Soundbite

13th February 1998 at 00:00
I met Bridie on National Poetry day. I was in earnest conversation with the headteacher, a formidable nun called Sister Bridgid, as we walked around a small Roman Catholic primary school near Rotherham, when Bridie, a bright-eyed, six-year- old, joined us.

"Sister, it's still there," said the small child conspiratorially. "In the girls' toilet."

"Well, ignore it, Bridie," replied the nun.

"But I don't like the looks of it at all, Sister," said Bridie.

"Has it touched you?"

"No, Sister."

"Well, go along now or you'll wet yourself."

"Sister," the little girl persisted, "I just can't go to the toilet with it staring at me over the top of the cubicle with those great, green, glassy eyes. And Sister, its hooky claws have grown terribly long and its jaws are like a crocodile's, with sharp, snapping teeth and it's started to dribble. I just do not like the looks of it at all."

"Now Bridie," said Sister firmly, "It's not going to touch you. Run along. "

I just had to know: "What exactly is it in the toilet?" And, having gripped my attention with such an intriguing opening, a wonderful story unfolded.

"Sure, isn't it a monster," replied the child sighing, her eyes the size of saucers. "A great, black monster with green eyes and slashing jaws and cutty claws that'd slice bacon."

"A monster?" I interrupted.

"In the girls' toilets," she added. I was enthralled. "Sure, it's not a real monster. It's the water that's come through the roof and made such a terrible stain on the wall in the shape of a monster."

"And is it a very bad leak?" I enquired.

The little girl thought for a moment, smiled gently and patted my arm.

"Sure it'd baptise ya!"

Gervase Phinn is a senior adviser in North Yorkshire whose book 'The Other Side of the Dale' will be published in early April. He alsocontributed last week's Soundbite

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