For the most part, The Australian leaves me to my whitterings about the defining quirks of his people - he knows it's just my funny little way of dealing with being a fish out of water - and retaliates with just the occasional "That's soooo English" whenever I say something unfriendly.
But yesterday he came downstairs after putting The Girl to bed with such a look of triumph on his face that I knew I was in trouble for something. He was wielding a copy of Milly Molly Mandy by Joyce Lancaster Brisley - a "terribly English" book that was a favourite of mine and that I now enjoy reading to my daughter (with certain twenty-first century footnotes I feel moved to add on).
He opened it and pointed to a line: "There," he said, beaming. "Look there. It says they are having bread with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on. Fairy bread. In England. A long, long time ago. Ha! What do you say to that?"
I snatched the book and read it over... hundreds and thousands... Blast and bother, he was right. It's not just a strange Aussie treat that sends children "feral"... it's our fault. But maybe we can blame the Scots - for here is Robert Louise Stevenson with a poem from A Child's Garden Of Verses (1885):
Come up here, O dusty feet!
Here is fairy bread to eat.
Here in my retiring room,
Children, you may dine
On the golden smell of broom
And the shade of pine;
And when you have eaten well,
Fairy stories hear and tell.
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