You Can’t Tell

eggs

We used to like to play in the nearby farmyard. We would run and hide in the sheds and outbuildings, jumping out from behind derelict equipment, climbing in and out of rusty machinery, evading sharp edges and hidden pitfalls.

Sometimes we’d go to the barn where the hay was stacked. We’d burrow into it, making nests and dens. Wayward hens often bedded there to lay unfertilised eggs in the scratchy heat. They would eventually abandon them when they didn’t bear fruit .

We’d find these eggs, weigh their brown, oval perfection in our childish hands, gently pile them up, and when we had plenty, we’d throw them against the fence, smashing the shells, and watching their innards splat.

Sometimes the yokes were golden and fresh, and we would be guiltily disappointed at the waste.

We were watching for the ones which were dirty green.

We stood well back so the stench wouldn’t hit us.

When you look at the shell of an egg, you can’t tell whether it is healthy or rotten.

I couldn’t tell by looking at my son,
until he smashed himself against the wall.

Β© Jane Paterson Basil

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52 thoughts on “You Can’t Tell

  1. I can’t tell you how unbelievably touching this is. So simple and so beautiful. It’s terrifying how little we can see into the hearts of others if they choose to hide from us. Thinking of you x

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          1. It’s a lovely image, the gathering of eggs, the smashing them – such natural childlike curiosity. I remember spending many hours alone in Derbyshire when I was small, walking the hills, avoiding the cowpats, pulling clover apart to taste the nectar. My son gets to climb trees regularly with mates – we have a pretty big park very cloe -, but he’s never had the freedom, the lack of parental supervision that we had. Such a shame.

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            1. It really is a shame, but as parents, everywhere we turn we see warnings of danger to our children. Fear prevents us from acting on the knowledge that they’re usually safer if they discover the dangers for themselves.
              When we moved out of town my younger two were five and seven. They had to change schools, and I explained to the head of the school they were leaving, the advantages of living in the countryside. One of the things i said was that at the bootom of the garden there was a shallow stream, and on the othere side was a beautiful wood, where they could explore and climb trees. The head’s response was a shocked, disapproving glare, and “Woodland! Well! I don’t know what to say! As their parents it’s your choice, but you do realise the dangers they’ll face, don’t you?”
              I was so stunned I couldn’t reply.

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              1. Ha! Almost funny if it weren’t so sad. I know my son’s not the toughest kid, but he has climbed a million trees (inc one about 30ft tall – with a harness) and come home with many a bruise and cut. Trouble with schools is, they’re always worried about being sued these days. There have been a number of playtime activities at my son’s primary school which have been banned cos some kid’s had a minor injury – loom bands, skipping ropes, playing tag. Not conkers, though!
                The worst thing I ever heard a parent say to their small child was ‘don’t run – you’ll fall over’ ! Great. So no minor cuts and scrapes, but you’ve instilled a fear of physical activity and a legacy of obesity. Great parenting.

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                1. Loom bands? What happened did some kid push one into his ear? Or maybe he dropped a whole bracelet of them onto his foot!
                  Although I’d be happy to see them banned. Last year when they went viral we were picking them up all over the campsite and woodland floor. They make a mess, and may be a potential danger to wildlife.

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                  1. A boy caught one in the eye – unpleasant but no permament damage. They’re not very environmentally friendly, though at least they had kids doing something crafty. If only a manufacturer could come up with something similar but biodegradable.

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                    1. I agree, although there are plenty of things out there for kids to fiddle with. It only works if it becomes a craze, and it usually only becomes a craze if it’s easy.
                      Next they’ll be banning daisies. If somebody threw one of those at you… I’ll stop there, what with sarcism being the lowest form of shit. Err, sorry, typo.

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                    2. Ha! Ha! I love sarcasm – our family thrives on it. Wonder what the next craze will be? Whoever came up with marketing coloured rubber bands as a toy is a genius if you think about it. Think we should try the same with staples? How about paper clips or safety pins? Could be onto a winner πŸ™‚

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                    3. I like the sound of staples. DIY body piercing. Much cheaper. And you could do multi-piercing, where you place the staples in such a way as to make pictures. The staples could be made in different coloured metals. Creative and beautiful. I predict it will hit the primary schools before christmas, and the hospitals will be over-run on boxing day.

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                    4. I’ve got a few more ideas like that one. Maybe we should run them all together and make a real killing, then we’ll have enough money to run the government, and the first thing I’ll do is chuck everyone out of social housing and rebuild. We’ll have mansions to stay in all over the country for when we get bored of the tropical heat. Although it may be a nuisance having to step over all the homeless people in the streets.
                      I’m sure we could come up with a policy to tidy them up though.

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                    5. Don’t worry about tidying up the homeless – councils like Bath are already sorting that, trying to bring in legislation to criminalise rough sleepers. We don’t want scruffy homeless putting off the foreign tourists, do we?

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                    6. It’s time to take up our sleeping bags and organise a million people to sleep out in the streets of Bath until the issues surrounding homelessness are all addressed. All the issues, not just the inconvenience of having marginalised and damaged people lying around on the pavements.
                      Hmm… that’s a long way from grabbing the money and moving to the Bahamas. I took a wrong turn somewhere.

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                    7. Yeah. Could we take the money and sleep on the streets in the Bahamas? Seriously, It’s just an easy fix as far as the councils are concerned – solving the housing crisis, making rents affordable, plugging the benefits gap – too complicated. Just criminalise the poorest – problem solved

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                    8. Some will obligingly die quickly. There’s always prison for the stubborn ones.
                      So, yes, we live in a country where we can vote. Is this what you and I voted for?
                      On a good day democricy=mediocrity, on a bad day this is the result. But it’s the best we’ve got
                      Education is part of the answer. Many people who put their X in the box have no idea what they’re voting for. They just assume that what they read in the papers is the whole truth.

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                    9. Democracy is a tricky issue – as you say, it’s the best system we have but to say it’s flawed is an understatement. I really couldn’t say what else we could do though

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                    10. Back when the Thatcher was inpower my friends and I used to joke about revolution, making plans that would allow us to have it over with in time for tea. We didn’t know how serious it was going to get. Uncaring policies have resulted in so many lonely, premature deaths by suicide and overdose. I look around me now and see a nation of unhappy and angry people, and the Government is going to town on the tactic of Divide and Rule.

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                    11. I’m not sure what it would take to make the UK revolt again – we’ve all been through so much over the last few years and we’ve all taken it. Though of course, they say any society is only 3 meals away from rebellion – so the answer is through our stomachs πŸ™‚

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                    12. It’s no longer just the unemployed who are accepting food handouts from churches and the like. A lot of working people haven’t got enough money to feed their families. My brother believes that there will eventually be rumours of revolt, and then the government will start to turn around. I don’t know. People feel disempowered since the Thatcher regime.
                      We’re losing our human rights, but I realise that it’s worse in patches of the U.S.

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                    13. I accidentally wound a lot of people up two or three years ago. I made comment somewhere on the internet in response to some political remark. It said “You think Thatcher was trouble? You aint seen nothing yet. Cameron’s gang are going to pulverise this country, making Tahtcher look like a Sunday school teacher,” or words to that effect.
                      I got furious responses – “Have you forgotten the miners strike?” “Didn’t you notice how she went about sinking the Belgrano?” Stuff like that. One woman even furiously told me to “Get a life.” I hope all of those people remember me when they can’t get health care, or their son is locked up for nothing and can’t get justice because it’s been decided that he’s a terrorist, or their husband has topped himself because they wouldn’t give him ESA and he was incapable of fulfilling his obligations to jobseekers.
                      I have to stop ranting…

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                    14. Ha! nothing like a good rant, though. There are still a huge number of people who thought Thatcher was amazing, that she was fantastic for the country. My other half swears she’s to blame for the way we’re all so self-seeking now. Personally, I think we have to take a lot of that on board ourselves, but I have little good to day about her. She didn’t even help other women by being PM – she pretty much blocked women from her cabinet, chicking them out instead of giving them a leg up.
                      I totally agree with you about benefit cuts, damage to civil liberties. Unfortunately, society as a whole seems to have so little empathy for others. A lot of people don’t care about those on sickness benefit etc – until as you say, they need all of these safety nets themselvs and they’re no longer there.

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                    15. Like sheep, many people need to be led. But you’re right, there’s no excuse for selfishness and greed, even if the government does encourage it.
                      I’m not going to rant about the attitudes of fat gits on 100K a year.
                      I’m not. Nonono.

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                    16. Ha! Let’s not get started on that one, we’ll be here all day. Funny how some of the original argument for paying MPs was to make sure a wider representation of people went into politics and that they would be able to focus on their constituents, not being distracted by making a living. How did that work out for us? Wouldn’t it be great if we could have MPs from a wider range of backgrounds? How the hell we do that, I’m not sure. πŸ™‚

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                    17. Since I learned about nuclear weapons, a belief has grown within me that there is a weird balance – not quite yin-yang – between good and bad, so that the worse some people get, the better others become. It’s not yin-yang, because good has no physical weapons, and no way of disarming the evil that man creates – evil which has the capability to destroy the world.
                      Did I explain that properly? I’ve never voiced it before.

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                    18. It’s a comforting idea and there is a great deal of good in the world, you’re right. It amazes me how good and selfless people can be – such as the hotel staff in Tunisia who formed a human shield around English tourists. Amazingly brave

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  2. So poignant, especially in light of your son’s current homecoming. I read this to HL. He said sometimes when you hit the wall it’s just because you made a mistake, not because you’re rotten. He surprised the h*ll out of me with that statement. He’s usually so straight and narrow. This was very beautiful, and definitely should be in your book!

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    1. Tell HL I agree with him, but I was angry, and at that moment I liked the analogy. My son is not rotten, he’s a good, kind, intelligent man who does incredibly irresponsible things sometimes. But this time he’s really frightened himself. Being clean from drugs has made him see that he can have a future.
      Yes, he just made a terrible mistake, and he was lucky that one of the people he was with gave him CPR instead of running away.
      I hope and believe that this has been a lesson to him. He’s very ashamed.

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