It’s not a small, eerie village, with cowed residents slinking about, fearful of what new horrors may be inflicted on them by their evil landlord from his dank castle on the hill overlooking the swamp on which the village was built.
It’s not the swamp itself, some modern equivalent of Conan Doyle’s wonderful Grimpen Mire, into which strangers have wandered to disappear with a gurgled scream, only to reappear at Halloween with dripping rags of flesh still clinging to their skeletal forms, moaning their souls’ agony into the echoing night.
Nor is it a wasting disease with a much more impressive Latin name but with symptoms too nauseous to describe, brought back from the southern ocean in the late 1700s by the crew of Captain Cook’s barque Endeavour and transmitted to the inhabitants of the brothels of British ports and from them on to the towns’ residents.
No, Dib Gringe is not an ‘it’, he’s a ‘him’.
He was born just before breakfast in a bedroom only a few minutes walk from
national stadium, . In fact, Dib, as he
lets me call him, came into being some five minutes after his mother. There
were no midwives, nurses or obstetricians present – just me and my six year old
grandson. And the bed was mine – at least for the duration of my stay with him
and his 11 year old brother. Hampden
Mrs Gringe came about as part of a story we were telling together. She has no husband; Gringe is the name of her own family and her given name is Mrs. I know little more about her because, as I said, Dib arrived a few minutes later and immediately, like all children, became the centre of attention. He was, however, not like other children. When he was born, he was already six years old, six feet two inches tall and an accomplished basketball player. He wore soft leather trousers, no underpants, and a top made of seaweed. (The soft leather was a somewhat disturbing revelation but one which, fortunately, we didn’t explore further.)
We were called to breakfast and Dib was left to his own devices but, periodically, during the day, my grandson reminded me of him and asked questions about his habits, many of which were grotesque distortions of his own interests and activities. I think he began to identify with him and suspect that I was compiling his own biography.
In the evening, the whole family – Mum, Dad, two sons and me – went to a local restaurant. And Dib was there. Not in person, of course, but once we started talking about the sort of food he preferred (don’t ask), the questions started coming again and my grandson began to insist that Dib didn’t exist, that he was simply a figment of my (and his own) imagination. I protested, of course. (All my creations are real to me.) I took a call from Dib on my mobile but he rang off before I had a chance to pass the phone to my grandson. I must confess to being a little surprised when I did, in reality, get a text message from him just a minute or so later. It read:
‘Hi Dr Kirton. Dib here. Hope you’re having a nice meal. Wish I was there. Give my love to everybody.’
I showed it to my grandson, who remained relatively unimpressed. (Rightly so, of course, because it had been sent by my daughter from the other side of the table.)
Then, as I was telling him about Dib’s FaceBook page and debating with myself whether I should set up an email account in Dib’s name, I started wondering whether I’d gone too far. My grandson’s scepticism was refreshing, his hold on reality secure, and yet he wanted to believe – no, not believe, pretend to believe – that there was such a being as Dib Gringe. Kids are so open and receptive, not yet indoctrinated with the idea that everything is explicable. Their ‘normality’ is much wider than ours. (A granddaughter once asked my wife whether she’d seen
the fairy who lives under the dripping tap in our bedroom.) Kids are also quite
trustful and if we’re insistent that fictions are real, they want to accept
them as such. That’s fine for a while, with Santa, fairies, and the
disappearing coins which then materialise behind their ears, but if they start
trying to convince less imaginative friends in the playground that the 3 inch
tall fairy who lives in Aberdeen and the six feet two six year old basketball
player in soft leather are real, they may find themselves in trouble. Stanley
So Dib Gringe has now retired. But I bet he reappears when I’m next in