I was a two-year old once. It was a long time ago, and I can’t remember anything about it, but I suppose I was an average two-year old.
I suppose I tottered all over the place, blundering and falling my way through the day, my parents on high alert and rescue mode from when I woke until when I fell asleep, whenever and wherever that was.
In short, I suppose I was a Terrible Two. I was going through that phase that will cause even the most placid of parents to set their lips in a hard line and draw straws for whose turn it was to extract me from the mud, the dog’s kennel, the tool shed, the shoe cupboard, or any other interesting but unsuitable environment for a toddler.
But I was learning. All these adventures taught me about the world around me in a direct physical way, but they did not necessarily teach my brain. That was down to my new talent of speech, as yet limited, but featuring heavily the word Why.
For instance: ‘Jos, come out of there!’
‘Because that’s the chickens’ house.’
‘Because that’s where the chickens live.’
At this point I was probably scooped up and firmly returned to somewhere more suitable.
I feel I was probably owed far more explanation than I was given at the time – it’s a valid point – why do chickens not live in the same house as the rest of the family? The dogs and cats do.
But let’s not go there! Instead let’s return to Why?
Since those days my vocabulary has increased considerably, yet Why is still a prominent part of it, though these days Why has been joined by What, How and Who.
These four small but indispensable words are my brain’s escape route from mundanity.
Such as: Why is it that medicine always tastes horrible? If it does you good, why can’t it be made to taste nice? You’re feeling terrible, surely nice medicine would be in order?
What was Queen Gertrude thinking when she called her son Hamlet? Poor child!
How do you open a Tetrapak of milk or juice without resorting to violence and a good pair of scissors?
Who decided on the alphabet? I know that one – Rudyard Kipling explains that clearly in his Just So stories.
Perhaps, if one day your writing is stuck, you should summon up one or all of these little boxes of delights, and the world will be your oyster?
But Why? Who said that? What did they mean? And anyway, How’s that going to work?