It is rare, in this day and age, to hear a giant roar the words “Fee Fi Fo Fum” in a booming baritone likely to give one the collywobbles. So it came as something of a surprise when, the other morning, walking towards the viaduct, past the duckpond, I heard precisely those words, if we can call them words, and, turning to my left, saw, emerging from the spinney, lumbering towards me, a giant.
I had business at the viaduct, business which need not concern you, and I was not best pleased to be delayed upon my important business by a giant booming nonsense at me. Before I had time to frame a rejoinder, however, the giant repeated its “Fee Fi Fo Fum” and added “May I smell your blood?”
If that was to be the extent of the giant’s interest in me, I judged it best to satisfy the request and hurry on my way to the viaduct. So I unbuttoned my coat, and I unbuttoned my cardigan, and I unbuttoned my shirt, and I bared my torso and detached from it one of my leeches.
“Here,” I said, handing it to the giant, “Sniff this. And if you cannot separate the smell of my blood from the smell of the leech, just give it a squeeze.”
The giant roared “Fee Fi Fo Fum” again for no apparent reason, took the leech, and held it up to its mighty nose.
When I have told this tale before, over the past couple of days, people have expressed surprise that I should be sashaying about the place with leeches affixed to my torso. I don’t see why this should raise eyebrows. My blood is important to me. There is a reason we sometimes call it our lifeblood. My life depends upon it, as it courses through my veins, circulating in the manner discovered by Dr Harvey (1578-1657), pumping, pumping, and thus I wish it to be as pure as possible. What better way than to have it sucked by leeches? All too often nowadays we pooh-pooh mediaeval physicians, but they knew what they were about, in the matter of leeches if in no other field. My usual practice is to have five leeches sucking at a time. Whimsically, I like to call four of them John, Paul, George and Ringo, never quite able to decide whether the fifth leech should be dubbed Stu or Brian or Klaus or even Yoko. It was this fifth leech I detached and handed to the giant.
As I suspected, its olfactory senses were unable to distinguish between the lovely scent of my blood and the stink of the leech, so it squeezed some blood out onto the back of its huge paw and allowed the whiff to waft up its enormous nostrils.
“Fee Fi Fo Fum” it roared again, tiresomely.
“May I have my leech back now?” I said, “I have urgent business at the viaduct over yonder.”
“I want this leech for myself!” roared the giant.
This put me in a quandary. As much as my leeches are attached to me physically, I am attached to them emotionally. That is one reason I bless them with names. How could I not feel a deep connection to beasts engorged with my own precious blood? But the last thing I wanted to do, on this or any other morning, was to get into a fight with a giant, over a leech or anything else.
“I tell you what,” I said, improvising desperately, “Give the leech back to me for now, wait right here, and as soon as I have done my business at the viaduct I will take you to my leech supplier. I’m sure he will be happy to sell you as many leeches as you desire.”
The giant frowned, which I took to be a sign that the cogs in its dim brain were slowly clanking. I snatched Stu or Brian or Klaus or Yoko from its paw, affixed it back to my torso, and strode off, not waiting for a reply, rebuttoning my shirt and rebuttoning my cardigan and rebuttoning my coat as I went. My plan, of course, was to get my business done at the viaduct and then to take a different route home, avoiding the spinney and the duckpond and, thus, the giant too.
I made it almost to the viaduct, taking the most direct route by cutting through Scroonhoonpooge Farmyard, when I felt the earth beneath me quaking, and, looking back, saw to my horror that the giant was sprinting – sprinting! – towards me, each thump of its gigantic boots making the ground tremble for miles around. At the same time my ears were assailed by its terrible roaring. I need not tell you what it was roaring.
Scarcely able to think, I looked wildly around and realised I was but yards away from the eerie barn of legend. I hurtled towards it, flung myself inside, and pulled the door shut after me. I was well aware of the all the awful tales told about the eerie barn at Scroonhoonpooge Farmyard, and what befell those who trespassed within it. But my immediate concern was to hide from the giant, and in this I seemed to have succeeded, for peering through a knothole in the barn door I saw it pounding past at inhuman speed. My hectic panting subsided, and I was breathing normally as I unbuttoned my coat and unbuttoned my cardigan and unbuttoned my shirt and patted each of my five leeches affectionately.
“Fear not, my little blood-crammed friends,” I murmured, “You are safe from the giant.”
Safe from the giant indeed. But not, alas, from the nameless horror lurking within the eerie barn at Scroonhoonpooge Farmyard. Somehow, that morning, I got out of there alive. How I wish I could say the same for my leeches. But they were ripp’d untimely from my torso, ripp’d by something menacing and invisible and fetid and disgusting and terrifying, something that would have given even my pursuing sprinting giant the collywobbles. Poor John and Paul and George and Ringo. Poor Stu or Brian or Klaus or Yoko. I do not know what became of them, nor of my precious blood with which they were engorged. I left my leeches and my blood in that abominable barn as I fled.
And I fled straight into the arms of the giant. It was waiting for me at the side gate of the farmyard.
“Fee Fi Fo Fum” it roared.
I was almost blind with tears, but that did not stop me thrusting the point of my poniard through the giant’s gigantic heart. Its foul impure giant’s blood gushed, splattering me from head to toe. It crashed to earth, writhed, and perished. I was in no fit state to sort out my business at the viaduct. Sheathing my bloody poniard, I wended my way home, past the spinney and the duckpond. When I had hosed the giant’s blood off my coat and my cardigan and my shirt and my scarf and my trousers and my underpants and my socks and my shoes and my Homburg, I sat in the bath for an hour. Then I took five fresh leeches out of the leecharium and affixed them one by one to my torso. The first four I named Fee and Fi and Fo and Fum. The fifth, I decided, would remain nameless, like the nameless horror in the eerie barn at Scroonhoonpooge Farmyard. Thus I paid tribute to my lost leeches, my lost blood.