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The Lonely Man – part two.


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Tom listened to Martin chatting away.  He knew what Martin was trying to do, but it wasn’t working.  Nevertheless he appreciated the effort and tried hard to give back a little of the kindness that Martin was sharing with him.  Martin droned on and Tom attempted a smile, but soon he was lost in his thoughts again and his coffee turned cold and the sun went in behind a cloud.

He remembered happier times in his life and tried to recapture the moments.  We all do that, don’t we?  A certain smell of flowers, grass even or perfume can take us back to our childhood or a time when the colours of our life were brighter and sounds were clearer, summers were longer.  Tom remembered the smell of a field where he used to play as a child with a group of friends. In that time he was closer to the ground. Sometimes crawling along on his tummy like a soldier and all the small animals were right in front of his nose.  Mice and voles scuttled away and the pungent smell of the weeds and flowers in such close proximity filled his mind with their presence.

‘So Tom, Tamsin and I would love it if you came over to our place on Sunday and shared our barbecue.  What do you think? Some of her friends will be there too.’

Tom smiled a little.  He appreciated the thought and ‘hell, why not. He had nothing to lose and everything to gain.’

‘Thanks Martin.  I’d love to come.  What time do you suggest?’

‘Whenever you’re ready Tom. Just turn up – late afternoon would be ideal.’

‘P

Ok mate. I’ll see you there; oh and thanks…’

Martin returned to his own table feeling pleased.  Well, it’s a start, at least he thought.

 

Over by the window, her cake now finished, Pat brushed the crumbs from her blouse and reached down to get her handbag so she could check her face in the small mirror, which was a gift from her late husband.  Out of the corner of her eye she saw Mick coming towards her so she aborted the mirror and went for her handkerchief instead. It wouldn’t do for Mick to think she was vain.  It was two years since Pat’s husband, Dick Clark, died. Every day that passed since Pat found herself thinking about him.  Sometimes the thoughts made her laugh or smile as memories came back, but more often she felt a tear in her eye at a reminder of some past event that they shared together.  Now though she must move on in life.  It was time to look ahead, not back.  There could be new memories to come, but they would need a little encouragement. She was still attractive and she still had much to give and wouldn’t it be nice to have someone to go to the theatre with now and then or out on one of those inviting day trips she kept reading about in the daily paper.

Take that nice young man in the corner for instance, the one with the striped jumper. He shouldn’t be looking so down and depressed.  What could have happened to him?  Perhaps he’s lost his job or failed his exams? Maybe his girlfriend has finished with him.  He looked well cared for.  Perhaps he’s been living at home and now he’s been told he has to move out.  We all have our problems, thought Pat.

She looked up into Mick’s kind, smiling face.  He wanted to know if she had enjoyed the cake and if today was a special occasion.

‘Yes, it’s my birthday today,’ she told him, ‘so I thought I’d give myself a treat.’

Mick smiled broadly and replied ‘Well we can’t let this day go without celebrating, how about another cup of coffee, on the house?’

to be continued …

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ps Yesterday I noticed that someone from The Faulkland Islands had looked at my Blog. I want to say ‘welcome’ to that person in particular because as you all may know, The Faulkland Islands belongs to Britain, even though it is on the far corner of the world. I was delighted to see that one of our own had found my Blog. It made my day.

Oma

The Lonely Man


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The sun is shining in the Paradise City. A man enters a cafe that smells of happiness. Friends are seated at adjacent tables and they look up as he comes in. They smile when they recognise him, but he seems preoccupied. A chain of worries hangs around his neck and weighs heavy on his already strained shoulders. He buys a coffee and takes it to a seat in the corner where the sun cannot reach and taking a spoon he adds sugar and begins stirring, seeing only the world through the steam and fog of loneliness that his mind cannot shift…

The man in the cafe, the lonely man, was not young any-more, although not old either. He had seen many birthdays come and go and not all in the Paradise City. One of his friends stood up and came across, heading for the table in the corner where the sun didn’t shine. He wore a smile and a cloak of greeting as his hand came up and touched his forehead briefly.

The man in the corner, the lonely man, looked fuzzy today, not quite all there, lost in the mist. A flicker of warmth appeared in his eyes. He looked up, then down again, watching the swirling coffee as it whirl pooled around the spoon.

“What’s up?” asked the friend.

It was the first real voice the man had heard all week…

The lonely man, let’s call him Tom, was wearing jeans and a striped sweater, which suited him, thought the grey haired lady in her early sixties. She had chosen to sit at a table by the window where the sun streamed in and sent sparks of light from her knife. Carefully she cut her cake in half and lifted a portion of it to her mouth. The cake was a treat because it was her birthday and she wanted to spoil herself. To go with it she had a large coffee mocha, but that turned out to be a mistake because she found it sickly. She persevered, determined to enjoy her special day, which was just beginning. She looked across at Tom, whose friend was now seated opposite him, attempting to engage the sadness in Tom’s eyes with some lively conversation.
The owner of the Humming Bird cafe looked around at the tables to see how many were occupied on such a sunny morning in Paradise City. He noted with satisfaction that almost all the tables were hosting. The sun always brings out the customers, he thought as he mopped up a spillage on the counter. Next he checked to see how many regulars were present. There in the corner was Tom, looking sad and preoccupied, talking and listening to his friend Martin, who always seemed to have an entourage. Opposite and by the window sat Pat, eating a cake and stroking her newly coiffured grey hair. It must be a special occasion, thought Mick and he made up his mind to ask her what it could be. Mick was a widower and so much of his social life revolved around his work. Wiping his hands on a tea towel attached to his apron, he made his way towards Pat’s sunny table…

 

to be cont’d …

Time for the Christmas Tree to stand proud.


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We recently took our Grandson, Dylan to see the Christmas Tree Festival in Leighton Buzzard. The church there is very old and has a magnificent spire. The whole of the inside of this delightful church was packed with Christmas trees of all colours with very thoughtful decorations. Just as we arrived, a party of school children entered the building and the noise level rose a bit! They were excited because quite a few of the exhibits had been made in the school and they were anxious to see them in their designated spaces.

Each tree said something special about the organisation for which it was set up. Particularly poignant to me was the one set up to collect money for the homeless in our community. Sadly this community has been growing over the years of our recession.

Dylan was entranced by all the trees and their decorations.

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When we had finished looking at the trees, we sat down to listen to the school children singing Christmas songs. Their voices rang out beautifully in the old building and filled our hearts with joy.

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…and before long, it was time to go home. Dylan soon dozed off in the car, aah

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Here is a story I wrote a few years ago:

Christmas Time at Langwitch

Barry Thompson, aged 6 years old, couldn’t afford to buy his mother a Christmas present, and he had racked his brains to try and think of something to make her but he wasn’t very accomplished when it came to making things.

It was 5th December, the day of the annual Christmas Tree Festival at St. Nicholas’s Church in Langwitch.  The beautiful old church looked even more attractive than usual, decorated as it was with thirty-six Christmas Trees of all colours and sizes.  Mrs. Smithers, the part-time secretary at Primrose Primary School, parked her car at the back of the church hall and made her way through the churchyard with Barry Thompson. She was looking after him for her friend, Angela, who was taking a break to do some Christmas shopping in the High Street.  Both Mrs. Smithers and Barry were looking forward to the treat of seeing the Christmas trees in all their glory.

The gravestones in the churchyard stood tall or leaned sideways as they passed between them. They looked just like a row of crooked old teeth.  A row of old yew trees was resplendent, covered in their scarlet red berries with dark branches hanging low in their dampness.  Mrs. Smithers held tight to Barry Thompson’s hand.  Heavenly music, played on the organ, was drifting towards them as they entered the church through the large oak side door, letting in a blast of cold air as they did so.

Once inside the atmosphere was warm and welcoming.  The smell of pine and candles was enthralling.  Mrs. Smithers paid the entrance money into a large plastic margarine pot and was given a programme and a voting ticket!  Following the numbers in the programme she made her way up the nave and into the chancel.  Each tree had been expertly decorated by young and old groups of volunteers, each hoping to win the coveted accolade of the “Best In Show”.  Proceeds from the festival were going towards the continuing restoration of St. Nicholas’s Church.

The Langwitch Lace Group had crafted some very pretty circlets of hand-made lace, exquisitely fragile and delicate, as they hung in gay profusion from their tree.  Their entry was entitled “Bobbins, Bangles and Lace”.  The Brownies had fashioned an exciting tree with photographs of themselves to decorate the branches.  Smiling faces looked out from the tree as Mrs. Smithers passed by with Barry.  Standing in the corner was a bottlebrush tree, donated by the local chemist, and covered all over in red, spiky baby-bottle brushes.

“How original!” thought Mrs. Smithers.

In the right hand corner was a wall plaque, which Mrs. Smithers read out loud to Barry:

“Every part of this church is open at all times, but this corner is a special place where children can bring their gifts of flowers, read and pray, and speak their hearts to God.”

Barry, red cheeks glowing, put, his little hands together and talked to God.  He asked for a Christmas present for his mum because he couldn’t think of anything and he didn’t feel clever enough to make anything.  He wanted it to be special, something she would really love and treasure.  He asked for something that she could keep for a long time.

Leaving behind that wonderful corner, Mrs. Smithers and Barry turned into the chancel and there stood a tree decorated by the local Rainbow Children in all colours of the rainbow and coloured lights as well.  It was enchanting.

At the end of the chancel was a large stained glass window.  By now dark outside, the interior lights lit up the window and Christ, hanging on his cross in the window with a crown of thorns upon his head, looked down upon his faithful people.  Mrs. Smithers thought she could see him smile. A young mum in a blue coat with a headscarf tied around her brown curls, was showing her toddler the beautiful window. He wriggled in his buggy and pointed to the image of Christ.

On went Mrs. Smithers, past “The Twelve Days of Christmas” by the Makin family and “Winter Wonderland” by Valerie and Kate. She stopped and cast her eyes over a magnificent floral Christmas tree decked out by the Langwitch Ladies Floral Arts Club.  Lavender coloured roses were tucked into the branches in uniformity, and strings of cream coloured pearls hung in loops all around.  Twinkly lights enthralled.

Down to the organ corner where one of the churchwardens was playing tenderly:

“Away In A Manger, No Crib For A Bed, The Little Lord Jesus Laid Down His Sweet Head”.

The Methodist minister was serving steaming hot cups of tea and coffee from an electric urn, and her assistant was arranging homemade mince pies on a large plate nearby.  Fruit cake and walnut cake and mini chocolate rolls were fighting for space on another plate nearby and the queue for refreshments was getting longer and longer.

With a cup of tea in one hand and a plate with mince pies in the other, Mrs. Smithers sat herself down with Barry on one of the glossy oak pews.  Her thoughts returned to Christmases long ago.  She remembered the Christmas of 1962/3 when the whole country was covered in snow for weeks.  As a little girl in long red Wellington boots, she went with her dad to fetch milk and eggs from the shop because the milkman was unable to get his float down the road.  Dad’s breath froze on his moustache and turned it prematurely grey.

Coming back to the present, Mrs. Smithers chose her favourite tree and put the number of it on her voting slip.  The slip went into a waste paper basket collection receptacle, to be counted later.  She bought a raffle ticket and popped it in the drum and then left the church as she found it, a place of great tranquillity.

Dark outside now and getting colder, the Churchyard surrounding the church building was well lit and ghostly shadows followed Mrs. Smithers and Barry back to the car.

“Now” she said “I feel that Christmas has begun”.

Three weeks later and it was Christmas Eve.  Angela Thompson, Barry’s mum, went to the front door and opened it to put the milk bottles in the crate and some rubbish in the dustbin.  There on the doorstep was a huge black cat, which meowed urgently, asking to come in.  Mrs. Thompson looked around and saw Barry.  He knew why it had come.

“It’s for you mummy, it’s your Christmas present,” he said knowingly. He knew that Jesus wouldn’t let him down.

Oma

Spring Comes to Primrose Primary School


 

This is chapter one of the sequel to ‘Murder in the School’, which is available in the Kindle Store as an e-book. You can buy it here:

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Spring Comes to Primrose Primary School

Chapter 1

Saturday March 12th 1999.

“Take that, you bitch,” came a voice full of hate, and Ms Althea Gardner, the Head Teacher of Primrose Primary School, in the urban sprawl known as Langwitch, came crashing down in the shower cubicle in the corner of her newly appointed office. As she fell, she gashed her leg and hurt her back.   Her assailant used the same statuette, which Althea herself had used to despatch her friend and lover Alex during the Christmas holidays.  The attacker rendered a blow to the side of Althea’s head, which caused her to black out as she fell. She was left for dead.  However, the blow didn’t kill her and her attacker ran off before Althea came round.

Previously…

Just before Christmas, Althea Gardner, Head teacher of Primrose Primary School in Langwitch,  discovered that her paramour, Alex, was cheating on her with a mystery lover. Althea became empowered with rage and struck out at Alex with a statuette, causing her to fall down dead at her feet in the Head teacher’s office.  It was a crime of passion.

To hide the body was a top priority and Althea achieved that by dragging it across the playground and into the boiler house, using a key she had stolen from the Caretaker’s keying.  Gerald, the caretaker, was the only person who went in to the boiler house as a rule and he couldn’t get in because he couldn’t find his key.

After Christmas, Gerald used a ladder to climb up and look through the little window into the boiler house and there he saw the body of an unidentifiable woman (Alex) in the gloom.  Gerald loved going into the boiler house to be on his own and wouldn’t accept that the body would rob him of his privacy so he made plans to get rid of it.  Painstakingly he chopped it up and burnt it in the furnace, then cleared up every trace, or so he thought, and pretended nothing had ever happened.  So far he had got away with it…but the Ka of Alex Simmons was still around causing mischief.

Althea Gardner had many enemies in the school.  She swept in with an electric broom in September 1998 and using modern management techniques, commenced the instigation of a total “shake-up” of the existing staff.  One by one she bullied the staff until they left, but there was another motive for Althea’s arrival at Primrose Primary School.  She was placed there to effect the total destruction of the school so that in January, when the school inspectors arrived, the school would be seen to fail and then be closed.  If the school was closed, the Local Education Authority would save a lot of money and if Althea was successful in closing the school, whilst appearing to make it succeed and improve, then she would be given a prestigious job in the office next door to her lover, Alex.

In the short while between September  and Christmas, Alex fell in love with her boss, the Officer in Charge of Governors, and together they were plotting to leave Langwitch together. When Althea discovered that Alex was being unfaithful, she lost all sense of reason and put an end to Alex.

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Now – March 1999.

As Althea regained consciousness, she found herself, naked and very shaken, slumped awkwardly at the base of the cubicle with water running over her bruised body.  For a short while she wondered where she was, remembering an outdoor shower in Marrakech, where she had spent some happy times with Alex in years gone by.

“Where am I?  What the hell…Oh my God, I’m bleeding and my head, oh my head…”

She pulled her thoughts together and sat up painfully.  Her leg hurt and the gash on the front shin, was quite deep and bleeding.  She grabbed a towel and started mopping.  There is no doubt that Althea collected enemies like some people collect stamps in the short time since September, when she first arrived at Primrose Primary School. Any one of these enemies could have been responsible for the attack.

As she sat in a wet, feeble heap with the large white towel against her wounds, her eyes scanned her large office.  She could see her desk and on it she could see the mail.  Amongst the mail was the dreaded result of the Ofsted Inspection, which had taken place at the beginning of January.  The Ofsted inspectors had descended upon the school like an unkindness of ravens and caused stress and distress in every classroom of the school.  Althea clawed herself up into a standing position and made her way over to the desk.  She felt quite fizzy and dizzy.

“I must get some clothes on; where is my underwear, where did I put it?”

Althea was confused.

“Where is my dress, ah, there it is.  I wish my leg would stop bleeding.  It’s turned the towel red…”

She rambled on, shivering from shock and cold.

“Someone hit me, who would do that? I haven’t got any enemies.”

But she had, lots of them.

When she was dressed, Althea sat in her chair at the desk and tried to restore her composure.  She routed through the aggression of post on the desk, looking for the envelope containing the inspection results.

“Have we passed the inspection?  What good would that be, now that Alex is dead?  We had such plans, such wonderful plans for our future and now, whether the school passes or fails, and there is no future for Alex, no future for me. How I am undone! Why did I let my temper get the better of me? Alex, forgive me, darling Alex, I didn’t mean to kill you. Please Alex, please, please.”

Althea started sobbing. Tears washed through her fingers as finally, the enormity of the situation she found herself in, crashed into her thoughts.

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The letter was at the bottom of the pile of mail. Althea picked it up but as she did so she felt her consciousness slipping before she could open it.  She slithered to the floor and lay still.  By the time she was found, the parents and protestors had all departed from the school field leaving a mountain of litter behind them.

The dignitaries had gone home and peace reigned once more at Primrose Primary School, or did it?  Hardly!  It was Mrs. Wales, the General Assistant, who discovered Althea in her office.

“Ms Gardner, the field is clear… oh hell, what has happened in here? Althea, what’s wrong?”

Mrs. Wales rushed across to the prone body of Althea Gardner and saw the blood on her head and her leg.  She was horrified.  It was obvious that Althea had been attacked.

“Somebody has hit her but who and what with?”

She looked around the room and saw the statuette lying on the floor by the shower cubicle.

“Better not touch it,” she thought.

She telephoned for an ambulance because she didn’t like the look of the Head Teacher.  She was concussed and needed expert attention.  Mrs. Wales stayed with her until the ambulance came and then accompanied her in the ambulance to the Accident and Emergency Department of Langwitch General Hospital.

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The protest was over. Parents and protestors, campaigning to prevent the school field being sold off by the council, returned to their homes.

Mrs. Manipulator, the full time secretary, picked up the letters on Ms. Gardner’ desk and opened them.  She opened the letter with the Ofsted crest on it and spread out the report on the desk.  She scanned it quickly and said:

“Oh, oh, oh!”

She ran down the corridor to find Mrs. Phillips, the Deputy Headteacher.

“Mrs. Phillips, Mrs. Phillips, it’s arrived, it’s here, the results.”

Her high-heeled shoes clip clopped on the highly polished floor of the school corridor as she ran to deliver the important letter.

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Comment: So what will the letter say? Will the school pass it’s Ofsted Inspection? What do you think? and has Ms Gardner, the Headteacher got her comeuppence at last?

As in life, not everything is that simple, is it! Not every murderer is caught and sometimes one murder creates the perfect conditions for another.

Bertie’s House


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Some of you will have noticed the above picture on my sidebar. It concerns my book ‘Bertie’s House‘, which I wrote under the pseudonym Amanda Marigold.

If you click the link, it will take you to the Amazon store where you can buy the book.

I started writing ‘Bertie’s House’ when I kept a rabbit called Bertie. The book concerns the adventures which Bertie has along with his other animal friends who live in the same street.

Here’s an excerpt:

Chapter One

A very private person

Once upon a sunny day Bertie sat in his house and surveyed the world around him.  He was on his own as usual, but it had its compensations.  There was nobody to argue with and nobody to tell him what to do and, if he felt like it, he could close his eyes and have a little sleep and nobody would complain.  The housework could wait.  It was much too nice a day to worry about cleaning and who was there to care whether he changed his bed or not?

Belinda was playing in the street.  Despite the weather, she was dressed in her black coat with a fur collar.  She ran in and out of the bushes chasing shadows and playing hide and seek with the sun.  Perhaps she would soon have a snack and then play some more but before she could make up her mind, something dramatic happened…

A fluffy white cloud suddenly turned black and it started to rain.

Belinda didn’t like getting wet so she ran across the road to Bertie’s house and hid inside his shed.  From the doorway she could see how comfortable Bertie was, but she knew she could not get inside his house because the door was locked.  Bertie’s door was only opened once a day and that was in the early morning.  He was a very private person.’

This is a children’s book, but it works for adults too, just so long as you enjoy the simple things in life.

I hope you buy it and enjoy it and if you do, I wouldn’t mind some more reviews on it?

Oma

The Jug


Once upon a time there was a little old woman, who lived in a cottage at the side of a wood. The country she lived in was far away on the other side of the rainbow. All the houses there were crooked. They had crooked chimneys and crooked walls and crooked doors. The doors were there to shut some people in and other people out and to hide secrets.

In her cottage, the little old woman kept a ginger cat and a deaf, black dog for company. She was getting even older than old and very frail. She was so old that she was nearly dead, but not quite. She still had a sparkle in her eye. You could see the sparkle if you looked really closely at her. It twinkled when she saw children or the berries on the blackberry bush.

In her front room, a sunbeam shone through the windowpane and illuminated a large jug on the mantelpiece. It was the only thing in the cottage which was not crooked. On the side of it were an elephant and a camel. The elephant’s nose was holding on to the camel’s tail and the camel held the tip of the elephant’s tail in its mouth.

“Phew, it is hot when the sun shines on my back,” said the elephant.

“Well, move round a bit!” said the camel.

“You know very well that I can’t,” replied the elephant.

“It’s all right for you. I’m always in the shade,” the camel said.

“You wouldn’t like it if you had the sun burning your bottom all morning.”

“I love the sun. I am meant to be in the sun all day,” boasted the camel. “Stop moaning. Anyway, what do you mean you are meant to be in the sun all day? I am supposed to be in the desert, where the sun shines all day and it is very hot, but I’ve never been there. I can only dream of it.”

“I’m supposed to be on the plains of Africa, not standing on this jug all day and night,” lamented the elephant. If you could have one wish, what would it be?”

The beautiful camel smiled to herself on the other side of the jug.

“It would be nice to see your dear face at last, my friend. After all these years of loving you, I’ve never once seen your face.”

“You haven’t missed much. It is a huge, ugly face and I have a long nose like a staircase. If I could only see your face, I too would be a happy elephant.”

The old woman had three sons, who came to visit her as often as they could, which wasn’t very often. When they came she wore her best clothes and washed herself until she was squeaky-clean because she didn’t want them to think that she couldn’t look after herself properly. If they thought that, the decision may have to be made to put her in a home for elderly people. The last time the sons came to see her, the subject had come up in the conversation and the eldest one, Michael, had told her: –

“The time for you to consider going in to a home is when you think you are ready or when you can no longer dust that old jug up there on the mantelpiece by yourself. Whichever comes first? That will be the time.”

The large wooden clock on the shelf ticked loudly – tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

“And that’s another thing,” complained the camel. “I’m fed up with that clock chiming every fifteen minutes. It hurts my ears. They are delicate, my ears are, and they can’t stand that noise. It goes right through me.”

“Well, what do you want me to do about it? The noise hurts my ears much more than yours.”

“And why would that be?”

“Because my ears are very, very big.”

“Oh, you’re boasting again, aren’t you? Everything you’ve got is bigger than mine, you keep saying. Anyway my friend, you haven’t got humps like me.”

“Humps, what humps? You have the humps a lot of the time and that’s because you can’t get off the shelf.”

“No, I mean real humps. I have real humps for storing water. They sit on my back like two hills.”

“Ha, ha, ha. That’s a real joke. You have a vivid imagination.”

“And so have you – a nose as long as a staircase, whatever next!”

The old lady loved chocolates. She especially liked the sort of chocolates, which contained raspberry cream or liquid toffee. Her false teeth would nip into the crisp outer coating of the chocolate and open it up, allowing the liquid centre to flow out over her tongue, covering all her taste buds with happiness.

It was ten o’clock in the morning and the doorbell was ringing.

‘I’d better go and answer it,’ she thought. ‘It might be the laundryman.’

It wasn’t the laundryman. He was delayed in an apricot traffic jam. On the doorstep stood a couple of well-dressed young men wearing suits and looking very smart. The old lady looked through the spy hole in her front door and saw the young men.

‘Looks like church workers,’ she thought.

Carefully she lifted the chain and opened the door a little. One of the well-dressed young men stepped forward and smiled.

“Good morning. Sorry to trouble you. We’re looking for Betty. Is this her house?”

“No, it isn’t, I’m afraid.” The old lady stepped out of her cottage and slowly walked down the path to the gate leaning on the arm of one of the young men.

“That’s where Betty lives,” she said and pointed down the road. “Just there, three cottages down. Can you see? It’s the one with the green door.”

What she hadn’t realised was that, while she was talking to one of the young men, the other one was inside her cottage, helping himself to her best handbag and all of its contents. When she came back indoors, she realised she had been tricked. Her best handbag had gone and with it a great deal of money, which she had been putting aside to buy some Christmas presents.

‘I’ll make myself a cup of tea,’ she said to the dog in a trembly voice but he didn’t hear her because he was old and deaf. He slept on in his basket, dreaming of when he was younger, chasing rabbits over the hills. ‘Yes, that’s what I’ll do. A nice cup of tea will calm my nerves.’

She tottered into the kitchenette and took down the old tin where she kept the loose tea. As she tried to lift off the lid, her hands began to shake. She put two spoons of tea in her little teapot and flicked the switch on the kettle but she had forgotten to fill it up with water and after a little while it went “bang” and blew up.

The little old woman sat down in her chair and a big teardrop rolled down her papery cheek. She wiped it away with a pretty white handkerchief, which smelled of lilies of the valley. On the table beside her chair was a little photograph frame containing a picture of her husband who had died many years ago. He smiled at her through the glass, which protected his face.

The elephant from his position on the mantelpiece watched all these events.

“That’s not fair, is it?” he said to his friend the camel. “She didn’t deserve that.”

“No, it most certainly is not,” replied the camel.

The wind rustled in the plane tree, which towered over the cottage. The sun came out from behind a cloud and shone through the window, illuminating the dust on the shelf.

‘I’ll get the duster,’ said the little old woman. With the duster in her right hand, she reached up to dust the shelf but her hand was trembling so much that she knocked the jug right over. It rocked and spun and then “crash”. It fell to the floor and broke in two!

Now, at last, the two companions could look each other in the eye.

“You are very handsome,” remarked the camel.

“And you are very pretty,” replied the elephant.

“All these years I have longed to see your face and imagined in my mind what you may look like and you don’t look a bit like I thought you would.”

The elephant regarded the camel’s large eyes with her long eyelashes, designed to keep the sand out of her eyes in a sandstorm. The camel noticed the elephant’s enormous grey ears, which were designed to flap and keep the elephant cool on the plains of Africa.

“What will become of us now, do you think?”

The old woman stooped down and picked up the two pieces of the jug and set them side by side on the shelf so they could look each other in the eye.

‘I’ll explain that the cat did it,’ she decided, ‘otherwise they’ll put me in that old people’s home, saying I can’t cope. I won’t mention the burglary either because that will go against me.’

When her son came to see her at the end of the week, he noticed the broken jug on the shelf.

“Mum, I’ve been thinking,’ he started.

“It’s all right, son. I know what you’re going to say. I’m ready to go. You make the arrangements.”

“No, what I was going to say was…Pam and I have been talking and we’ve decided between us that we can’t live another day without that jug over there. We’ve always admired it and now we want to own it ourselves and, of course, you’ll have to come with it when we move it to our own crooked house on the plains in Africa, because it will need dusting every day to keep it bright.”

The old woman smiled a smile, which reached right across her face and the crooked, broken jug on the shelf shimmered in the sunshine.

This story was written by Oma, writing as Amanda Marigold

By Amanda Marigold

All Rights Reserved

Amanda Marigold reserves the right to be named as the author of this work under the Copyright, Designs & Patent Act 1988.

Copyright November 2010.

Bertie Saves The Day


Let’s all snuggle round the fire on this dark November evening and Oma will read you a story.  Wait a minute, let me give the coals a poke and release some more heat.  That’s better.  Now, are you sitting comfortably? Then I shall begin.

This is the latest in my stories about Bertie, the wise rabbit. In this story Bertie goes shopping for bananas, but when he gets to the supermarket he finds he doesn’t have his purse with him. ..

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Bertie Saves the Day

The animals in Hardwick Grove have always been the first priority to Mr. and Mrs. James who live at no. 38.  Recently things had changed.  There was a new person to take care of:  a small boy called Dylan, their grandson.  He referred to them as Granddad and Oma and he went to stay with them every Friday.  He was two years old at the time of this story.

Dylan loved bananas.  He knew that if he was a good boy, he would get a banana but today there was only one banana in the dish on the table.  Standing on tip-toe, he could just see into the fruit bowl.  Gripping the side of the table and standing on his tip-toes, he could see the stalk of the banana pointing upwards at the figure of The Green Man, which was hanging on the wall.  The Green Man smiled down at Dylan.  He could foresee the future and often gave a hint of what was to come by changing his expression.  Today he was looking benevolent.

When Granddad had finished his crossword puzzle and Dylan was finished playing with his circus train, Granddad stood up, stretched and asked Dylan the question he was waiting to hear.

‘Would you like a banana, Dylan?’

‘Eh!’ replied Dylan.  He couldn’t quite manage ‘yes’.

‘O.k., let’s see if there are any in the fruit bowl.’

Dylan ran and Granddad walked to the table in the dining room where Oma’s large, wooden fruit bowl stood.  Dylan jumped up and down in anticipation.

Picking up the banana Granddad unzipped it for his grandson.  He was just about to give it to him when the main part of it snapped off and fell to the floor right in front of Pippa, the one-eyed dog, who snaffled it immediately and then looked incredibly guilty.

Dylan went quiet.  Then when he realised what had happened, his eyes screwed up and tears began to spring forth alarmingly.  He found his voice and started to howl, at which point Pippa slunk away and hid under the sideboard.

Sitting in his house in the garden, Bertie, the wise rabbit, heard the commotion and decided to investigate.  He pushed up the top of his run with his nose and hopped up the garden path and in through the kitchen door.  Mrs. James was standing at the kitchen sink, wearing her best floral apron and washing some tasty-looking cabbage for lunch.

Bertie, being a magical rabbit; a tribute given to him by a recent visit from the fairy queen, was able to stand tall and wear clothes like the people who lived in the house.  He could also talk to the humans just as if he was one himself; although this was all temporary.

‘What’s all the commotion?’ asked Bertie of Mrs. James, who wiped her hands on her apron and turned to go into the living room.

Bertie soon understood what was wrong and kindly offered to go to Sainsbury’s and buy a new bunch of bananas.

‘That’s very kind of you Bertie!’ said Mr. and Mrs. James in unison.

Mr. James opened his wallet and found some money to give to Bertie.

‘Here, take my little purse,’ said Mrs. James, helpfully. She gave Bertie the little purse, which was sparkling with sequins all over it.  It really was very pretty.

Dylan had stopped howling and stared in amazement at Bertie, the wise rabbit, who stood in front of him resplendent in a beautiful brown tweed waistcoat and a pair of corduroy trousers to match.  Dylan had never seen such a big rabbit before even at the zoo where some of the animals were as big as a house and others had necks so long they could reach up to the clouds.

‘Off you go Bertie, don’t lose the purse.  I’m very fond of it.’

‘No, of course not,’ said Bertie, puffing himself up with importance as he hopped away out of the front door and up the street.

A few curtains twitched as Bertie passed by, but nobody came out of their house to stare.

When Bertie got to Sainsbury’s he soon found the bananas.  They were on a stand near the door all bright and shiny yellow.  He chose a nice big bunch and put them in his basket.  Then he got distracted.  He could smell carrots and sure enough there they were, lots of them on another stand nearby, all red and appetising.  Bertie’s tummy began to growl.

‘Perhaps I’ll just stop here and eat a few carrots to keep me going.’ He thought, but before he could indulge himself, a store detective came across and tapped him on the shoulder.

‘Don’t even think about it, sonny,’ said the man, looking fierce.

Bertie was not a young rabbit, but the man couldn’t see that.  To him a rabbit was a rabbit and it ought to be back in its hutch or better still out in the fields somewhere.  Bertie took the basket to the check-out, but when he got there he couldn’t find the purse.  He hunted through all his pockets, there were six in all, but there was no sign of it.

‘Is there a problem, sir?’ asked the girl at the till, looking bored.

‘No, no problem,’ said Bertie, but my purse is lost, that’s all.

‘No money, no bananas, sir’ said the girl.

‘Yes, yes, I know’ Bertie answered the girl impatiently.

Then he said, ‘one moment, please keep the bananas, I’ll be back in a minute.’

He had seen a way out of his current dilemma and he didn’t want to miss the opportunity.

Two little old ladies were pushing their shopping carts over to the doorway.  Neither of them looked as if they could lift anything more than a feather hat.

Quick as a flash, Bertie was by their side and offering to help them take the shopping to the car, better still lift it into the boot for them.

The old ladies looked at Bertie and then at each other.

‘Do you see what I see?’ said Olivia to Amy.  ‘Is that a life-sized rabbit or are my eyes deceiving me?

‘Amy adjusted her glasses on her nose.’

‘It’s a rabbit,’ she replied, ‘and it’s talking.

Bertie followed the ladies out to their car and helped them to pack their purchases in the boot.

Afterwards one of the ladies gave Bertie a tip.  He put it carefully in his pocket where the purse should have been.

Bertie was a wise rabbit and this had been a good idea.  He pursued it until he had enough money to pay for the bananas and then he went back into the store and paid the check-out girl.

‘Found it then, did you?’ she smiled.

‘Not exactly, no,’ he answered, but I found a way around it.

With the bananas safely in a bag, Bertie left the shop and made his way home to Hardwick Grove.  On his way up the hill he had to pass a number of pyracantha bushes with their berries all shiny and red to tempt the birds.  Something else was hanging in the branches of one of them, something with sequins all over it, something that looked like Mrs. James’s purse.

‘It is Mrs. James’s purse,’ exclaimed Bertie, ‘but I can’t reach it.  I need a stick.’

He looked around for a stick but he couldn’t see one anywhere. Then he saw a dog carrying a stick across the playing field back to its master.

‘I know,’ said Bertie, ‘I’ll throw a banana.  The dog will chase after it, dropping the stick for me to pick up.  He pulled a banana off the bunch and put the rest of them under the bush till he came back.  Then he waited till the dog was looking in his direction, taking care that the dog didn’t see him. He didn’t want the dog to chase him or bite him! He threw the banana as far as he could across the field.  The dog chased after it.  Bertie came out of hiding and ran fast across the field to pick up the stick.

When he got back to the safety of the bush, the dog was back with his master.  He dropped the banana at his master’s feet and was looking around for his lost stick.

Bertie was out of breath.

He poked the stick into the bush until he freed the purse and then put the purse back safely into his pocket.

‘Now to get these bananas back to Dylan.’

He bounded along, swinging the bananas round in circles inside their Sainsbury’s bag, until found the sign for Hardwick Grove came into view.

‘This is it.’ He smiled.

When he got in, he looked around.  The people were all in the back room, watching television.  Bertie emptied the contents of the purse into Dylan’s piggy bank and then took the bananas into the back room and gave them to Mrs. James.

‘Thank you Bertie.  You are a good rabbit.  You’ve saved the day.’

Bertie says ‘Always keep your valuables in a safe place.’