18 December 2004

The Winter Wilders

Snow started to fall on Tumbleton Moor. It was a beautiful yet quiet place when the world turned white. Walls and hedgerows vanished into the landscape, and the small town of Tumbleton bolted its doors and retreated into its secure and warm indoors.

At this time of year the Wilders were about. They roamed the land, looking for any food they could find. A long time ago, the townsfolk invited the creatures into their homes to sit out the cold winter, but no-one realised the trouble they'd cause. The Wilders' huge feet trampled through rooms, devastating belongings and people's houses.

Never again were they let in from the cold, and to make sure they came nowhere near, the people would build huge beasts out of the snow to scare them away.

This year, however, a small girl watched through a frosted window as the Wilders skulked past in the distance. All she could see was their silhouettes on the dull grey horizon. She thought it very sad that they had to stay out in the cold.

So she decided not to listen to her parents and go and ask them to come inside. Maybe they'd learnt their lesson by now.

The girl wrapped up warm, with at least four layers of clothes, three pairs of gloves and two warm, bobbly hats. And of course, she had untold numbers of socks inside her shoes. Once your feet get cold, they stay cold.

She trudged through the snow with a small lamp lighting her way. It wasn't long before she found large footprints trailing away into the night, and when she came across the Wilders they were all huddled in a small hole, waiting for day to break.

The girl pulled out some oaty biscuits and handed them to the Wilders.
'Please come with me,' she said, ' you can keep warm and eat as much as you like'.

The Wilders looked at one another, all feeling the cold snow beneath them. They realised it was an option they couldn't refuse, and eventually trekked back to Tumbleton with the girl.

She pleaded with the Wilders to be good, and they decided it would be for the best.

When they reached her home, and after a few strong words from her very worried parents, all of them settled down in front of the blazing fire. The Wilders proved that they could be good, and they were aloud to come back every year.

The girl passed around warming drinks and roasted nuts, and they all felt very happy. It was nice to put bad feelings behind them, and they knew that Christmas this year was going to be very special indeed.

17 December 2004

The Magic Weed

I once grew a weed with magical powers,
That wriggled around when I tickled its flowers.
When I pulled off its leaves it let out a scream,
And grumbled and growled as I ate it with cream

15 December 2004

Ordinary Heroes of the World

I found this book in my attic last week. I hadn't seen it for ages, and I thought it might be nice to share some of the entries.

1. Mildred the Fish Dangler

Mildred's job was to hold a dead fish in the air. It was a well-known tool for forecasting the weather, and the job required him to stand on the outskirts of town, day in, day out, charting the fish's response to the elements.

Because of Mildred's dedication to his cause, many sailors' lives were saved

12 December 2004

The Ghost Ship

I suppose you might expect me to be rather old. And I am, of course. I'm at that point where my age defines how people respond to me rather than my personality. But neither you nor me know how old I am – or maybe I just prefer to forget.

Yesterday, I watched as a boat sailed from my neighbour's house.

It was early in the morning. I'd got up to watch the sun rise, and from the window, beyond the overgrown hedges and the weed-ridden path, I gazed at the ramshackle boat. Mr Greenly had been a sailor in his early years: he sailed the seventeen seas and visited all the wonderful lands you only hear about in stories.

His boat had been sat there, slowly rotting, ever since I'd lived here. It was a splendid little craft, although it was no longer fit for sailing. Holes were eaten into its hull, ivy creeped over its side, and a small family of nuthatches lived in its bow. You could tell from its shape and build that it had once been capable of marvellous things. It had survived many a beating, and I knew it had kept Mr Greenly safe through untold storms.

And that morning, as I sat and watched the glowing horizon, I saw the boat fizzle with a blue light, and a ghost ship lifted from the crumbling wreck. I sat transfixed at this strange sight. Suddenly, there was a sailor aboard the boat, a sail aboard its deck. And it moved. Drifting through the undergrowth, this boat was free. Its age and condition no longer held it to the earth. It drifted, slowly at first, but then its sails caught the wind and it sped off into the distance.

I learnt that Mr Greenly had died during that night. I hadn't spoken to him for a week or so, but whenever we bumped into each other, we'd talk and discuss the weather. You seem to do this more as you grow old, although Mr Greenly was more in tune with the elements than most. That following day had proved fine and clear, with a strong southerly wind. Mr Greenly had chosen his sailing conditions well.

There must have been wonderful stories and tales that sailed away that morning. I know I should have asked him more when I had the chance.

10 December 2004

Old Hokey

Well I thought I'd show you a picture of me drawn by my wonderful friend Milagro. He sat and drew it while we were making the most of a terrifically snowy afternoon - hence my scarf, hat and deliciously warm coat. I think he captures my shape perfectly.

Milagro does take on portraits if anyone is interested. He charges a small fee, but I think it's worth it for his talent – he certainly knows how to capture people in their best light.

05 December 2004

Captain Mousebeard of the Silver Shark

In my younger days I travelled the globe - something I'll tell you about in due course, no doubt - but I thought I'd tell you about Captain Mousebeard, who helped me return home. We both survived a harrowing experience, and only for his bravery did I arrive in one piece.

Mousebeard was a stout fellow and the typical seafaring type: swoarthy skin, muscly arms, thick jumpers, and of course, he was the very proud owner of a large bushy beard (in which he kept a family of very well-behaved mice).

Our paths crossed while he was searching for the rare Long-eared Mouse of Shubana Island. I was living on the island, passing my time while waiting for a boat to take me home, and I just so happened to know where he could find one. So we came to an arrangement: in return for the mouse, he would offer me safe passage home.

His ship, the Silver Shark, was a stunning vessel, painted brightly with a sneering fanged shark's mouth at its bow. It was quite a sight to see resting at port, but when you were on it and felt it cutting the waves in two, it was beyond belief.

We'd sailed for two days before things started to go awry. Up to that point I'd been revelling in the salty air and the firm breezes as they directed us home. It was a grand way to travel, but on that third night we hit a storm front scudding across the sea towards us. The waves lifted into the air, the peaks and troughs grew so large that the Silver Shark neared vertical as it rode the seas.

Mousebeard lashed himself to the main mast and called his shipmates to lower the sails. Waves crashed into the boat, water drenched the decks, and many times were we soaked through. And just when we thought things couldn't get worse, Mousebeard felt his beard tugging. He looked down into his bundle of hair, and noticed something writhing and growing. Suddenly, out jumped the Long-eared Mouse. It's body was contorting, twisting and growing on the salty, waterlogged planks.

Mousebeard called out in distress to his sailors, as he picked up the mouse and tossed it into the foaming sea. Everyone surged below decks in fear of their lives, leaving only Mousebeard to man the wheel. All the while, the waves and storm continued to batter the boat. I shut myself inside, and watched through a window as a gigantic spinning hole appeared before the ship. This was no ordinary whirlpool.

With a deafening, piercing scream a serpent rose from the depths and towered into the air. It was the mythical Spearhorned Grak. I could see Mousebeard lurch back at the sight, for it was well known that you never live to tell the tale of the Grak. Instead, whispers of your demise get washed ashore with the wreck of your ship.

But the Captain wasn't one to let a monster get the better of him. He turned the wheel sharply and caught the edge of the whirlpool. The ship sped up and circled round at breakneck speed. And then, before the spear of the beast could impale the Silver Shark, Mousebeard veered out of the swirling maelstrom and rocketed the ship out of the sea as if from a slingshot.

It felt as though the ship was airborne for minutes, as all of the shipmates' lives flashed before their eyes. We landed a fair distance from the Grak, bursting through a wall-like wave and into a patch of calm. The brief glimpse of blue sky gave the sailors hope, and once again they rushed onto deck to sail the craft through the storm.

Thankfully, we made it home safely, and that was all the excitement we had for that voyage. I guess we learned the hard way that Long-eared Mice and salt water don't mix, but it's safe to say that no-one had expected the mythical Spearhorned Grak to be born of such tiny stock.

Captain Mousebeard is now remembered as a true hero for his deeds, and because of his warnings, mousehunters like him are forever wary and careful as they search lands for new breeds.

02 December 2004

King Kandoo's lost dubloons

King Kandoo of Kakdungdoo
Has lost his gold dubloons
He's left them in a little box
With knives and forks and spoons.

The little box has ornate trim
And gold encrusted handles
And little gems that line two holes
For sweetly scented candles

So if you see this little box
You'll find yourself a winner
For though King Kandoo needs no cash,
He still can't eat his dinner.