I wound up babysitting my nephew Sebastian for a a couple of hours yesterday. He had made an echidna a little while ago, and I thought it would be cute to get him to describe how you go about making one.
However, in order to occupy him for the longest possible time, I started by explaining what an ‘interview’ was, taking the opportunity to play him my interview with Julie Dawn Cole, since this would be the one that he’d most appreciate. However, this led to emotionally rocky terrain; for him to understand that Julie Dawn Cole was the actress who played “the naughty girl, Veruca Salt, who wanted everything”, I had to also try to explain that Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was just a movie: people pretending.
”What about the little boy, Charlie?” he wanted to know. “Was he real?”
Not in the movie. In the movie, a boy was pretending to be Charlie.
“What about Willy Wonka?”
This is where I had to tell him the brutal truth: “Well, of course, there was a man who owned a chocolate factory, and a little boy went to see what it was like in there, and he wrote the book that the movie is about. But in the movie, everyone is pretending.”
“So there really is a Willy Wonka.”
“Of course there is.” Let him worry about why Willy Wonka is an alcoholic cowboy in Blazing Saddles or a mad scientist in Young Frankenstein later on in life.
The transcript of the interview follows below, but if you want to hear it with all the inflection that makes carrying a serious conversation with a little kid so much fun, here is an MP3 file of it.
Now the only problem is that Sebastian has become a bit star-struck – he’s already trying to hustle more interviews, telling me about his ‘nine-a-pus’, an octapus with an extra leg. (He wasn’t impressed when I pointed out that he could turn the ‘nine-a-pus’ into a cat if he removed all of its legs). So expect to meet more members of Sebastian’s menagerie in the near future.
Uncle Dom: Sebastian, you have a special thing that you made. I want you to tell me about it: what is it that you made?
SEBASTIAN: An echidna!
Uncle Dom: How did you make it?
SEBASTIAN: First you do the body…
Uncle Dom: And how do you make the body?
SEBASTIAN: You use… um… you scrunch up three papers of newspaper and then put it in a sock.
Uncle Dom: And where do you get the sock from?
SEBASTIAN: If you have a brown sock… You have to get a big, brown sock, and if you have a big brown sock, you just put it in that one.
Uncle Dom: Did you ask Mummy for the sock?
SEBASTIAN: No, Nonna already had it.
Uncle Dom: So she had a sock ready for you.
Uncle Dom: And what about the newspaper, where did the newspaper come from?
Uncle Dom: So she had an old newspaper for you to scrunch up?
Uncle Dom: How do you scrunch it up? What do you do?
SEBASTIAN: You, um, get it and you go scr scr [makes ‘scrunching up’ sounds]. You just scrunch it up with your hands. You scrunch it up with your hands and then you scrunch three ones and then you have to try and put it in the sock and then fold the sock up so that the newspaper can’t fall out.
Uncle Dom: Okay, that’s the echidna’s body. Now how do you make its head?
SEBASTIAN: You use a funnel, and then…
Uncle Dom: A funnel? Tell me what a funnel is?
SEBASTIAN: A funnel’s a round thing with a stick stuck to it.
Uncle Dom: A round thing with a stick stuck to it?
Uncle Dom: What do you use a funnel for when you’re not making an echidna with it? What’s it used for?
SEBASTIAN: Um, it’s if you want to put some water in a cup, put it in the cup and you put some water through the big hole and then it will go through the little stick.
Uncle Dom: So when you use if for the echidna’s head, do you put the stick into the sock or what? How do you do it?
SEBASTIAN: You put the big end onto the sock, and then put some sticky tape on to stick it on, and then you use some stickers for the eyes, and stick it on the funnel at the front one, and that’s all.
Uncle Dom: And so what does the funnel do? The tube at the end – the bit that you call the ‘stick’ – what does that become on the echidna?
SEBASTIAN: That’s its mouth to suck up ants.
Uncle Dom: Oh, okay, I can picture that. Now what about its feet? How do you make its feet?
SEBASTIAN: You have some forks. You put them in x’s so it can stick out on each side.
Uncle Dom: So you cross the forks over…
Uncle Dom: …and you stick them underneath the sock.
Uncle Dom: So the pointy bits of the fork – what do they become?
SEBASTIAN JAMES GORDON: They become its toes.
Uncle Dom: Okay. So how many forks do you need?
SEBASTIAN JAMES GORDON: Four!
Uncle Dom: Why four?
SEBASTIAN: Because… because an echidna has four feet.
Uncle Dom: Oh, of course. Now, what else do you do? You need something else for it to be an echidna, don’t you.
SEBASTIAN: Yep, because then you use some pegs for the spines.
Uncle Dom: How do you make the pegs into spines?
SEBASTIAN: You um pinch a bit of um the sock and put it on. And then um and then you have to put um ninety-nine on.
Uncle Dom: Ninety-nine pegs?
Uncle Dom: Will ninety-nine pegs fit on the echidna?
Uncle Dom: Okay, so you need lots and lots of pegs.
Uncle Dom: Where did you learn to make an echidna?
SEBASTIAN: Aaaah… I just saw it on Play School.
Uncle Dom: And what’s your echidna called?
SEBASTIAN: Um… Fred.
Uncle Dom: Fred the Echidna!
Uncle Dom: Sebastian, thank you very much.
SEBASTIAN: That’s all right.