Cash: it has been burning a hole in my nine-year old son’s pocket, ever since several generous benefactors donated to the worthy cuse that was his birthday.
Felix likes to count money; I think it helps him dream about money. Phil collected his cash and put it in the bank, to prevent him sleeping on it and turning inadvertently into some small variety of dragon overnight.
The thought of the money, however, has been a constant pleasure to Felix. He loves Things; they attract him; and spending the princely birthday coffers was effortless.
He has a brand new computer consul, and I felt sure he would want to spend all his money on games to fuel its voracious appetite.
Not so. Felix examined every square inch of the toy shop and in a distant corner he unearthed something I never thought to see.
It was the most perfect stuffed dragon: longer than a little boy’s arm and covered in silver and red and gold scales. Its beady eyes have a reptilian detachment to them, and one feels that at any moment its wings might spread and it might make itself airborne.
A dragon has come to stay, the dog is certain. He is unhappy about this: it is the second major change in a week, what with the cat disappearing. A dog simply can’t relax with ancient mythical creatures making overtures at one. The cat would have seen him off, the dog is sure.
The domestic dragon is no stranger to English households. There were times, our lore insists, when small dragons made themselves known to housewives. But like rats, the housewives and the dragons were not on the best of terms.
They were far too happy to camp out in your well and makes a nuisance of themselves at water-drawing time.
Like the dragon at Hughenden.
The Hughenden dragon was part of the wallpaper in the village outside HIgh Wycombe in Buckinghamshire. My tale comes from an old gentleman’s magazine from the eighteenth century., after research by historian Alan Cleaver.
So there was this farmstead, back in 1578: facts point to it being the property of the Knight’s Templar until Henry VIII redistributed the wealth of the religious.
The lady of the place was accustomed to getting her water from a farm pond. But one day she went as usual to collect her water for the day: and a serpent of uncommon size was there to greet her. Far from eating her up for breakfast – which would be a short term measure for a creature of such wily strategy – it is said the creature ‘made advances towards her.’
Who knows what this might mean? Sure, it alarmed the lady; but advances could have been anything from brandishing a knife and fork to making overtures of friendship. Or more.
He was a bit unsightly for her tastes: she chatted it over with her friends.
Never mind, they said. Go and stand at the side of the pond and we’ll jump out when it comes to make overtures.
She did just that, and they rushed out and shot the poor scaly creature. And then, what is more ignominious, they stuffed it with straw and hung it outside the farmhouse for gawpers to stare at.
Not the way to treat a bona fide dragon.
Decades later, when the hide disintegrated, someone drew a picture of the creature on the wall inside. The drawing had wings and legs, which made even locals pooh-pooh the tale. But such was the power of a well-told story that the painting was preserved and refurbished for centuries, until a gentleman called Edgar Bochart heard of it, in 1758, investigated, and wrote a letter on the subject to his favoured publication, The Gentlman’s Magazine.
Let us hope or dragon’s stay is immeasurably more illustrious.