Out of the mouths of babes



Obviously with a title like this there is perhaps the thought that this blog is going to wander off into territory of the professional eroticist. With Santa there, dressed like that, who knows what sort of present you’re going to find yourself unwrapping?

But strangely enough, you might say that metaphorically I was interested not so much in the present as in the wrapping paper.

It was Pilate who asked, “What is truth?” But then he made damned sure he went out before anybody had time to answer his question.

You’ll see later that my title, ‘Out of the mouths of babes, is ‘truth’. Yet if I’d said ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,” it would have been ‘more true.’ Ironically that phrase comes from the chap who was asked by Pilate, “What is truth.”

So suddenly we’ve got relative truth; some truth is more true than other truths?
And the Father Christmas? Well he/she will appear later as well, in circumstances where I cannot be entirely sure of her/his gender (however self identified.)

My later mother loved teaching and she taught the little ones and liked them best before they were of an age to lie convincingly.

She told of one small boy who was given the task of ‘finishing off the well known proverb.’ Given “Where there’s a will…….” He supplied, “There’s an argument.” A well adjusted son of the Cumbrian farming industry if you ask me.

But there was the other side to it. My mother expected boys to be mischievous. For her that was normal. To be honest she didn’t mind girls being mischievous either, she regarded it as healthy. But at that age she could spot something darker and deeper within the child. I remember her coming home, putting her bag down and saying, “That child will hang.”

It was only a change in the law which meant that twenty years later ‘that child’ was imprisoned, not executed.

But still, she loved the honesty of small children. I think it’s something a lot of teachers treasure. A friend of mine told me about a colleague’s experience.


“She’s was having a language lesson with her class of 5/6 year olds, trying to elicit words beginning with ‘H’. She was hoping for the word ‘horrible’ which would then be a lead-in to shared reading of a book. So she said, “If we were playing together and I said I didn’t like you and didn’t want to be your friend, what would I be?”

Little voice from the back.



It’s not merely teachers who love these stories, it’s parents as well. Another friend of mine posted about his young daughter.


Young daughter: “He tried to steal one of my meatballs so I stabbed him with my fork”

Me: “Does he sit next to you at dinner time?”

Young daughter: “Not any more…”


What’s not to love and admire?


The truth, pure, unvarnished and clean, surely it has to be something to treasure.

But earlier we had some truths that were more true than other truths. Indeed can some truths not actually be true. But in spite of that are more important and more true than mere reality? For example many years ago, on Christmas Eve, we had a storm which blew slates off the barn roof. Next day our neighbours dropped round and their small daughter stood staring wide-eyed at the mess.

Sternly I asked. “Did you leave Father Christmas a glass of sherry last night?”

“Oh yes,” she said, delighted with the memory.

“And he drank the lot, couldn’t steer properly and side-swiped our roof with his sledge!”

Her eyes got even bigger and rounder.


But this tale leads on to another, because it was too good a story for somebody not to tell. So a farmer’s wife in the next village was asked by her young son what Father Christmas was like.

“You’ll have to ask Jim Webster. He’s met him!”

“He has!” You can just imagine small boy’s interest.

“Yes, Jim had a cow calving on Christmas Eve and was struggling to get the calf out. When Father Christmas came to call he stopped and gave Jim a hand getting the calf out.”


Now you might ask where the truth is in that! But even there, there’s a deeper truth than mere reality and the lad would have recognised it. We’ve had our postman walk into the yard pushing before him a week old calf who’d ventured forth on his own. One morning I was helping a cow who was having a difficult calving and when the milk tanker turned up to collect our milk, the driver stopped and gave me a hand. In a rural community, if, late on Christmas Eve, I was having problems calving a cow, then it’s entirely reasonable that Father Christmas should stop and help.


Obviously if truth is beauty and beauty is truth, one ought to take the word of a poet


As a reviewer commented, “Jim Webster’s sly wit and broad understanding of human nature makes his work deliciously appealing. The adventures of Tallis Steelyard, and the characters who inhabit his world, are particularly delightful. Tallis and his creator both have a dry, wry and wonderfully playful perspective, and while the tales may seem like a bit-of-fluff entertainment initially, the aftertaste is that of rich wisdom shared with a wink.”

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14 thoughts on “Out of the mouths of babes

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt February 16, 2017 at 6:37 pm Reply

    Children young enough eschew cliches.

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2017 at 11:23 pm Reply

      yes, sums it up nicely 🙂

  2. rugby843 February 16, 2017 at 11:36 pm Reply

    Children are very honest when very young.

    • jwebster2 February 16, 2017 at 11:38 pm Reply

      Yes, but we all seem to grow out of it eventually 🙂 But yes they can be very honest

      • rugby843 February 17, 2017 at 12:10 am

        Exactly. That’s why I love kids!

      • jwebster2 February 17, 2017 at 6:11 am

        That’s why my mother loved them as well 🙂

  3. Kate McClelland February 19, 2017 at 3:16 pm Reply

    When he was 7 years old, my youngest son was sent out of class for arguing with a class mate. After a few minutes his teacher went out and said to him ‘Are you ready to go back into class and not argue?’ ‘No, I need a bit more time to calm down.’ he replied. She then told him off for being cheeky. He said that he wasn’t being cheeky, but telling the truth. She became exasperated at this point and told him to go back in to class. He was very perplexed by this.

  4. […] Keep reading: Out of the mouths of babes […]

  5. Eliza Waters February 19, 2017 at 5:39 pm Reply

    Most enjoyable post, Jim!

    • jwebster2 February 19, 2017 at 6:39 pm Reply

      glad you liked it, brought some nice tales out from other people as well 🙂

  6. Martin Williams February 21, 2017 at 3:09 pm Reply

    ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings,” it would have been ‘more true.’ Ironically that phrase comes from the chap who was asked by Pilate, “What is truth.”

    Not the Son of David, Jim – David himself (Psalm 8:2).

    • jwebster2 February 21, 2017 at 3:37 pm Reply

      I was drawn more to MATTHEW 21:16 where he quotes the psalm 🙂

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