At six years old I was morbidly attracted to a flame-haired classmate called Sandra Edwards. I would stalk her with the imperceptible stealth of a tick, insinuating myself into her anticipated path and waiting, aquiver, for her to brush by.
Once, during an S. E. reconnaissance mission, I came across a couple of boys peering at a small turd they had discovered just outside the school lavatories. They said it had been left by Gary Rowley in his haste to get back to the chaos of the playground (from the presumably even greater chaos of his lavatorial procedure). Soon an ever-changing group of children was keen to experience and spread news of this most mundane of apparitions as if it were a miraculous acheiropoiton - 'that not made by human hand', which, indeed, it wasn't. Sandra Edwards, on hearing the rumour, was quickly upon the scene and so, sensing a romantic opportunity, I prepared to exchange smirks over our shared derision of Gary Rowley. All that was needed was a moment of eye-contact. Unfortunately Sandra Edwards' gaze remained resolutely downcast, she had found something altogether more interesting to look at.
Seeing as the much vaunted “shared interest” approach had proved futile I decided to try a more traditional tactic; I would buy her affection. My bribe would be that ornamental scarab of my childhood, the Ladybird. At the next opportunity a reluctant Coccinella septumpuncta was plucked from a rosebush and dropped into a matchbox along with some Greenfly aphids to act as its packed lunch. For added intimacy I resolved to present my gift away from the bedlam of the school.
Due to my years I must have been escorted by my mother to the end of Sandra Edwards' street, though I remember being alone when I tapped on her front door. Mrs Edwards answered and summoned her daughter who appeared wearing the wary expression that she had come to adopt in my presence. I presented my tribute and the recipient, at her mother's insistence, took a tentative peep inside. Alarmed she dropped the box.
“It's a Ladybird - it eats Greenflies”, I blurted to a retreating mop of red hair.
“It eats flies?”, came an incredulous and distant reply.
“Green Flies”, specified I, to me.