We’re on the W7 bus down to Crouch End, me and my two little nephews – four and seven years old. I’m dropping them off at school, something I’ve not done before so it’s a bit of an adventure for me. Daily routine for them.
It’s warm and muggy and the downstairs back seats of the bus, heated by the groaning engine, feel like padded radiators.
We play a game called Super Inventy.
It’s new to me, so the boys patiently explain the rules. It’s a game where you have to think of an animal, then a superpower, then a name.
I’ve never played it before, so I get to go first.
“I’m going to be a penguin,” I say.
“Ooh, penguin,” says little L.
“You have to have a name,” says N.
“Umm. I’m going to be called Spigglethwaite,” I say. N laughs.
“Spigglethwaite is a silly name,” he says.
“And my superpower is going to be that I can turn invisible whenever I like.”
N nods his head. L is looking out of the bus window. I don’t think he’s listening.
“Come on then, your turn,” I say to N.
“I’m going to be a super spider! Who can shoot fireballs from his eyes! And spiders have lots of eyes so that’s going to be bad news for the baddies. HA! And my name is going to be Battle Spider!”
The stakes are higher than I thought. Clearly that’s also going to be bad news for an invisible penguin.
I turn to L, thinking that maybe he’s in a world of his own and has forgotten that we’re even playing Super Inventy. But he turns his head to me and shouts:
“I’m going to be a king cobra who can go faster than anything, even a car at a million billion miles per hour. And I’ll have lasers on my tail! And I’ll beat the baddie because I’m not green.”
“Well the baddie is a baddie. And his power is that he takes away all the green.”
Wow. ALL the green?
“Yes, everything green. He takes it away. Even the Hulk. And the Hulk is the strongest of everything.”
“So does this baddie take away all the trees and the grass and the green wheelie bins too?” I ask.
“Yes. He takes away everything green.”
“But you can beat him because your laser snake isn’t green.”
“Yes. I’m a red laser snake. And my name is Laser Snakey.”
The bus announces that we’re nearly at our stop, so we’ll have to get off. We clamber off our hot seats and squeeze through the crowded bottom deck of the bus, then through the crowd on the pavement queuing up to board it. We pause at a quiet corner to put rucksacks on backs and make sure we’re all together. N removes a shoe, shakes out a tiny stone, and puts it back on his foot.
“Which way now?” I ask.
The boys point, in unison.
“Right, let’s go,” I say.
Off we march – Spigglethwaite the penguin, Battle Spider the spider, and Laser Snakey the king cobra – on a quest through the streets of Crouch End. We’re three super animals on a mission. And we’re going to rid the world once and for all of that nasty un-named baddie. The one who takes away all the green.