Nine is an enticing age: old enough to nag for body piercings; young enough to believe in fairies.
I tell my tweenager of the miniature feasts that I used to leave out for the fairies and of the miniature thank-yous that they would bestow in return and she is agog to feed the little folk herself. I'm not sure if fairyland abutts our part of London and I'm not sure if modern fairies will tolerate junket. Hoummous, she reckons, is a surer bait.
She transfers her dolls house dining suite to the patio and fashions a microscopic feast from bread. Her brother transfers his dolls house dining suite to the patio and heaps faux gold plates with Hundreds-and-Thousands. And I wonder long and hard what modern fairies leave for their benefactors.
The same, it would seem, as their 1970s predecessors. I know, because I glimpsed it, that tiny silver-foil baskets bearing tiny sugared eggs were left that night on the tables and that the tiny plates were emptied.
But the children never know it. Because when, come dawn, they hasten outside, there are screams. The Vicar hastens outside and he screams. The dolls house chairs and tables are upturned and scattered, the baskets mutilated and the sugared eggs gone. And on the lawn is a chewed dead piglet and a chewed dead frog and half of a lady's slipper.
The piglet, we find, is of life-sized rubber, but the frog is unpleasantly real and we shall never know what happened to the foot that had worn the slipper.
The children, ever hopeful, want to try it again tonight, but I am dubious. The rioting intinct that violated our town in the summer has evidently spread to fairyland and I'm barring my doors.