I had a bizarre experience on the school trip today. We visited the village of Port Eynon. The weather wasn’t fit to start the day on the beach, so we spent the morning doing a geography project, walking round the village looking for various things. Nothing complicated, you understand. We are talking about 7 year olds here. The class was divided into teams of 4 children, each with a responsible adult in charge All except for 1 group. I looked after that one.
My team were about the last to arrive at the village church, but the groups we met coming away from there were full of excitement: “There’s a broken grave! You can see a skull!!” To say I was sceptical is a modest understatement, but my four girls were having none of it. Their friends had seen it. It must be true. They said so.
Sure enough, in the churchyard we found the right spot, having had it pointed out to us by about 400 ghoulishly excited 7 year old guides. “I’ve seen it! It’s over there!!” It was a 19th century grave covered by an inscribed stone slab slightly raised above the ground and, yes, the stone slab was broken in two places exposing the ground beneath. We peered in through the gap. Triumphantly, my 4 team-members declared they had seen it too. They saw the skull.
Try as I might, I couldn’t see anything remotely resembling human remains. Time, I thought, to put them right. We talked about how deep graves are dug, how much earth is put on a coffin. How, I asked, was a skull going to appear from the depths? Then I held forth at some length on the subject of looking with our own eyes and seeing for ourselves, not merely taking others word for it. Just because someone else says a thing is so, I expatiated, doesn’t make it so. Look with open eyes and open minds. A powerful lesson, I thought. Now it was me feeling triumphant.
But guess what?
It made no difference. They all went home full of it. They had seen a skull. It was there.
It isn’t just children who do that, is it?