Ava has a bit of a love-hate relationship with animals. She loves her invisible cat, of course (it's still here), but the real one who pops over from next door to use our (water pistol at the ready) flowerbed as a toilet upsets her sometimes because he can be a bit stand-offish. I guess he just doesn't like being cooed at when he's trying to have a poo.
She has mixed feelings about dogs too. She loves them in theory, but understandably feels a bit intimidated by the ones that are bigger than her and like to jump about and bark a lot. Anyway, as we go through the process of teaching her to have respect for all creatures great and small, there's one animal we don't have to worry about, because she loves him "sooooooo much."
That animal is a worm. The worm at the bottom of the garden. Can you guess what his name is? Yes. It's Wiggly Woo.
For the last several weeks, we have been slowly trying to sort out our little jungle (how we longed for it when we were in a gardenless flat! How we realise now how much flippin' work it is now!). And as I kneel there, garden gloves on, pulling out what I think are weeds but might in fact be plants, Ava stands next to me, awaiting the arrival of her beloved friend.
I am pretty sure Ava thinks there is just one worm in our garden. Because when one of those slightly disgusting looking (I think) things wriggles out from beneath my trowel, she shouts: "My worm! My worm mummy!" And she picks it up and takes it for a stroll to show it things.
I do find them a bit eurgh, but I don't dislike worms particularly and I know (because my grandad told me when I was about four) that they're good for the soil. So, given our garden needs all the help it can get, I keep a careful eye on the treatment of that worm and, after a short time, when I think it might be in danger of drying up, I talk softly to Ava until she concedes that the worm should probably go back into his house to have mud pies for tea. We water a patch of earth to make it nice and soggy, and watch the poor thing attempt to conceal itself as quickly as possible.
Well, Ava's worm has had some exciting adventures I must say! On his most recent outing, last week, he went on the trampoline and down the slide, he was dangled over the fence so he could see the daffodils in next door's garden – he was even (briefly) taken indoors and shown the buttons on the washing machine. Never has an earthworm been so well travelled. Or adored.
I was at the other end of the garden when I heard Ava puckering up. She was making that "Mmmmmmm..." sound that I know ends with a big "...mmmwah!".
I did try shouting out to stop her kissing the worm (not because I have anything against worms, as I said, more because of next door's cat), but I wasn't quick enough. While it's mostly impossible to tell whether a worm looks surprised, I sensed that it was time for him to go home and get baking.
Come to think of it, I haven't seen a worm since then actually. Perhaps there really is (or rather was – he's probably somewhere in Essex by now) only one after all.