I was flushed with success. I'd been challenged to take a picture of a real life unicorn with wings and I had managed to do it, albeit through the method of adding home made card wings to a toy unicorn. It's a light up unicorn. In a dark room it will light up the whole ceiling with stars.
So I decided to go for it.
I asked her, "What shall I take a picture of tomorrow?"
She replied, "A tree."
"Hey, that's easy," I thought.
A tree. Yes. And immediately I began to plan which tree I would take a picture of intentionally and whether I might stray off my planned route of visiting the charity shops of Chester-le-Street and Durham in search of pretty trees. I do like trees. I take pictures of many trees. I should probably learn some tree identification skills so I can say "Hello you wonderful silver birch" rather than just "Hello you wonderful tree."
A tree. Easy. I wasn't worried by her challenge at all.
But that's when she extended her request. In reality only a few seconds had passed. The time it took her to type six words on her phone. But in those seconds I had planned my triumph in detail.
My plans fell apart. The next words appeared on my phone.
"With a rainbow ribbon round it."
A tree. With a rainbow ribbon round it.
How was I going to do this? I don't have a rainbow ribbon. And what are the chances of accidentally encountering a tree with a rainbow ribbon round it? I suspect they are low. I was initially flummoxed. But I didn't allow myself to lose sleep over this perplexing quandary.
I woke up with a plan in my head. I would just have to cheat.
I would do my own tying.
What I would use wouldn't be a ribbon though.
And it wouldn't be a rainbow either.
It would be this:
It is, you will not, a colourful item. And it is a nice sparkly item. But it's a scarf not a ribbon. And the colours, though they are many, are not a rainbow.
Nevertheless it would have to do. I packed my scarf and set off to Durham, knowing that contained within the city there are such things as trees.
She would just have to cope with a photograph of a tree with a colourful, sparkly scarf tied round it rather than a rainbow ribbon. And if that wasn't good enough then I lived long enough as a too-hard-on-myself Catholic to know how to put in a good performance at repenting of my own shortcomings.
So we set off to Durham. Blob Thing and Winefride were pleased to be going out for the day. They were so pleased that they didn't even point out that the printing on the back of their seat was on backwards.
We delayed ourselves on the way to Durham, tempted by the possibilities of the charity shops of Chester-le-Street. Blob Thing started telling Winefride about the time he and I got off the bus there and walked to Durham and what an excellent day that had been. I think she would enjoy that walk too - especially Finchale Priory - and Blob Thing says he wants to go back and have pictures of himself taken with all the bridges we see. He does like pictures of himself with bridges.
And so, suitably delayed - and having bought some Christian books by nice Christians (ones other nice Christians point to as good examples) - it was lunchtime by the time we reached Durham.
All thoughts of trees and ribbons passed from my mind, being replaced by that all conquering desire of the flesh: I want some lunch.
We made our way to a place called Alington House and were fortunate to find the cafe open - an event that is not a guarantee by any means. We ate very well indeed.
The homemade pumpkin soup was followed by a cheese and onion toasted sandwich. And then Blob was very excited because I went and bought us a piece of a Polish cake too. Just look at the enjoyment on his face.
And that was followed up with a question from the woman serving us the food - a volunteer like everyone else there. "Would you like some more soup for free?" And so we ate more bread and soup and were very satisfied.
Our bellies were happy but my mind went back to the question of trees and the realisation that I had not even begun to complete the challenge.
We walked up the hill and I did my very best.
That one had a hexagonal Victorian postbox in it. And they're rare.
The next two have a Durham Cathedral in them. And that's even more rare than a hexagonal Victorian postbox. Several of those remain. But there's only one of Durham Cathedral.
I thought, "Maybe that's good enough. Maybe she'll accept my attempt. Maybe a tree with a sparkly, colourful scarf will put a smile on her face. It won't be as good as Winefride flying on a winged unicorn but she'll see the effort I put in."
And that might have been the end of the challenge.
Except that as I walked down the hill I couldn't let the challenge go. I had to do better. I had to find, at the very least, a tree with a ribbon tied round it. There had to be one.
I couldn't shake off the demands of the near impossible quest as we walked further around the centre of Durham. She deserved better. Not a sparkly scarf.
And then the answer came to me. I knew where I could find lots of trees with ribbons. They weren't rainbow ribbons. But they were ribbons. And maybe some of the trees would have more than one ribbon.
I knew what I had to do.
So with a sense of wild urgency we returned back to Durham bus station and caught the bus back as far as Gateshead. There we caught a Metro back to Newcastle and got off at a stop known as West Jesmond, named as such because it's on the West side of Jesmond. From there we had to walk. Or at least I did. I was in such a hurry and Blob and Winefride aren't the fastest of walkers [or bouncers] so I carried them in my special bag.
As I reached our destination I could only smile.
I was right. There was a tree. With ribbons. Not a full rainbow. But ribbons. Of several colours.
This was excellent.
And then there were more trees with ribbons.
And more trees.
But still no rainbow ribbon. I had done well though I thought.
No! My head would not accept this partial victory. A tree. A ribbon. No rainbow. Only two out of three. I wanted a rainbow ribbon.
I hunted all the trees in this ribbon tree area. Oh yes, I hunted. I had to make sure.
And bliss, rapture, ecstasy and deep joy!
I found not one but two trees that brought a triumph and the peal of trumpets as angels played them in celebration of the glorious news.
Here's the first:
And on it, a sign. The reason for the ribbons.
For these ribboned trees are all destined to be destroyed if plans with the planning office are approved. They are incredibly stupid plans. A roundabout in Gosforth, where at peak times people may have to queue for a couple of minutes in their cars, would be replaced by a road system of a size more suitable to the junction between two busy motorways. Those plans are being redesigned but the future of all the trees is still in jeopardy.
Here's the other tree.
And here it is, the source of my success. Success brought to me through the hands of one of the people who tied ribbons to all the trees in danger of being destroyed. Thank you kind protestor!
Yes. I succeeded again.
Two challenges. Two successes.
I wonder what the third challenge will be. I haven't asked her yet.
I bet it will be terrifyingly difficult.