Portrait of Ten and a Half : Elsie Rose

Alan Sturrock, Wilmington

Author: Alan Sturrock


As I walked through the front door, Elsie [and not Elsie Rose as she previously answered to] bounded down the stairs from her ten-and-a-half-year-old sanctuary and gave me a hug that was at once perfunctory, and at twice, all enveloping.


‘Uncle Mick, it’s good to see you,’ her muffled voice announced somewhere in my chest. ‘Dad said that we were having a special visitor for tea. I’m so glad it turned out to be you…’ Hug over, Elsie disappeared, and her father, Ned, shook my hand by way of welcome, and, with the other hand offered me a generous glass of single malt…’


‘Glenturret…will wash the traveller’s dust from yer throat…’ he grinned.


‘…a welcome Nordie custom,’ I answered, sipping away on the malt.


‘…we’re out of Bushmills, so it’s the next best thing…’ he affirmed, helping himself to one as well. ‘Slainte!’


‘Beggars shouldn’t be choosers, as me mother was fond of saying…’ I replied. Elsie’s mother Rebecca, suitably aproned, appeared from the kitchen, gave me a hug and inquired ‘Ye’ll stay for yer tea?’


‘I cleared my social calendar, jist for the occasion,’ I responded, definitively.

‘How’s roast lamb, flurry white potatoes and mashed peas tickle yer tastebuds?’ she chuckled.    ‘…a dish fit for a weary traveller’ I responded, heartily.


Just then Elsie, reappeared, decked out in her gymnastics outfit.  Ned put his hand on my shoulder. ‘Time for Elsie’s Prime Time in the back garden,’ he mused.


On her way to the trampoline, she smashed a stationery soccer ball into the postage stamp corner of the goal at the opposite end. She then poured herself into the trampoline, where she proceeded to perform several flips. Then back onto the grass, where she performed cartwheels, round-offs, and back overs, effortlessly.  I was compelled to spontaneously applaud. Ned stood up and looked towards the kitchen. ‘Looks like Becs needs a wee hand…’ and he exited.


Elsie danced her way to the seat her father had vacated, and without a moment’s hesitation, inquired: ‘Do you like History, Uncle Mick? I love History.’

‘As a matter of fact, I do,’ I spluttered.

‘We’re studying the Egyptians and the Romans…do you have a favourite empire of the ancient world?’ she inquired, as naturally as she might wonder when the rain would begin.

‘…did you know that it wasn’t the lava that killed the Romans at Pompeii…it was the ash..?’  ‘Thanks for sharing that tidbit…I’ll keep it in mind for Tuesday night trivia…’

‘…did you know that the Egyptians worshipped cats as gods? So, what IS your favourite?  Egyptians or Romans?’

‘That’s a tough question, Elsie…both empires excelled in different things.’

‘I agree, Uncle Mick but I would have to go with the Romans.’

…and I’m sure you have at least three reasons for favouring them…’ I laughed.

‘. actually. I can think of a dozen things…would you like to hear them?’ she continued.

Her list was, as she implied, expansive: roads, water supply, bridges, aqueducts, concrete, canals, taxes weapons, armour, architecture, laws [and the idea of the law] …and wine. She stopped there, both for effect, and for questions.

‘That’s an impressive list,’ I stated, in a congratulatory way.

‘Thanks, Uncle Mick…and there’s more! Mom likes the wine invention, Dad likes  architecture…’ she added.

At some internal peer signal, off she bounded, straight back into her ten-and-a-half-year-old world.

Moments later, Ned rejoined me in the garden.

‘You look like Elsie talked yer ears off,’ he chuckled.

‘..something like that. Very impressive conversation for a ten-and-a-half-year-old…what with you and Becs and that must be a good school she attends..’

‘…public school. She has a great teacher this year…a Mrs. Rutherford. She’s working on a project about the Romans and their contributions, which she will ‘teach’ at an upcoming parents’ night. It’s an IB* school, by the way…we’re very happy with it.’

‘Doubly impressed, Ned. Soon you and Becs will be bantering about epistemological ‘things’ at dinner.’

‘…epistemological?’ Ned asked.

‘..theories of knowledge…it’s a branch of Philosophy…’

‘Something to look forward to!’ Ned chortled.

‘Jist have Elsie teach you both…after all she was jist practicing on me there for that upcoming parents’ night!!’