Sunday, 3 February 2008


It is 6 o'clock in the winter evening. And here we are, blundering about the dark, bitten by the wind, veering by the trees in the creeping wood, and sliding down a hill looking for a Japanese bean throwing festival.

Dig says it is unlikely, a wet cold night in the middle of nowhere, near a lake. In fact he says this more than once since parking the car in the dogger's layby on the curving lane into the wood, where there is already a Vauxhall parked, engine running, steaming inside, and six empty beer bottles lined up behind the boot.

I say 'Pah! It's here! Somewhere! We just have to find it! I read it in the parks listings! And it's not even April 1st!'

Clenching my teeth and wrapping the woollen blanket I've brought just a little tighter around my shoulders I shout 'Have faith!' to the wind and slide over the grassy field into the darkness, following the disappearing footsteps of Shark, Squirrel and Tiger; catching my bearings with the lapping waves of the emerging lake and the laughing quack quack quack as a duck peddles off the lake at speed.

After five minutes we stumble onto the path by the lake and Grit eye-spies a Japanese family staring up into the black starless sky. Ha! Success! Looking for beans! Grit is jubilant. 'Of course it's around here somewhere' I cry, 'if this lovely young couple have dragged a toddler out in this weather with ne'er a hint of concern about Social Services or the police! Have faith!'

And what does Grit find? That the young Japanese family have no idea where the bean throwing festival is and have been wandering around looking for it for half an hour. 'There!' shouts Grit, truimphant. 'Of course it's here! Somewhere. We've just got to look for it. Let faith be our guide!'

And there, sure enough, shining out of the field in the darkness, are the headlights of a Toyota Corolla. And look! Fifty-odd more cars in a car park outside the Buddhist temple! 'And what did I tell you?' I declare to Dig. 'I told you to follow that Nissan!' Oh, you of little faith, Dig. We've parked in the wrong car park! We've parked in the one over the hill! And we've had to come through the dark, dark wood where bears growl and strangers prowl, and now look! We could have driven to the front door, parked next to the gong banger and been in without getting our feet wet! Foolish, unbelieving Dig!

Once inside, Grit's faith redoubles, in bucketfulls, when she finds the Buddhists are all lovely again, smiling at the red-nosed Squirrel, Tiger and Shark and making everyone sit cross-legged at low tables and providing hot soup, cold sandwiches and sweet cake, even though no-one was expecting it and only had to do a little chanting to get it.

Good spirit in! Bad spirit out!

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