But no-one could remember the combination. Nicki and her son volunteered a few ideas, but they didn’t open the locks. And I left Felix trying combinations Lulu style on a four-digit panel: 1-1-1-1, 1-1-1-2, and so on.
My son, I figured, would be there for a very long time.
Yet barely 15 minutes later, there was a triumphant shout from the porch. He had found it, and would never forgive me if I divulged it. Yet a systematic approach, while laborious, served him well. He was convinced it was possible to open it. It was only a matter of time.
Just like the little owl dialling for pizza.
Sometimes it helps not to know the odds, but to wade in to solve a problem which would ordinarily seem insurmountable.
What would happen, I wonder, if we could shut our eyes to what our adult minds tell us is impossible, and take a leap into that infinite problem-solving universe?