When Terrence Met Grandpa: The Ultimate Puppet Slap Down

 History is filled with them.  Meetings between two disparate people; brought about by fate or design, all for the greater good of humanity.  The premise seems simple: awesome plus awesome will inevitably equal even more awesome than was previously thought possible.  Scientists refer to this as Einstein’s Theory of Relative Awesomeness. The examples are obvious.  

Dolly and Kenny were so wonderful when brought together that all either needed was a mononym; surnames being surplus to requirements. Garry Kasparov and Bobby Fischer were, ironically enough, best known by their surnames.  Maybe that’s the difference between music and chess. Godzilla and King Kong – need I say more?  All of them perfectly terrific in their own right, but driven to even greater heights of brilliance when brought together.  Sparks will fly.  Rainbows will appear.  All is well in the world.  I suppose this is what I had in mind when I introduced Grandpa to Terrence.

Terrence is a puppet.  That’s not an insult; just a statement of fact.  Terrence is a puppet made by my nine year old nephew, TJ.  Put simply, Terrence is a thing of splendour; furry, blue and perfectly formed.  He is magnificent.  He does, however, have something of an attitude and can, at times, get a little lippy.  Which is quite an achievement when you consider that he doesn’t have any actual lips to speak of or, for that matter, with.

Lately, Terrence has been appearing at family functions. These are now keenly anticipated. Terrence’s shtick is to invite questions from the audience which, when you’re surrounded by members of your family is brave beyond belief.  (It may only work if you’re holding a puppet – I don’t plan to find out.) Both the questions and the answers are entirely improvised.  It’s genuinely thrilling.  It should come as no surprise that TJ handles things wonderfully well. He is, after all, a second generation puppeteer.

As charmed as Terrence’s life has been, Grandpa’s has been cursed.  Instead of being coaxed into life with care, precision and an eye for detail, his creation was marred completely by my cack-handed, miserable attempts to sew.  It’s difficult to put into words just how shoddy my workmanship was.  Which is why this article also comes with a picture.  And just as it can be said that a picture says a thousand words; in this case, each of those words features ‘house’ as the second syllable. 

I’m not sure why my efforts were as desultory as they were.  For those too busy to absorb the full horror of the photo, try imagining what the Mona Lisa might look like if Leonardo da Vinci had been blindfolded, spun around a dozen times before being handed a brush and told to get painting.  The results would be vastly different to those currently on display at The Louvre.  I’m not saying I was blindfolded, nor am I comparing myself to da Vinci. Rather, much like Leonardo himself, I’m just trying to paint a picture.

Unlike Terrence’s energetic performances, Grandpa’s appearances were marred by severe lethargy, fueled by my apparent inability to hold my arm above my head for more than a couple of minutes at a time.  They were never going to meet as equals. But despite the obvious problems, my father returned my puppet to me after thirty years for the purpose of me gifting it to my nephew.

Bringing two people – even if they’re generally great – doesn’t always work out.  Consider the duet ‘When Something Is Wrong With My Baby’ by John Farnham and Jimmy Barnes where two brilliant singers take a Sam and Dave classic and commit an act of musical butchery so heinous that, to this day, the opening bar causes vegans to shudder.  So it was when Terrence met Grandpa.

As I pulled what remained of my puppet from the coffin-like box my father had placed him in, my nephew appeared more alarmed than impressed.  My brother insisted that we take a photo of the two puppets together.  We sat on the couch and I slipped my hand into the puppet to hold it upright.  As I reached for the mouth, I could feel that the foam had disintegrated into a fine powder and it began running down my arm.  As I described how unpleasant a sensation this was, my brother comforted me by suggesting it was probably the result of spiders nesting in the head. It was agreed that I would hold the puppet by the back of the neck.

After the photo was taken, my father turned to my nephew and asked whether he wanted to keep my ‘Grandpa’ puppet.  My nephew, with a slight look of fear on his face, gently shook his head.  I returned Grandpa to his box and the box to the boot of my father’s car when his back was turned.  Looking at the picture, I can see that my nephew is unsure of what to make of this monstrosity.  I wonder if the whole unfortunate episode will get a mention next time Terrence entertains the family.  Perhaps not.  It’s for the best.