Friends

22 April 2018

IT IS HARD BEING A TOY ... a tale for kids


                                     
LIFE OUTSIDE THE TOY BOX

Once a dog’s best friend, always a dog’s best friend, or so I thought. But after he’d gone I was relegated to a keepsake box with all the other toys he used to play with. By he, I mean, Oscar the Labrador, who died two years back.

It was overcrowded in the box but I stuck it out in the hope that humans would get another dog for me to play with. The other toys were useless; they didn’t seem to have any ambition at all. Tortoise ignored everybody, just sat there staring into space, Cat thought of nothing else but keeping her whiskers straight, and Elephant without a trunk was as silent as the grave. Lion’s roar was quite scary but it disappeared on the second day Oscar had him. The squashy building blocks were the only toys with any life in them. Someone only had to brush against the box and the blocks would tumble about, ringing their tinkly bells as they fell against each other.

The thought of hanging around, doing nothing for evermore was depressing. I had a deep think about it, wondering how I could escape, and then I noticed an old pal propped up in the corner: the White Fairy. She’d been a pretty fairy in her day but was now a bit fragile looking, her white dress was grubby and torn, and the star on her wand a bit tarnished.

Fairy hadn’t really been a dog toy; little Gemma had put her in the box when she started school and never came back for her. We never found out why she was left there permanently. It was reputed that Fairy’s wand was magical, she only had to wave it and wishes came true. I wondered if she could transport me to a new life.

After a long middle of the night discussion, Fairy agreed to help. She wanted a clear day to get her wand up to scratch so we agreed to wait until the following night before she put a spell on me. I didn’t know if I would be able to wait that long but she pointed out that one more day wouldn’t hurt. It was important to wait, she said, because she hadn’t used her wand for such a long time and it could be a bit rusty.

The call came at midnight. I was excited as well as nervous; my mind seemed to be turning somersaults. The good news was that she thought the spell would work; the bad news was that she didn’t know for how long. That was a downer but it didn’t put me off ... any time away from the toy box would be fine by me.  

oOo

It only took one wave of the magic wand to put life in my limbs. I felt it surging in, a real prickly sensation. And then I discovered that I could move totally unaided.

‘Go, Tigger,’ she said, ‘and good luck.’

After thanking her, I climbed out. I didn’t stand on ceremony, I just went.

oOo

It was easy. Having rope knots and tassels at the end of my legs enabled me to scale the high side like a mountaineer.  When I reached the top I looked back at the other well-chewed toys, taking pity on them for being so lethargic. I wanted to shout get a life but resisted the temptation. I wanted to escape, not offend.

The first thing I did was shuffle towards the door... shuffling was necessary until my legs were stronger.  It was there I hit the first snag. How did I open a door? I looked round, taking in a number of stacked chairs and some fold-up tables propped against the side. There was a window high up, too high to see through. I thought about jumping from a chair, onto the door knob and swinging until it turned; I only thought about it, the sheer height made me feel dizzy. Then I noticed a gap at the bottom of the door. Was it large enough to crawl under? I racked my small brain trying to remember what was on the other side. And then it dawned on me, the door opened onto the garden.

I was inspired. Fancy remembering that after two years! In all that time I never realised we toys were kept in the garden shed.

Flattening my body on the cold floor, legs awkwardly splayed, I peered through the gap and proceeded to work out the best way to squeeze through. Did I put legs first, or last? Did I shuffle on my belly or my back? I tried the latter. It didn’t work. I tried lying on my tummy and inching my way underneath. It was tiring. While I rested, I explored with one of my front legs and found that the leg went all the way through the gap. But how would I get the rest of my body to follow? I sat and pondered, saw the first hint of daylight through the window. It was then I heard a noise.

Someone was coming.

 Oh no, please don’t throw me back in the toy box!

I needn’t have worried. In fact, I was now in a position to cheer when a man entered the shed and left the door open. I was free. No more dark days in that musty smelling box. No more irritations with the noisy blocks. No more wondering what life had to offer.

oOo

I explored, remembering the places Oscar used to take me, and the one time he tried to bury me in the soil. He got into trouble over that. I wasn’t too happy either, especially having to be washed afterwards. I’ll swear my colours faded that day.

It was getting quite warm so I rested on the grass. The smell was intoxicating after my incarceration in the dusty shed. I dozed for a while, dreaming of my impending adventure, half wishing Oscar was still around to carry me. In the distance I heard a grinding noise but ignored it until it started to get closer. The noise was awful. I tried to block my ears but the tassels on my legs wouldn’t stay still. Then I saw it, the man who had entered the shed was chasing a green Monster up the lawn. Coming closer. I feared for my safety. What if Monster didn’t see me in time to stop?

I wriggled nearer to the path.

Monster’s roar was scary, he charged up the lawn, chewing grass and spitting it out like a shower. He was getting nearer by the second, dragging the man behind him. And then something else happened, a woman came out waving what looked like huge scissors. I dived under a bush in the hope of finding a safe hiding place.

‘It’s no good trying to hide!’

I peered round a stalk and saw the Frog.

‘Monster will find you wherever you hide. Take my advice, scarper while you’ve got the chance.’ 

Since my funny legs don’t let me move at speed, I took Frog’s advice and shuffled away.

oOo

I heard the roar of traffic before I hit the road; it was scarier than the noise Monster made. There were cars everywhere, moving at great speed, flashing lights and hooting as they whizzed by. I’d been in a car before but only when Oscar was taken for a ride. I’m sure it wasn’t as noisy as this lot. I was crouched by the kerb, wondering what to do, when a small boy tried to pick me up. A woman pulled him away, saying something about germs. She went to kick me into the gutter but at that moment one of the cars pulled up and called her in. Suddenly longing for the quietness of the toy box, I turned back the way I had come, back to the grass lawn.

Frog was where I had left him. He whispered ‘Beware’ just before a human hand grabbed me, lifting me high in the air. And then I was flying, up, and then down onto a smelly heap of garden rubbish.  I felt indignant. It was no way to treat one of Oscar’s favourite toys.

‘You’d better get back where you came from,’ croaked Frog. ‘He’s put you on the compost heap.’

‘Compost?’

‘That’s where things are left to rot, and when they’re rotted enough they get spread on the ground. Helps things grow.’

This was disturbing news. It obviously wasn’t the world I thought it was. Surely when Oscar was alive there were only nice things around. No such thing as compost heaps then.

‘Here, jump on my back and I’ll give you a lift. Where would you like to go?’

Well, I thought, if this is freedom I don’t want any of it. ‘I think I’ll go back to the safety of the toy box.’

Thanking Frog, I slithered past some slimy green stuff until I reached the ground. Frog crouched while I lay on his back, then hopped up the path towards the garden shed. Monster was still on the lawn, quiet now, and the man nowhere to be seen. The shed door was still open so Frog took me right up to the toy box. As he nudged me off his back I fell against the side and straight away the blocks set up a chorus. I guess they were pleased I was back.

It only took a minute to climb back in and take my place amongst the toys and I vowed never to be so silly again. 

20 April 2018

ODD JOBS

Isn’t it strange how everything packs up together. Not long after getting the water problem solved and the locks fixed the electric lights started to go. Mostly bulbs in indoor light fittings, which I could replace, but then the outside lights decided to follow suit. This, of course, was a very different matter – or so I thought. It was Mr K, the gas man, who saved the day. He had given me a list of phone numbers – a gardener, an electrician, and more. So I put it to the test and rang the electrician. 

Outside lights are impossible for me to get at… far too high. Not that I could do anything even if I could reach so I searched for the list of numbers and made a call. Electrician came within hours, replaced the remote sensor and changed the bulb in the lantern. 

The bill was nothing like I expected…. ridiculously cheap!

Next breakdown came just a few days after the electrician finished his work. This time it was the gas fire in the lounge. The fire is fine, but the frontage collapsed. Scared me when I heard the noise and I went into a blind panic when I thought the actual fire had gone. Well, it was/is several degrees below zero and to lose anything that heats the house is the worst calamity I can think of right now.

What to do? That was a question aired to the girls next door (girls meaning two ladies (sisters) who are a lot younger than me). One of the girls was at work but the other one stays home and does the housework. I guess she’s older and retired!! I don’t know her age but if she had finished work she could be at least twenty years younger than me. Still a youngster! Whoops, getting away from the point. Of course, she commiserated which was all I expected but surprise, surprise, she sent a text to say that when her sister came home they would come round to see if they could sort out my fire.

As promised the girls came to see if they could sort it. They could. The younger girl/lady got stuck in straight away, handling the job as if it was what she did for a living. First she dismantled the fire and then proceeded to return the parts to where they should be. Voile! All fixed. Gosh, it took me back to the days when I could do things like that. 

Next thing to break down was the TV, which led to a major upset. The 'box' was replaced which was vastly different to the one now defunct. Programmes were all over the place. Everything I wanted to watch was topsy-turvy, flashed when it shouldn’t, and died when it shouldn’t. Another job for experts; I really can’t see the girls scaling the aerial to put things right!

So that job was done and I started to learn how to switch on the TV…. Okay I hear the gasp of surprise, but it wasn’t easy. You see, I now have two remote controls, one that has to be operated via two buttons, a green and a white, and then I have to switch to the other remote to organise the programmes. With my brain being addled I got in a right mess and had to call the guy out again. 

Next, the gas boiler that heats the water decided it wasn’t going to play any more. Now I ask you, is it me or are the house spirits ganging up? The problem was the fan, which has since been replaced by two new-to-me gas experts. Mr K, my original expert, seems to have gone out of business. Age, you know! Anyway, I was without central heating for two weeks while the new guys waited for the fan to arrive; thankfully I had stocked up with mobile electric radiators as a just-in-case. Of course, it had to happen in the coldest weather conditions the UK has known for several years. 

It's gone quiet now.... how scary is that?

15 April 2018

BREAD AND BUTTER (A TRUE STORY)


I hate buttering bread. Don’t misunderstand me, I do a good job of spreading the creamy goodness over a thick slice of wholemeal, making sure I hit the crusts as I wield the knife from beginning to end, corner to corner both ways. But it wasn’t always like that.

In the dim and distant past, when I was just a kid attending an event that has long since left the memory, except for one thing ... as follows:

I recall being asked to help butter a ton of white bread. I think the occasion must have been a sporting one because the food preparation was done in a wooden shed, in a field, with a hatch through which food was served.

You know what it’s like on a hot day; food has to be kept cool. But this was ridiculous. The butter placed before me was so cool it was rock hard. However, the bread was doughy soft and gorgeous and I recall sneaking a few bits when no-one was looking. I always pinched a bit off the loaf when my Mom sent me shopping and every time I swore it was like that when I bought it.

After introducing me to another helper, a middle-aged woman who was adept at slicing bread, the person in charge presented me with a knife and told me to butter the slices as they were cut.

My companion’s name was Marge. Honest to God! Would I lie? May I drop dead while telling this tale if it’s not true. Her name was Marge, short for Marjory! She had yellow hair. Not the yellow of sunshine and buttercups but the yellow that’s really grey hair coated with nicotine. With fingers to match!

Marge was a fast worker, obviously well skilled for the job in hand. The speed with which she manipulated the bread knife would have won medals if there was such an event at the Olympics. But her speed wasn’t something I cared for since the heaps of sliced bread were growing too fast and too high. They looked positively daunting.

After a few sarcastic remarks about my slowness, likening it to a severe case of apathy, I set to work. I’d show her, I thought, as I grabbed the first slice and aimed the knife at the butter.

Did I say it was rock hard? Frozen solid would be a better description. The knife made no impression at all. I tried stabbing but that only made it skid off the plate. Several more attempts were made, all proving useless, but at least the butter stayed in one place. Marge said I needed a knife with a serrated edge but the shed was very limited in its content so I had to put up with the ordinary bone handled blunt bladed implement I’d been given to perform this important and now rather urgent task.

Minutes later, having managed to get some butter on the knife, I proceeded to spread it on the bread. Only it wouldn’t … spread, that is! Instead, it dug in and dragged the bread away from its crust. I tried pushing it back down but it was no good, the butter and bread were fused together.

Discarded that slice and selected another.

Same thing happened.

Marge said it would have been better to give us older bread but she didn’t think the punters would like it when they’d paid for fresh.

I persevered for a while but eventually I had no choice but to appeal for help. By this time Marge was so engrossed in her carving, going so fast she must have been in a race, that she didn’t hear the desperation in my voice.

Outside the door the organisers began to scream the urgency of getting ready for the fray, whatever that was.

I began to sweat.

So far I’d done nothing. Several crumbly bits of bread laden with hard lumps of butter was all I had to show for my efforts.

My nerves were in shreds. You have no idea how awful I felt.

I sweated some more, wondering what on earth I should do.

When suddenly …..

An angel appeared. This one really did have yellow hair … blonde yellow. She smiled at me, her pink lips and blue eyes seemed to radiate calm. Her name was Liz, but I prefer to think of her as Angelina. I loved her, I really did.

She surveyed the scene and set to work. First she fetched a small bowl of hot water, then she put the butter in a bowl, held it up to the hatch, in direct sunlight, and began to mash with a fork. In what seemed no time at all she was buttering bread while I watched in amazement. She asked me (note: asked, not told) to try again. I took the knife from her slender fingers and successfully buttered my first slice of bread.

‘Practice makes perfect,’ she said.

The look she gave me was so kind I fell under her spell, resolving to get through the rest of the loaf in double quick time.

Of course, I didn’t! My small hands wouldn’t work efficiently or fast. Marge said I was too young and too green, although I couldn’t imagine what she meant by ‘green’. I remember feeling very ashamed though, and even now I remember the incident as clearly as if it was yesterday. Yes, to this day, even with the soft spreads now available, I hate buttering bread.. Don’t misunderstand me, I do a good job of spreading the creamy goodness over a thick slice of wholemeal, making sure I hit the crusts as I wield the knife from beginning to end, corner to corner both ways. But it wasn’t always like that.

12 April 2018

VISITING STRANGER


Cat meets cat – in slow motion

There have been three strangers in the garden, never seen before but they must come from local homes. The first one came and went in a single move but the next one was more interesting.

He was a black and white moggy who looked as if he cold turn nasty. The first I saw of him was in a confrontation (I think) with my Charlie. It was fascinating to see.

Normally Charlie would chase off strange cats but this time the cats faced each other, standing about two feet apart. They looked like statues but then I noticed a slight movement. Charlie was moving a paw ever so slowly, bit at a time, almost as though he was trying not to show the move. I stood with binoculars, watching the slow-motion experience. The visiting cat didn’t move, well not that I could see.

I began to wish one of them would hurry up and make a proper move, at the same time worrying in case my Charlie got into a fight. The whole time Charlie’s slow-motion movement (almost invisible to the naked eye) continued, this time I noticed it was the other leg that was moving. Suddenly, black cat turned tail and walked off. Charlie didn’t follow, he just turned around and headed back to the house.  

That was then!

Yesterday the black cat was back. Nearer to the house so I didn’t need the binoculars. Charlie was crouching while the other cat did the slow-motion thing, I began to wish some rapid action would take place. After about 15 minutes, black cat very, very slowly turned – you could hardly see movement – and walked behind one of my bushes. Only then did Charlie make a move. Also very slowly he walked towards the bush, stopped, waited, then made his decision to return home. Obviously, the black cat had headed out of the garden, out of sight of Charlie and me. Only then did Charlie come into the house having decided the newcomer had gone for good. At least for now!

Since writing the above Charlie has been out in the garden a few times but only to see if Blackie was around. He comes in when there's no sign of the animal and spends a long time gazing out of the window. I think he really wants his friend to return. Aaaah! Maybe this is the start of a wonderful friendship.