July evening

Quarter past 9 at night.

In winter I would be inside,

Hiding in a blanket.

Curtains drawn against the dark.


But it is July.

I sit in the garden,

Watching the clouds turn from 

Pink to orange to peach.

I see bees still working,

While a noisy sparrow flies

Into its roof-nest.


The apples are changing

from green to rosy red.

Roses climb overhead.

Slugs grow fat on juicy grass,

And honeysuckle scent

Bathes in the warm air.

8 July 2021

Rainbow walk for Samuel’s Hospice

I had seen a few adverts for the ‘Rainbow run your own way’, to raise funds for Children’s Hospice South West – the group of hospices that Charlton Farm is part of here in South West England. Charlton Farm is where my son Samuel lived for most of his very short life. It is a wonderful place that cares for children with life-limiting illnesses, and their parents and siblings.

I ignored them at first, telling myself that it was too much effort, and I wouldn’t raise much money anyway… then I saw it advertised again and thought that I could easily walk for 5km, and would rope my kids, parents and in-laws in. I admit that I didn’t feel enthusiastic. I was struggling after Samuel’s second anniversary, and didn’t know if I would be up for any challenges.

To win a medal, you had to raise £15 person that you registered. I thought that I could probably give enough for myself and my two kids to do so. In the end, I signed up 6 of us to our family team.

I set up a Justgiving page, setting my target at £100. That was quite high, but I was trying to be optimistic. I met the £100 target within 24 hours! So I set the new target to £200. The money flooded in. 🙂

Alex Dixon is fundraising for Children’s Hospice South West (justgiving.com)

In the end, I made over £650 including gift aid. And I later found out that I was in JustGiving’s top 20% of fundraisers for the month of June. That’s out of thousands of different Justgiving pages.

I couldn’t believe how generous people are. I am so grateful for everyone who gave – including some people that I don’t know. I guess that it’s personal – people know that my family were helped by the hospice. And I obviously have lovely friends and family.

My team also won the prize for best fancy dress – if you know me well, you will have an idea of how happy that made me.

We did the 5km walk around Stanton Park, which is where Samuel’s memorial tree is. It’s a special place for our family. I thought that a team of 6 was pretty good to do the walk, but people kept asking to join us on the day. We had 23 people and 1 dog on the team. It was fabulous to feel so supported by my family and friends. It was such an enjoyable day, and the weather behaved. Not everyone knew each other before the walk, but they all got on well and it was a great atmosphere.

I am so glad that I decided to sign up for the rainbow run your way. I love Charlton Farm and their amazing staff- and hopefully they will be able to support families like mine for many more years.

May is a difficult month, with it being Samuel’s birthday and anniversary of his death – but this was something positive to focus on.

Thank you everyone who joined in and donated.

Grief never goes away,

never gets smaller.

You never get over it.

It’s not a hill.

Your life as one left behind
Goes on, yes.
Memories are made:
New ones
without your loved one.
Sometimes happy,
Sometimes sad,
Sometimes nothing.

It’s possible to have good days,
Smile,
Enjoy coffee.
It’s possible to keep going,
Be busy,
Be sociable.

But grief,
The price that we pay for love,
Never goes away.

Some people will get it,
Without you having to explain,
Many will understand
Without personal experience.
Others will seem to forget,
Or expect you to
Move on and stop making them uncomfortable.
Some will tell you about how
hard their petty problems are,
And you will try to
sympathise,
But the reality is that they have
no idea.

You will lose some friends
Because they can’t deal with your sorrow.
You will make some new friends
Who love you, scars and all.

We don’t wear all black
Or cry every day,
But still
We grieve.

Grief is not a hill to get over.

It’s a path that lasts a lifetime.

Sophie and the forest chapter 2

Chapter two: a storm and a squirrel


Sophie was on her way to visit her Gran who lived in the forest. A summer storm had sprung up and she was getting soaked. She met someone who offered to help her get shelter in an old house- it was a squirrel.

“You are not mad, silly human. I talk, so what? You got a problem with talking squirrels?” He asked, looking angry and holding tightly to the bag of peanuts.


“No… no, I don’t have a… problem with talking squirrels…am I still asleep? That’s what happened… I didn’t wake up earlier. I am having a lovely nap under that big tree, and the last hour or so has been a dream…” Sophie mumbled.


“You are awake. This is why I don’t talk to humans so often – they act all crazy like this. The last human that I spoke to jumped into a pond when I asked him for the weather forecast. Honestly, it’s like they think they are the only ones on the whole planet who can talk.” The squirrel grumbled.


“Oh, um, so I am awake, and this is real… and squirrels can talk English… sure, why not?”


“Ok, Mr Squirrel, so do you own this house? Because I am getting very wet, and I would like to get inside and have a lay down.”


“First, my name is not Mr Squirrel, is your name Miss Human? Huh? And secondly, no I do not own the house- you think banks give mortgages to wildlife now? Goodness me. But I can open the door for you, see? Then you can have a lay down on the sofa for as long as you like, ok?”


“Oh, ok. Sure, do you have the key?”


“Do I look like I have pockets?” He rolled his eyes. “No, but the door is on a latch, and I can sneak into that small gap in the door and unlatch it for you. Do you want me to, or do you want to spend the rest of the day chatting out here?”


“Y… yes please, do open the door… I would be most grateful.” Sophie swallowed nervously. She had never spoken to a squirrel before and wasn’t sure of the etiquette.


“Sure, no problem, Miss Human.”


The squirrel squeezed into a small hole at the bottom of the wooden door, and a few seconds later, it squeaked open on rusted hinges.


“Oh, thank you so much, here are your peanuts!”

Sophie ran into the old house, nearly soaked to the bone, but grateful to escape the storm.


“See you later then, human, and thanks for the nuts.”


The squirrel ran up a tree, bag of peanuts firmly clenched in his teeth.


Sophie sat down on the old leather sofa in a daze.
After a minute, she looked around. The house had obviously not been lived in for a long time: there were spiderwebs everywhere. The furniture was covered in dust. There was a small fireplace, and next to it, a book. Besides the sofa, there was a rough-looking table with two rickety chairs, and in the kitchen a stove that looked like it came out of the 19th century – a black one that needed a fire. Also, a table and a sink. A couple of plates and cups sat near the sink, as though someone had been doing the washing up before they decided to leave the house and never return. There were no electric lights – just a few candles dotted around the room. There was also another door that she assumed lead to a bedroom.


“Hmm, I wonder who owns this place,” she said to herself, “I think there is probably an interesting story here.”


Behind the door was a small bed. Underneath a grimy window, she could make out a wooden writing desk and chair. The desk had a pad of paper and a pencil. She read the paper – it said:


20 November
Difficult night. Getting low on firewood – going to have to cut down another tree soon. Don’t feel happy about leaving the clearing. It feels like I am being watched.


Oh dear, that didn’t sound good.


Sophie walked through the kitchen and opened the back door – it had a key still in the lock – and saw a small outhouse and a pile of firewood in the ‘back garden’ area. Another rumble of thunder, and two seconds later, a flash of lightning. The rain was barrelling down. It obviously used to be a clearing, but nature had encroached and there were thick brambles and weeds. The outhouse, Sophie knew from stories that her Gran told her about her childhood, was a small outdoor toilet. They were used before running water was installed, many years ago. The toilet didn’t flush – it was just a deep hole in the ground – a long-drop. Sophie thought that there must be a well nearby too, unless the owner used to visit the river for their water.


Sophie went back into the house. She snuggled up on the sofa, underneath a blanket that she found. She felt wiped out – as though she had been walking through the forest for days. After a rest and some food, Sophie managed to find a box of matches, and got a small fire going in the hearth. She took off her outer clothes and hung them up on the fireguard to dry off. While they were drying, she looked at the book.


“Carpentry for beginners. Sounds fascinating.”


Sophie wondered whether she should text her Mum to let her know that she wasn’t at Gran’s yet, and had got stuck in a storm, and that a talking squirrel had helped her get into a spooky old house…


“No, maybe not. I’ll text Mum when I actually get to Gran’s. That way she won’t worry.” She told herself.


After a while the storm moved on and the rain slowed to a drizzle.


She went back into the garden to look for the well – her water bottle was nearly empty. She spotted it in a tangle of brambles. How was she going to get to it without being scratched to shreds by the thorns? She looked around and found an axe near the firewood pile, as well as some wet gardening gloves. She put on the gloves, that were too big, and chopped at the brambles, trying to make a way to reach the well. Pouring with sweat, Sophie finally hit bricks. Thankfully, there was a bucket on a rope with which she could reach the water – she just hoped that it wasn’t full of mud. She drew up the water, and it wasn’t too bad, besides a few leaves and a water boatman, which she threw onto the grass. Remembering a survival show that she had watched once, she thought it would be better to boil the water before drinking it, so that she didn’t get a tummy bug.


She looked in the kitchen cupboards and found a battered pot, which she filled with the well water. She lit the kitchen stove and boiled the water. Once it had boiled, she let it cool a little before having a drink. By this time, she was very thirsty so gulped it down gladly. With the remaining water, she filled her bottle. She needed the toilet, so braved the outhouse. It was full of cobwebs.
I should probably get going now, she thought, Gran will be expecting me. Maybe I should write a quick note though.


Sophie went back to the bedroom and wrote on the paper that she had found.


I used your house today to escape from a storm and drew some water from your well. Thank you. I know that you weren’t here to ask, but I do appreciate it. I hope that you are ok.
Sophie (age 12)

Sophie felt her clothes – they were nearly dry, so got dressed and carefully put out the fires in the living room and stove. She didn’t want to accidently burn down the house. She saw that the rain had stopped, and the sun had come out.
She switched on her phone to check for any messages and took a photo of the living room, mostly to prove to herself that it hadn’t been a dream. She had a quick look at the map of the route to Gran’s house. She still seemed to be heading in the right direction. She tried to pick up a GPS signal to check her location, but it didn’t work, and her battery was now at only 3%. She switched the phone off again.


“Goodbye house,” she smiled as she left, pulling the front door shut behind her. She looked for the grumpy squirrel but couldn’t see him.


Sophie set off down the path, hopeful that there would be no more problems, or talking animals, on the way.


It was well into the afternoon now, and she was hoping that she would get to her Gran’s house before sunset. Her feet ached. She sat in the shade of a twisted tree which had the initials AH + JB scratched into its trunk. She wondered who those people were. After a few minutes, she got up and kept walking. Sophie started to worry that she might be lost – she had taken a path off the main track a while ago, thinking that it was a shortcut. Now she wasn’t sure.


“Stay calm, Sophie. Everything is ok. You have no reason to be scared. It’s just a forest. With talking squirrels.”


After a while, she passed an old tree – it seemed familiar. Was that… initials scratched into its bark? She looked closer. AH + JB! Oh no! She had been walking in circles! Sophie sat down. It was time to text Mum. She switched on her phone, planning to send a quick text. The phone lit up, asked for her password or thumbprint, and just as she pressed her thumb to the screen, the phone switched off. She tried again- as soon as she switched the phone on, it switched itself off again.

“Argh!”


Sophie put her head on her knees and sobbed.


“Are you ok?”


“Not really,” Sophie sniffed, looking up. “Oh wow, you’re a crow. A crow is talking to me. Why am I even surprised?”



That’s all for today. Join me soon for the next chapter. Have you ever met a talking bird?
For more literacy resources for families, go to www.SwindonStories.org.uk

Sophie and the forest

Chapter one

Once there was a girl called Sophie. She lived in town with her Mum. Her Mum was always busy at work. Her Grandmother was poorly so Sophie was going to visit her. Gran lived in an ancient cottage in the forest and didn’t have electricity. She only had a landline phone, not a mobile. She didn’t even have wi-fi.


Sophie’s mum was preparing food for Gran as she wasn’t well enough to cook for herself; and making sandwiches and packing snacks for Sophie’s journey.


“Now, you have the map to Gran’s cottage on your phone, don’t you?”
“Yes Mum, it’s all here. And I will have my GPS on, so I won’t get lost,” replied Sophie.


“That’s good. Have you packed your toothbrush?”
“Yes Mum.”


Sophie was going to stay the night at Gran’s house. It was a long walk, and it was the summer holidays.


“What about a cardigan? It can get chilly in the forest at night.” Said Mum, squeezing in a bag of crisps and some fruit.


The rucksack was so full that it would be difficult to close.


“Yes, it’s all there.”


“Text me when you get there, but I won’t be able to check my phone for a while.”


Mum zipped the bag closed with a sigh of relief, and picked up her thermos of coffee, heading out of the door, “I packed a first aid kit too. It’s got all sorts in there – you never can be too careful. Gran said that she is ok, just a cough and feeling run-down, but she isn’t one to moan. Right, I’m off to work a double shift. See you tomorrow evening.”


Mum gave Sophie a quick hug.


“See you later Mum, have a good time at work.”


Sometimes her Mum did double-shifts and spent the night at work. There was a small side room where she would catch a couple of hours’ sleep if she could.


Soon afterwards, Sophie set off for Gran’s cottage. She used her GPS and the map on her phone to help find her way there: she had walked there a couple of times with her Mum, but it was a long journey, so they usually drove a different way, missing out most of the forest.


It was hot, and Sophie had to stop a few times to rest in the shade of a tree for a drink. She sat under an old oak tree and rested her eyes for a minute- she wasn’t used to walking this far. Suddenly she jolted awake, and looked around, confused. She must have been asleep for a while- the sun was higher in the sky. She checked her phone before setting off.


“What, battery only 5% How did that happen?”


Oh no, the GPS had drained her battery, and she had forgotten to charge her phone the night before! She looked around – it was obvious that she had to go down that path, as she had definitely come from the other way. But would she really be able to find the rest of the way to Gran’s cottage herself? Sophie wasn’t sure, but as she had come so far already and had to get the food and medicine to Gran, she couldn’t go back home now.


Sophie looked around. The trees were huge here, and so close together. In the heat of the day, the birds were silent, and the silence felt oppressive. Almost like she was being watched. Sophie shook her head and told herself to stop being silly. She switched her phone off, to save the last few dregs of battery power.
She had been walking for a while, fairly confident that she was following the correct path, when it started to go dark. Oh no, not a storm? Luckily the trees would stop her from being drenched, but it wouldn’t be comfortable. She knew that there were a few old houses scattered around the forest but didn’t know if anyone was friendly or would take pity on her.

A crack of thunder made her jump in fright. She looked around for somewhere to shelter, perhaps a hole at the base of a tree. Not finding anywhere, Sophie decided to keep walking. Fat warm drops of rain started falling, and she moved to the shade of the trees to the side of the path. The sky got darker and the rain heavier. Sophie felt tired, wet and miserable.


Up ahead, she spotted a falling-down house in a clearing. Thank goodness! Hopefully the owner would let her inside until the storm ended. She knocked loudly on the door, but there was no answer. She peered through the grubby front windows: it was dark, but she could see an old sofa. Then she checked around the back, also knocking on that door and calling loudly. She tried both doors. The house seemed to be empty. How annoying!


She sighed and sat down at the front of the house, holding her backpack above her head to keep some of the rain off.
She looked up, glimpsing a movement in the bushes.


“Hello… my name is Sophie. I don’t want to cause any trouble. I just want to go into the house until the storm passes. Do you own the house?”
Silence.


“I have some food that I could share with you… a sandwich, or um, some grapes? Would you like some?”


No reply. Sophie thought that maybe her imagination was in overdrive, and she was talking to herself.


A quick flash of orange. Was the owner a hermit who never spoke to other people?


“Oh,” said Sophie, rooting through her backpack to find something to tempt the shy person, “I have a first-aid kit here, if you need a plaster or something? No? Oh, there are some peanuts here too… Gran loves peanuts… oh bother.”


Sophie sunk her head onto her knees and tried not to cry.


“I like peanuts.”


Sophie smiled to herself. She didn’t look up straight away, as she didn’t want to scare the hermit.


“Oh brilliant, thank you. If you let me shelter in your house, just while it’s raining, you can have all of the peanuts,” she replied.


“Ok, hand the bag over, and I will open up the house for you.”


Sophie looked up.


“Wait, where are you?” She looked around, confused. She was sure that they had been standing nearby, but now all that she could see besides trees and rain, was a squirrel – a red squirrel. They were quite rare.


“It’s ok, I will get the peanuts out of my bag now- so you can see I am not lying.”


Sophie took the nuts out and lay the bag at her feet.


“Ok, they are here for you to take – are you behind that chestnut tree? You can come out now.”


The squirrel darted forward and grabbed the nuts.


“Oh no, a squirrel has just nicked the bag of peanuts! I am so sorry; I will get them back… here squirrel squirrel…”


Sophie crawled forward slowly, trying to grab the snack before the animal ran into a tree.


“What, do you think I’m an idiot?” Asked the squirrel.


“What? Argh, a squirrel just spoke to me! I am going mad!” Sophie cried.


I hope that you are enjoying the story so far. Join me soon for the next chapter.


For more literacy resources for families, go to www.SwindonStories.org.uk

A video of me reading this chapter:

https://youtu.be/Hk7p64oOGxU

Garden birds facts for kids

Even during lockdown winter, you can look out for birds in your garden and local park.

If you have a garden, why not put down some seeds, fat balls or fruit, and see which birds visit? Make sure that they are bird safe and don’t have any added salt. For some healthy bird food ideas, go to https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/how-you-can-help-birds/feeding-birds/

When you spot a bird, you could draw a picture of it. If it was too far away, or you didn’t get a good look, ask your grown up to find a picture of the bird for you. Then you can take your time drawing a picture. Take note of the shape of their body, their beak and what colours they are.

You could also look up some interesting facts about the bird that you spotted.

You could find out:

What they eat (diet),

Who eats them (predators),

Where they usually live (habitat),

How many eggs they lay each year,

And their size.

Then you could write down the best facts on your drawing. Soon you will have a fact file of birds, to keep and show your teacher and friends one day. 🙂🐦

Two good websites for finding bird facts are https://www.rspb.org.uk/fun-and-learning/for-kids/facts-about-nature/

And https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/trees-woods-and-wildlife/animals/birds/

I have made some fact sheets about three birds that I saw in my garden: robin, blackbird and house sparrow.

What birds will you spot?

For more fun ideas on how to encourage your child to enjoy reading and writing, go to https://wordsforlife.org.uk/

Fluffy is kind

It was morning, and Autumn the fox and Fluffy the hedgehog were sitting at the kitchen table, doing homeschooling.

“I just want to go back to normal,” Autumn sighed, “I miss all of our friends at school.”

“I miss them too,” agreed Fluffy, “and Mrs Badger too.”

The friends were learning maths, and it was tricky. Mr Hedgehog was trying to teach them, but he was a firefighter not a teacher.

“Just write 8,” huffed Mr Hedgehog.

“But how did you get the answer 8?” asked Autumn.

“I can’t explain, but the answer is 8,” he sighed.

Mr Hedgehog was brave and kind and an excellent firefighter, but he did not like maths.

“Can we have a break please Daddy? My brain hurts,” asked Fluffy.

“No, you can’t. Finish your maths first,” replied Mr Hedgehog.

“But we don’t understand it!” said Autumn.

She burst into tears and ran to her bedroom. She hated homeschooling and she hated lockdown. She lay down on her bed and cried.

Mr Hedgehog was sad. He didn’t mean to upset Autumn.

“I will go and have a chat with Autumn,” he said to his son Fluffy, “I know that you are both struggling with being at home all of the time.”

“I have a better idea, who don’t you make us both a hot chocolate, and bring it upstairs in a few minutes? I am going to do something to cheer Autumn up,” said the little hedgehog.

“Ok, that sounds like a good plan.”

So Fluffy got out the things that he needed for the surprise for his friend.

After a few minutes, he was finished.

“Ok Dad, are the hot chocolates ready?” He asked.

“Yes,” replied Mr Hedgehog, “with extra marshmallows.”

The two hedgehogs walked up the stairs to Autumn’s bedroom. She was still on her bed.

“I am sorry that you are sad,” said Fluffy, sitting down on the bed with the gift, “I made you something to cheer you up.”

Autumn sat up, wiping the tears from her furry cheeks.

“You got me something?” She sniffed.

“Well, I made you something.” He handed the gift to Autumn.

Mr Hedgehog put the hot chocolates onto the bedside table.

“Thank you,” said Autumn.

Autumn looked at the gift that Fluffy had made her.

“It’s a drawing of us!” She laughed, “thank you Fluffy, it’s lovely.” She gave her friend a big hug.

“You’re welcome,” smiled Fluffy.

“Look, we are in the forest where we met the sleeping bear last year,” said Autumn.

Autumn felt happy that her friend Fluffy was so kind and had made her a gift. Fluffy felt pleased that he had cheered up his friend.

After their drinks, the friends went back downstairs to finish their maths. Mr Hedgehog showed them a video about the work that they were learning, which helped them to understand.

That evening they uploaded a photo of Fluffy’s drawing for Mrs Badger to see.

“Well done, you have been kind to your friend,” wrote Mrs Badger, “two house points to Fluffy.”

Fluffy felt proud of himself. It was good to be kind.

The End

Illustrations by Bethany, age 7.

We took part in the Big Garden Birdwatch

The RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch always takes place in January. It allows the RSPB to assess how wildlife is coping.

https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/everything-you-need-to-know-about-big-garden-birdwatch/

It’s Sunday afternoon, and Bethany and I are sitting in the gazebo in our garden, wrapped up in coats and blankets. We have coffee, hot chocolate and chocolate brownies to hand.


So far, we have only seen two seagulls flying overhead. We also heard a bird’s claws scrambling about on the gazebo roof, but we couldn’t see what it was. We heard a crow in a nearby garden earlier. It’s snowing lightly and very cold.


To stave off boredom, Bethany is now drawing a Robin in pencil in her drawing pad. I have drawn one too. We often get robins in our garden. But not so far today.

I put nuts and birdseed on the grass earlier. They aren’t tempting the birds to our garden yet.

It’s quiet, although we can hear birds calling. I don’t know if we will see any birds this hour. It’s snowing a little.

A flying insect passes nearby. I thought that it was too early in the year for them?

We are probably scaring the birds by being outside, but this is more fun than watching from the warm indoors. It feels like more of an adventure. My feet are getting cold.

A single starling flies past, twirling and showing off. It’s unusual to see one by itself: they are usually in flocks of 20 or more.

The snow is getting a bit heavier now.

There go some seagulls: 1, 2, 3.

I am enjoying sitting outside and looking and listening. It’s peaceful. A silent snowy Sunday afternoon.

We both eat a brownie.

There are some perfect snowdrops at the base of the apple tree. I notice that the apple tree has many buds, waiting patiently for spring.

Hooray! Bethany spots a male blackbird, who quickly flies into the garden and finds a snack near the bushes.

A little brown sparrow pauses for a second on the fence.

That’s it, our hour is up. We spotted only two birds, but had a peaceful time together in the garden watching the snow fall.

Autumn and Fluffy at home school

It was a grey and rainy day. Autumn watched the raindrops hitting the window. She sighed.

“Why does it have to rain so much?” She wondered aloud. “When can we go back to proper school?”

Autumn’s Mummy looked up from helping Fluffy with a maths question. 

“All the grass would turn brown if it didn’t rain,” she replied, “and wouldn’t that be sad?”

“Hmph.” Answered Autumn.

“And as for going back to proper school, I don’t know the answer to that… we will have to wait until it is safer, don’t you think?” Mummy said.

“But why isn’t it safe now? I miss my friends. I miss my school playground with the basketball net and forest school pond.” The young fox moaned.

“We all wish it were safe, don’t we Fluffy?” Asked Autumn’s Mummy.

“Yes. I miss school too. Although, I am glad that we live in the same house so that I can still play with you,” answered Fluffy. “Imagine if we lived apart? No friends to run around the garden with, or play games with then.”

“You’re right. I am glad that we live together too.” Autumn smiled for the first time that day.

“I still miss normal life though. School dinners were much tastier, you got lots of rice pudding for dessert…”

“Thanks a lot!” Laughed Mummy. 

“Sorry Mummy.” Said Autumn with a cheeky grin. 

“Oh, it’s time for your live English lesson soon.” Said Mummy. “I will just start up the laptop. Have you got your pencils and paper ready?” 

“Yes Mummy.”

“Yes Autumn’s Mummy.” 

The friends had some live lessons with their teacher on the computer. They couldn’t have all of their classes that way because their teacher Mrs Badger had to teach the key workers’ children at school too. It was quite complicated.

The live lesson started.

“Good morning class.” Said Mrs Badger on the computer screen.

“Good morning Mrs Badger!” Chimed the children simultaneously.

“Today we are going to practice writing the letter G.” Announced Mrs Badger. “So make sure that you have your sharpened pencils ready, as well as some lined paper. But first I will read you a story. Have you ever heard of Hansel and Gretel?” She asked.

A few children said yes but some said no.

“Right, well, let me show you the cover first…”

The teacher showed them the cover of the book with the title ‘Hansel and Gretel’ on it, and a picture of a gingerbread house.

“Can anyone find the letter G on the cover?” Asked Mrs Badger.

“I can!” Answered a boy called Fido. “There it is, in the title.”

“Well done Fido!” That’s right, because Gretel starts with the letter G.” Mrs Badger pointed to the letter.

“Once upon a time, there was a boy called Hansel and his sister, called Gretel. They lived in a little wooden cottage in the woods. They were very poor. One day…”

Blip! 

The laptop suddenly froze, with a still picture of Mrs Badger reading the book, stuck on it. 

“Oh no!” Sighed Fluffy.

“Mummy, the laptop froze again!” Shouted Autumn angrily. 

Mummy came rushing from the other room, where she had been trying to do some work on her computer. 

“Oh not again. Let me have a look at it.”

Mummy pressed a few buttons on the laptop, but nothing happened. 

“Why does it always go wrong?” Sniffed Autumn. “I am fed up with this home schooling!”

Autumn jumped up from the table and ran upstairs to her room.

Fluffy looked sad and watched as Autumn’s Mummy tried to fix the computer. Eventually, the picture and sound came back. 

“Well done.” Smiled Fluffy.

“Thank you.” Said Mrs Fox. 

He called up the stairs to Autumn that the laptop was working again.

Fluffy really enjoyed the story of Hansel and Gretel, even though she had missed some of it. He explained to Mrs Badger that his computer had gone wrong part way though. Mrs Badger said that she would send the story as a file to read with their grown-ups, for anyone whose video or computer wasn’t working.

Finally, Autumn stomped back downstairs. She still looked cross.

“I see that the stupid laptop is finally working again.” She said, sitting down at the table.

“Yes, your Mummy fixed it.” Replied Fluffy.

Fluffy’s Daddy came downstairs for a cup of coffee. He made one for Autumn’s Mummy too. He was a firefighter. He was working that night, so resting in the day.

“How are you getting on with the home schooling today?” He asked.

“Badly!” Replied Autumn. “Our laptop is so old that it doesn’t work properly. I just want to go back to real school now.”

Fluffy’s Daddy sipped his coffee thoughtfully.

“Do you know why you have to home school now?” He asked Autumn.

“Yes, because of the virus. It is safer for us to stay at home.” Said Autumn.

“The more we mix with other people, the more people will get sick.” Added Fluffy.

“That’s right,” replied Mr Hedgehog. “So even though home schooling is difficult and sometimes annoying, you are both helping to keep everyone safe.”

“Yes, but it’s not fair that we have an old computer. I missed the story today because it went wrong!” Answered Autumn.

“We are lucky to have two computers to use: one for your school work and one for Mrs Fox’s work. Some people can’t afford any computers. Did you know that?” Fluffy’s Dad asked.

“No.” Said Autumn. “How do they do their school work at home then?”

“Some of them just can’t. Others have to borrow their Mum or Dad’s phone, when they can.” Replied Mr Hedgehog.

“Oh,” said Autumn, “I didn’t know that. I suppose that our old laptop isn’t that bad after all.”

“Yes, it does work most of the time.” Agreed Fluffy.

“I helped put out a fire at a house last night,” said Mr Hedgehog. “They lost all of their clothes, toys and computers in the fire. That was very sad.”

“Oh no, were they all ok?” Asked Autumn.

“Yes, we got them all out safely.” He replied. “Look, the rain has stopped. Should we all go outside to play football for a while? It can be your PE lesson. After that, we can have hot chocolate with marshmellows.”

“Yes please!” Said Autumn and Fluffy excitedly.

Autumn thought that home school wasn’t so bad after all.

The End

I wrote this story, and my daughter Bethany drew the illustrations. We enjoy making up stories together.

If you have kids, there are many ways to encourage their love of books. You can read to them; make up your own silly stories; or draw your favourite story-book characters. 🙂

If you would like to find more literacy based activities, and stories to read with your child, have a look at https://literacytrust.org.uk

They have a wealth of resources for all ages.

Christmas memory baubles

It was 7 days until Christmas, and Leila was extremely excited. She loved Christmas. She loved the presents, she loved the crafts, but most of all she loved having all of her family together and eating too much.


Leila’s Mummy and Daddy had put up the Christmas tree, and Leila and Mummy were making some more decorations for it. They had already made some paper snowflakes and painted some wooden cutouts of the Nativity scene. Now they were working on baubles. These were no ordinary baubles though: they had little photos of their family members inside them. Mummy was cutting out the photographs and Leila was adding decorations like small sparkly stars and glitter, to make them look snowy. It was quite messy.


“Oops!” Leila cried as a pile of glitter landed on the floor. “Sorry Mummy.”


“Oh dear, not again.” Sighed Mummy, reaching for the dust pan and brush for the third time that morning.


“Glitter is quite messy, isn’t it?” Mummy asked.


“Definitely.” Agreed Leila.


Leila was filling up a bauble with a picture of her Gran and Grandad in it. They had big smiles. She put in extra glitter because she loved them very much.


“Mummy, I wish that Arlo could be with us this Christmas.” She said.


“Me too!” Agreed Mummy, reaching over to give Leila a hug.


“I really miss him.” 


“So do Daddy and I. We think about him every day.” Replied Mummy.


“How old would Arlo be now, of he was still alive?” Asked Leila.


“He would be 2 now. Just imagine, he would be getting his fingers in the glitter, and pulling the baubles off the tree!” Answered Mummy.


“Yeah, I think that he would be very cute, but also a mischief.”


“I think so too.” Agreed Mummy.

“Look, here is a photo of you holding Arlo when he was very little. Shall we make this into a special memory bauble?”


“Yes please. I think that it will be the best bauble ever.” Said Leila.


They had some tiny heart stickers, which Leila added to the outside of the bauble to show that it was an extra special one.


When it was finished, Leila held the bauble in her hand and smiled. 


“It’s beautiful.” Said Mummy.
“Sometimes I feel sad when I think that Arlo is missing out on Christmas.” Admitted Leila.


“Me too darling. But we will always remember him and always love him, won’t we? Do you remember that time that he weed all over Daddy when he changed his nappy?” 


“Oh yes, that was hilarious!” Laughed Leila.


Mummy and Leila hung all of the baubles onto the Christmas tree. They all looked good, but the one of Leila and her little brother was especially lovely. A ray of sunshine came in through the window and made it sparkle.
Mummy and Leila looked at each other and smiled. 


“It’s like he’s saying hello.”

Christmas can be a difficult time for bereaved people. If you have been affected by baby or child loss, here are some places that offer support.

https://www.careforthefamily.org.uk/family-life/bereavement-support

https://www.thegoodgrieftrust.org

https://www.sands.org.uk