“I like what you are doing with the garden.” Praise from a voice I’ve not heard before.
“Thank you,” I replied without turning round. “It’s very much a work in progress”.
Hang on a second. Aren’t we in lockdown. Social distancing. Home isolation. Who is this unknown person in my garden boosting my morale? I turned and saw no one. Must be the midday sun, hunger or thirst.
“Of course it is your garden, but if I may be so bold as to make a request?” came the voice again. I checked the fence on all three sides in case I hadn’t spotted a neighbour. No one.
I couldn’t see Frogue, or Hoggle (the hedgehog who passes through from time to time), or the little mouse who lives under the shed, name unknown.
“I’m down here”, said the voice. This tiny creature that I would describe to you, except, like a dream I cannot recall anything about it other than the fact it was barefoot. Two tiny feet with ten even tinier toes – four on one foot and six on the other.
“Are you some kind of fairy?” I asked.
“How rude! Are you some kind of human?” it snapped.
I say ‘it’ as its sex was indeterminable by looks, voice or clothing, although again I can’t now remember exactly what it was it was wearing.
“We don’t use the word “fairy” (he actually did air quotes). We prefer Fair Folk or Others, or our preference is unoxobulaties “, he explained.
“It’s OK, I’m only winding you up. You can call us what ever you want. Anyway, if I may make one tiny request in regard to your gardening. In return you may ask me one question about me. But not my name. I always get into trouble when I tell people my name is Rumpelstiltskin, which it isn’t.”
“OK, it’s a deal. One request for one question. Fire away.”
“All we request is that you don’t start work with the hammering and chopping and digging until after we’ve had lunch,” it said.
“And What time do you have lunch?” I asked tentatively.
“9am your time, except on a Thursday when we have it at 9.30am our time.”
“I see,” I said, “and what time is 9.30am your time in relation to our time?”
“We’re about five minutes behind you. We have staff training on a Thursday. Now, you may ask me a question.”
“Why aren’t you wearing anything on your feet?”
“Really? That’s what you want to ask? Where do we come from? Where do we live? What do we eat? How many of us are there? Can anyone see us? Can we do magic? Does social distancing apply to us? But no. Why aren’t I wearing anything on my feet?”
“I’m sorry it was the first thing I thought of.”
“In that case, ignore what I said as that is obviously the question that needs to be answered,” it said rather matter of factly. “At midday, or there about, a little later on a Thursday, we hang our shoes up to dry under nettle flowers. Unless it’s raining of course and then we continue to dangle our feet in the pond”.
“Fascinating. I never knew that. Now I will be sure to follow your request and I won’t start work until 9.30am, Friday to Wednesday and 9.35am on a Thursday.” By the time I got to the end of my sentence, the little creature had gone.
I do wish I could remember what it looked like.
Just to be sure I hadn’t imagined it all, I check under a nearby nettle flower. Sure enough, there were all the little shoes drying in the midday sun.