How boring are children’s bedtime stories? Answer: very. Well, most of them are...
Johnny went to look down the well. Claire went to look down the well. Simon went to look down the well... Peter went to look down the well.
I mean, come on, seriously?
With the exception of Pippy Longstockings, Roald Dahl and yes, some of the David Walliams books, most are about as drab and disappointing as the sponge which resides in our office kitchen.
To be honest - and I speak now with considerable experience - I think they are deliberately so, working as a kind of literary anaesthetic. The only problem is that most of the time, rather than sending my kids to sleep, it’s me that ends up nodding.
Seriously, after doing my duties as a slave (sorry, I mean ‘parent’) for the night: cooking tea, responding to numerous “can I have a drink” requests, picking food up from the floor, a spot of impromptu wrestling, kicking the cats out (not literally) for the umpteenth time, sorting bath-time, then supper, making sure they’ve done their homework, brushed their teeth and a million other things, bedtime pretty much finishes me off.
And don’t even get me started on the Peter Rabbit stories, with their lead cutlery and frequent whippings of children. Same goes for Enid Blighton, where all the characters seem seem to have names from another era... apart from The Faraway Tree, which was actually rather good.
The point is that by 8.30pm (to be honest, it’s edging closer to 9pm, as the little ones get more savvy and milk the “can I have another cuddle” gimmick for all it’s worth), I am pretty much dead on my feet.
The only way I can get through a Horrid Henry story, with all the repetitions and the circuitous route the narrative takes, is to rename the characters and give them accents. So, in our house Horrid Henry is now ‘Hozza Hezza’ and he speaks in a thick Scottish accent (‘ayyyyye’), while his brother, Poochie Poo, is Irish. Hozza Hezza’s mum speaks like a ‘Sarf-End gangsta’ from a Guy Ritchie movie, while his father is more Jacob Rees-Mogg.
I now apply these rules to all children’s stories and can guarantee it will make even the most boring nursery rhyme seem interesting, almost to the point where you won’t want to put it down. Until you remember there’s some wine in the fridge. And they wonder why I drink...