What are they on about?

2nd June 2000 at 01:00
David Newnham on kids and the cute things they say

"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair, warm smell of . . ."

Any ideas? Can you put a name to the fragrance that rises up through the air? I have never met anyone who can say for sure what the Eagles are singing in the third line of Hotel California. One day, I'll write to the publisher and settle the matter for good. Really, I will.

I might also enquire about a Simon and Garfunkel lyric that has had me wondering for almost half a century. Did it begin "I hear the drizzle of the rain" or was it "I hear the trees love the rain"? The two sound virtually identical.

I always favoured the second version, not because it seemed a more accurate transcription of the sounds that came out of my old Pye record-player, but because it put me in mind of childhood.

As a toddler, you see, I believed quite firmly that trees were responsible for making the wind blow.

In this, I suspect, I was not alone. My own son, when questioned on the subject last week, confirmed that this is, in fact, the case. Trees make the wind blow and the air comes out of the night torage heater in the bathroom.

Naturally, I tried putting him right. The bit about the storage heaters, I explained, was pretty wide of the mark, although trees, along with other photosynthesising plants, do indeed produce the oxygen we breathe.

By this stage, I was getting the sort of look I got the day I explained that the moon was responsible for the ebb and flow of the tides."Yes, Daddy. Of course the moon makes the sea move. Sure it does. Hmm."

Sometimes, his quarter-formed ideas about the world seem so charming that I am loath to dispel them.

"Daddy," he announced the other day, "we get carrots from rabbits, don't we?" It made sense, of course. He knows that carrots come from the ground, that rabbits are associated with carrots and that rabbits live in burrows. Carrot, rabbit - even the words are similar. Why should carrots not come from rabbits?

Perhaps I should let him believe it for a little while longer. After all, such certainties will dissolve quickly enough. Quite soon, he'll be like the rest of us. Not sure what to believe.

Wondering, even, about the words of a simple song.


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