Yan Tan Tethera

It’s strange the sorts of things that pop up in your mind and get stuck there. For the last couple of days, it has been something that my brother, Gilbert told me about once, when visiting after he had been living ‘oop north’ for a while. I have no idea why it got stuck in my head, but today, I managed to get it out of my head. I also learned something about the future, though I can’t see it being of any use, other than landing me with a fairly tricky task.

I was taking a walk around the village when I found Wren and Hadley down at the bottom, playing with the sheep. Of course, given the things Wren says sometimes, it is possible that she was talking to them. I asked if they were well and thanked them for taking care of the sheep, asking if they were all present and correct. Wren said that they were, but that one had told her that they were nervous about some noises coming from over there. She pointed out of the village. So, maybe she was talking to them. I must ask her about that some day.

I suggested that maybe it was the cŵn that was making them nervous with his howls and such like. That’s when the thing Gilbert had told me about popped back into my head. I asked them if they knew how to count sheep like a shepherd. I told them about the old counting system. Itried to remember how it went, and recited what I could – Yan, Tan, Tethera, Methera, Pip, Sethera, Lethera, Hovera, Dovera, Dick. I was sure Gilbert had said that the count went up to twenty, but I could only remember the first ten.

Hadley thought that wasn’t a very good system, as it was hard to remember and suggested it might be another language, like counting in Spanish, which she them demonstrated, well, up to three anyway. Wren agreed that it sounded like another language, and then proposed that maybe the shepherds had originally been naming the sheep and others thought it was counting. She also thought that some of the words sounded like the things Aoibheann said sometimes.

I said she probably wasn’t far off the mark. Aoibheann spoke a variety of Gaelic, and it was possible the language the sheep counting derived from was related to Gaelic somehow. I jokingly suggested that maybe they used complicated words so that they wouldn’t fall asleep while counting sheep. They both liked that idea best.

Wren said that she wanted to ask me something. I said to go ahead, but suggested we went into the tavern for tea and cakes while she did so, which we did. She wanted to get a doll for Hadley to cuddle, to help her sleep. I was sure that we could probably find somebody in the village to make such a thing, but it turned out that there was a very specific doll that was wanted. It was a doll of a character called Elsa, who was in a moving picture that Hadley liked a lot – back in the future. After some discussion, I managed to elicit a description of said doll, who wore a blue dress, looked somewhat like Hadley, but without the glasses. I was sure Vera the tailor could probably make a rag doll, and maybe I could carve a head, or find somebody in the village that could. I made a note to ask around at the morning meeting the next day. It wasn’t as if I knew much about dolls as toys. Alexandra had collected really nice ceramic ones with elaborate dresses, but I suspect this was something different. I said I would see what I could do about it, but couldn’t make any promises. The thought occurred later that I could possibly realm-jump to the future, maybe Esterwell, and get one for her. Of course, my options for getting there were limited. I didn’t really want to focus on Alec or Isabella as a means of getting there. I thought maybe Dyisi was an option. Or, I could ask Valene if the Caits could find one. I will have to see.

 Molly Metcalfe (Yan Tan Tethera)


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