Grief sits heavily on my chest today. I know that she was old and had lived a full life. I didn’t even know her. But. The death of Queen Elizabeth II feels personal to many of us in the UK, and no doubt around the world.
The Queen was the best of Great Britain. The best of all of us. She united us in a way that I doubt anyone will be able to do again.
Her faith was her rock and she pointed us to God during her Christmas speeches. For those of us who are Christians, we take comfort in the fact that she is now in Heaven with her husband, and we will actually get to meet her one day!
As someone who grieves every day for my baby son, this feeling is familiar. It feels like heaviness, like fatigue, like nothing will be the same again. And of course, it won’t. After the death of our monarch, we feel the loss of her wisdom, her ability to unite us and of hope for the future. In this increasingly divided world, the Queen was able to rise above any political divides. I worry about our country, now more than ever.
For those of us who are already grieving a loved one, this time of mourning reminds us of who we have personally lost too. It hurts a little more today.
I think about my son Samuel, who should be 3 now. Who should be starting preschool next year. He wasn’t royal or famous, but he is loved. I wish that everyone could have known him and mourn him too. But Samuel is just as loved, valued and celebrated by God as her Majesty is. Jesus doesn’t care if people were poor or rich, disabled or healthy, old or young. God loves us all the same.
There will be many poor, unknown people who died yesterday. They won’t be on the news or get a funeral procession, but their lives also had value.
I pray that everyone who mourns would know peace and comfort today.
Let’s look after each other. It’s later than we think.
Timmy was a mouse. He lived with his Mummy, Daddy and big sister Dorothy at Number 12, The Hedge. Although he was little, he was brave. When he wasn’t at school, he loved to go on adventures. He had been camping with his dad, climbed right to the top of tall trees, and gone swimming in the lake. It was the school holidays, so Timmy had the whole week to explore.
He had been reading about some children that made a raft, so wanted to have a go doing that himself. He had seen several branches that had been cut down at the local lake, so he found some rope in the garage to tie the branches together. He put the rope in his favourite red backpack. Whenever he went, Tommy carried his red backpack. In it, he always packed a bottle of water, a large slice of cheese, a notepad and pencil. Timmy liked to write about his adventures in his notebook, and you never knew when you might need a snack.
When he got to the lake, Timmy collected as many big branches together as he could, and wrapped the rope around them, just like the book showed him to do. After that, he felt very tired, so he sat down in the sun and drank some water and ate half of the cheese. Timmy wished that he had brought more cheese. The young mouse wanted to take the raft to the island at the centre of the lake. He had never been there before, and was desperate to explore it. Maybe it had pirates? Or treasure? Or maybe even a dragon!
Timmy pulled the raft carefully into the water. It floated! He jumped on board and used a long branch as a paddle. Thankfully the wind was on his side and before long he landed on the island in the centre of the lake. Timmy jumped off the raft, pulled it up the beach and grabbed his backpack. The island was bigger than it looked. It was overgrown, with trees, bushes and flowers everywhere. He could hear some sparrows singing nearby. It was beautiful.
Timmy decided to head to the interior of the island. If there was any treasure or dragon, it was probably there. He put his red backpack on and set off down an almost invisible path through the foliage.
It was hard going, and soon he was thirsty. He stopped to have a drink from his water bottle, emptying it after a few gulps.
“Oh no! I can’t enjoy an adventure if I am thirsty,” he said to himself.
Timmy decided that he would need to find a clean water source as soon as possible. A clean water source is one that isn’t polluted and isn’t salty. Timmy knew from reading survival books with his Daddy, that you will die quickly if you drink too much salt water. It also makes you even more thirsty. The young mouse was sure that there would be a small stream or at least a puddle on the island. He had gone too far to walk all the way back to the shore where he had landed. After what felt like a long time, he sat down underneath a huge oak tree near a clearing. He was tired and extremely thirsty. He wrote about what had happened so far that day in his notebook. He reminded himself to pack more water and cheese next time.
He was starting to feel worried, when he noticed a movement in the grass ahead. It was a pretty young frog. She wore a pink hat. She was jumping towards him.
“Hello there, mouse. Are you ok? You look lost,” she said kindly.
“Hello. I am not really lost… well it is my first time on this island, and I am looking for water. Do you know anywhere nearby where I can get a drink?” he asked.
“Oh, you poor thing. You do look worn out. I know where a stream is. I could show you that… or would you prefer a hot chocolate? My cabin isn’t far from here, and I would be happy to share with you.”
“Oh, thank you so much! That would be amazing. I love hot chocolate. Are you sure that it would be ok?” Timmy asked.
“Of course. Follow me.”
She turned and jumped back through the clearing. Timmy followed her, feeling relieved.
They went along a winding path through the trees, to find the frog’s cabin. It was wooden, with small windows and a tall chimney. It looked ancient and had a well out the front. A well is a deep hole in the ground where you can get water from, if you have a bucket attached to a rope.
“Your garden is pretty,” said Timmy.
“Thank you. I love tending my flowers and herbs. The venus flycatchers are my favourite. I keep the grass very short with special scissors, as you can see. Appearances are important, don’t you think?”
She licked her lips.
“Welcome to my home,” the friendly frog said as they walked through the door.
Timmy’s eyes adjusted to the gloomy interior. It was cosy, with a large fireplace in the middle of the room. A black cauldron sat over a roaring fire. Timmy suspected that the frog was making soup for her lunch.
“It’s small, but we love it. Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t ask your name?”
“It’s Timmy, pleased to meet you. What is your name?”
“I am Gretchen. Please, have a seat and I will make you some hot chocolate.”
Timmy sat down on a wooden rocking chair in front of the fire. He noticed a shadow in the corner of the room. Two shiny eyes were watching him. It was a crow.
“Oh, don’t mind Cain, he’s my pet. He doesn’t say much but is very loyal. Cain, say hello to Timmy.”
“Caw,” squawked the crow.
He couldn’t actually talk, because he was a crow.
“Um, hello,” replied Timmy nervously.
Gretchen asked him about his family as they drank hot chocolates together. The drink was warm and delicious. Soon, Timmy started to feel sleepy and couldn’t stop himself yawning.
“I am sorry, I suppose that it’s been a tiring morning,” apologised Timmy after another large yawn.
“Please do not worry. I am glad that you are comfortable. Feel free to close your eyes and have a little rest,” she replied kindly.
Timmy soon dropped off into a deep sleep.
He awoke with a fuzzy head and feeling confused. Then he remembered about the friendly frog. He stretched and yawned, thinking that he should probably get on with his adventure. Maybe Gretchen would give him some cheese for lunch?
“Good morning sleepy head,” whispered Gretchen from behind him.
Timmy blinked and opened his eyes, looking around. Good morning?
“You slept all through the afternoon and night, my dear. You must have been extremely tired,” Gretchen said.
She jumped to stand in front of him.
“Gretchen? Is that you? You look different!” Timmy exclaimed.
“Yes, my small mouse friend. It is I, Gretchen. Is something wrong?”
“Well yes… I mean no… it’s just that I thought you were a young frog lady, but now I see that you are a little older that I remember, and… are you a toad?”
“Yes, I am a toad, my frog disguise is a little trick that I play sometimes. For some reason, others don’t always take kindly to an ugly old warty toad,” she replied.
“Oh,” replied Timmy, confused, “I am sorry to have taken up so much of your time, I will leave now. My parents will be worried about me. Please may I fill up my water bottle at your well before I go?”
“Oh, my dear, you will not be leaving,” she smiled.
“Pardon? Thank you for having me, but I really do need to go…” answered Timmy.
“I think that you misunderstand me,” Gretchen replied calmly, “you may want to leave, but you cannot.”
“I can and I will!” shouted Timmy, terrified.
He tried to jump up from the rocking chair, but he could not move. He tried again, pushing his arms down hard on the armrests to stand up. He could not physically get up from the chair.
“What have you done to me?”
“It is a simple potion that I use sometimes. You don’t feel any different, but you won’t be able to leave that chair, until I give you the antidote that is. By the way, did you enjoy the hot chocolate?”
“You put the potion in my hot chocolate, didn’t you? Why did you do that?” Timmy cried.
“Yes, clever mouse boy. And the reason that I did it is because I need you,” she grinned with her big, ugly toad mouth.
“Why?” Timmy’s voice shook with fear.
“I need your legs for my latest job. You see, my customer Silas Snake requires a magical potion for… well, not nice reasons, shall we say. One important ingredient is mouse legs, which you will provide me with.”
“No! Are you joking?” Timmy tried and failed again to stand up.
“I have no sense of humour when it comes to magic. Mr Snake pays very well and expects his potion urgently. It was lucky that I ran into you yesterday.”
“But… but I need my… l… legs,” spluttered poor Timmy.
“I only require two. Do not worry, I will offer you a painkiller potion while I perform the double amputation: I am not a monster,” she chuckled, then licked her bulging eyes with her huge pink tongue.
Poor Timmy did not know what to do. He just wanted to go home to his Mummy and Daddy. He was trying to be brave, but it was difficult.
Cain stared at him with his deep black eyes. He clacked his beak angrily.
“Good morning sweetie,” said Gretchen brightly, looking up.
“Morning Mum, who is this?”
Timmy looked at her. A young toad stood in front of him, frowning.
“Oh, don’t worry about him. That’s Timmy Mouse, I need two of his legs for Mr Snakes’ potion. Did you have a good sleepover at your friend’s house?” replied Gretchen.
“Yes, I did, we had roast flies and marshmallows over a firepit in her garden,” the young toad replied.
“That’s lovely. Now, I just need to pop to the stream for some fish eyes, and then I will perform the amputation. I didn’t do it last night as I need the ingredients as fresh as possible. Would you make Timmy some toast please? We don’t want him to go hungry,” said Gretchen.
“Mum, not again! Can’t you get a real job?” sighed the girl toad.
“This is my real job! Don’t you start on me – I pay the bills and feed you with the income from my potions. Right, I am off to the stream. Don’t forget to feed the mouse. Oh, and could you give Cain some more corn please?” Gretchen left, carrying a basket and a sharp knife.
The young toad introduced herself as Tiana. She fed the crow, who then flew away.
“He’s probably gone to catch some worms, won’t be back for a while,” she told Timmy as she made him some toast with butter and honey. She also gave him a glass of water.
She sat down on the floor next to Timmy, watching him eat.
“I am sorry about Mum, she can be nasty sometimes. Did she lure you to our cabin with the promise of a snack?”
“Hot chocolate,” replied the mouse, between bites of toast. He was starving.
“Typical,” replied the young toad, “well, I don’t suppose that you want to lose two of your legs, do you?”
“Definitely not,” he replied, “is your Mum a witch?”
“Yes, she is. Her parents wanted her to be an accountant, but she thought this would be more profitable. She does seem to delight in tormenting other creatures,” Tiana sighed.
“I would run away, but I can’t. I want my Mummy and Daddy!”
Timmy couldn’t be brave anymore. Fat tears poured down his whiskery face.
“Oh, you poor thing. Let’s get you out of here. I know the recipe for the antidote. A couple of sips of that and you will be able to move again,” said Tiana.
“But won’t your Mum be cross? Won’t you be punished?” sniffed Timmy.
“She will be furious, but I will blame Cain. He is loyal but can be a troublemaker too. And he does enjoy the taste of mice…”
“Eeep!” squeaked Timmy in fright.
“Oh, don’t worry, I won’t let the stupid crow anywhere near you. You will be long gone by the time either of them returns,” she smiled.
“Thank you! Why are you helping me?”
“I am fed up with Mum and her silly potions. Besides, I like you. And I don’t want you to be hurt,” she replied.
“Thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome. Now, let me make this antidote quickly. Finish your breakfast.”
As she made the potion, she asked Timmy about where he lived and how to came to be on the island. He explained about his raft on the shore.
Timmy enjoyed the meal despite the circumstances. He hoped that Tiana wasn’t playing a mean trick on him… what if she gave him another sleeping potion and cut his legs off herself? No, he liked her, she seemed genuinely kind. He breathed slowly, in and out, trying to stay calm.
She finished the antidote and got Timmy to take two sips. After a few minutes, he was able to carefully stand up.
“At last!” shouted Timmy happily.
“Great, I am glad that it worked, I’ve only made that potion once before. Now, you should leave before Mum or Cain get back. I will show you a shortcut out the back of our cabin to get you to the beach.”
“Thank you for helping me, I will never forget your kindness,” grinned Timmy, giving Tiana a big hug.
“Oh, your fur tickles! No worries, come on, this way. Don’t forget your red backpack. Go as quickly as you can. Mum will probably be back any minute. I tell you what… she has an old camouflage potion around here…”
Tiana searched the dusty shelves for a small blue bottle of camouflage potion. She told him to take a sip.
Timmy did so, and felt a tingle.
“That’s better – I can see you as I know that you are there and am looking directly at you. But you will blend in nicely with the trees as you walk to your raft – even Cain with his good eyesight would struggle to spot you.”
She pointed out the path to take back to the beach.
“Goodbye,” she whispered, “good luck.”
“Goodbye Tiana. I hope that you won’t get into any trouble because of this. If you ever need my help for anything, I live at number 12 The Hedge,” smiled Timmy.
“Ok, nice to meet you,” she waved and went back into the cabin, shutting the door behind her.
Timmy strode quickly but quietly along the path. His heart beat furiously in his chest. He couldn’t wait to get safely to the raft and home again. Mummy, Daddy and Dorothy would be amazed to hear his story! They must be worried about him.
The adventurous little mouse finally found his way back to his raft and set off from the island.
When he got home, Mummy, Daddy and Dorothy all gave him a huge hug and then told him off for scaring them.
“Where were you all night?” asked Mummy, crying tears of joy as she held her son close.
“I had an awesome adventure on the island! You probably won’t believe me when I tell you what happened! There was a nasty witch toad, an angry crow and a kind toad, too…” Timmy spoke quickly.
“All right, let’s get you comfy on the sofa… would you like a hot chocolate?” asked Daddy.
“No thank you, not hot chocolate! Anything but that!” shouted Timmy.
26 February is National Tell a Fairy Tale day. What is your favourite fairy tale?
The hero in this story was a mouse; maybe you would like to write a story about your favourite animal or pet?
My daughter Bethany helped me to write this story: we talked about who would have the adventure, what animals the witch and her daughter would be, and what would make it a good story.
Fairy tales often have:
A hero. A bad guy. A problem to solve, or a journey. Some magic, which might be used for good or bad. A happy ending.
You could ask your grown up to help you to tell or write a fairy tale together. 🙂✍🧙♂️
The spaces between the clouds are secret stories waiting To be found By someone who cranes their neck And stares for a little while, Just watching To discover a treasure That most never know about. So look up.
Patches of blue peeking through, Like a child behind curtains Playing hide And seek, giggling quietly As they crouch in the shadows Patiently Waiting for you to find them. But first, you have to stop for A while. Take a deep breath and Just look up.
Clara is a puppy who is excited for her first Christmas. She wants to know why we celebrate, and what everyone loves most about it.
Clara was a puppy. She lived with her Mummy and twin brother Rudy and their humans, Norah and Jasper. Clara was excited because it was Christmas soon. Clara wasn’t sure exactly what Christmas was, but by the sound of it, it involved lots of food, baubles to chew, and extra cuddles with their humans. It sounded amazing!
But today, Clara and Rudy were in the dog house. Apparently, trying to climb up the Christmas tree to eat the baubles was ‘incredibly naughty’.
The puppies had been told ‘no more treats today’. This made Clara sad. Her tummy was rumbling, and it was ages until dinner time.
“It’s not fair,” moaned Rudy, “I just wanted to eat that shiny star at the top of the tree. I love baubles.”
“Well, I wish that I hadn’t followed you. It was all your idea, and now I am in trouble too,” huffed Clara.
“You didn’t have to follow me up the tree!” Replied Rudy.
“I know that, but you called me a coward!” Said Clara.
“Stop arguing, puppies,” said Mum, “I am trying to have a nap.”
Clara walked to the back door and stared out at the garden. It was raining. Her tummy rumbled again. She sighed.
The next day, Clara tried to be well behaved, to please her humans. It was tricky. She really wanted to climb that tree and eat some more baubles. Sometimes it was hard being a puppy.
Jasper took her, Rudy and Mummy out for a walk to the park. Norah was wrapping presents, and apparently didn’t need their help, which was a shame. Clara loved the park: they could run around and meet other dogs. There were so many smells: grass, dogs, squirrels, poo. Jasper let them off the lead, and Rudy ran to smell a lamppost. Clara saw a friend, an old English sheepdog called Bert, and went to smell him. Then she licked his face.
“Bert, you are old and have had many Christmases,” said Clara, “what do you love most at Christmas?”
“Well,” replied Bert, “I love many things, but I suppose that my favourite is having my humans around, all of the kids come and visit over the holidays.”
Bert’s humans were grandparents, and had their whole family round on Christmas Day.
“Oh,” said Clara. “I don’t know what I will love most, because this will be my first Christmas. It might be pigs in blankets. Bert?”
“Why do we have Christmas?” Asked the puppy.
“Well, many years ago there was a baby born in Bethlehem. He was a special baby: he was called Jesus, the son of God.”
“The son of God? That sounds important. Why was he born?”
“To give hope to all people. He told everyone about God, and how much he loves them. In fact, Jesus died for our humans.”
“Oh. Does Jesus love dogs too?”
“Oh yes,” he loves everyone.”
Bert and his human walked away, and Clara went to chase Rudy around a tree.
When they got back home, Norah had hidden all of the presents: Clara had been hoping to have a peek. She was tired after her walk, so curled up next to Mummy and fell asleep. She dreamed of dancing pigs wearing tinsel.
It was Christmas Eve. Clara was so excited that she struggled to fall asleep. She closed her eyes and then thought of all the food and presents that she would get the next day, and jumped up, wide awake again. Rudy kept asking Mummy silly questions like how much food they would be able to eat, and whether it was allowed for puppies to climb trees and eat baubles on Christmas Day. Finally, after Mummy told her and Rudy a bedtime story called ‘The night before Christmas’, she nodded off.
Clara suddenly jolted awake. She looked around, sniffing the air. What had woken her? She climbed gently out of bed so as not to wake her mum or brother. There! What was that sound? It sounded like… like… bells! Little bells jingling. She looked out at the back garden, but couldn’t see anything. Then she heard something from the living room. Very quietly, she pawed the kitchen door open. She popped her nose through the gap, sniffing hard. There was a new smell: similar to her humans’. Was there a burglar come to steal all of their Christmas presents? She would teach them a lesson! She would bite them hard on the bottom.
Clara crept on tip-paws over the living room carpet. There, a fat man was standing by the Christmas tree! She would sneak up and bite him on his bottom before he even realised that she was there.
Clara took a small bite of the man’s red trouser bottoms.
“Yowch!” He shouted, jumping a couple of feet in the air.
He turned around. He had a big white beard and bright blue eyes. His hat was red… hang on, he looked familiar.
“Oh no!” Barked Clara, “are you Father Christmas?”
“Ho ho, yes I am, young puppy. You have extremely sharp teeth.”
“I am so sorry, I thought that you were stealing our presents. Please don’t put me on the naughty list?”
“Well, seeing as you were just trying to protect your home, I will let you off.” Father Christmas smiled.
“Yes, Mr Christmas. I promise to be a good puppy from now on. Please don’t tell Mummy that I bit you on the bottom?”
He patted Clara gently on the head.
“Ok, I won’t.”
Clara noticed another smell and looked behind Santa: there was a small puppy, looking scared.
“Oh, Clara meet my newest pet, I just found her today. I was delivering over Finland when I noticed a little black nose sticking up out of a snowdrift. I flew in for a closer look, and found her, freezing cold. I put her in my coat to warm her up. Her name is Estella.”
The tiny puppy looked at Clara wide-eyed. Her brown fur looked like it needed a brush.
“Hello Estella, my name is Clara. Would you like a treat?”
She nodded her head. Clara gave her a puppy treat from her Christmas stocking that was hanging over the fireplace.
“I probably shouldn’t be looking in here, but my humans would understand.” She ate it up quickly, “thank you.” “You’re welcome,” smiled Clara. “Father Christmas, could I ask you a question?” “Of course.” “What do you love most about Christmas?” Asked Clara. “Oh, that’s a good question. Let me see… well I love the snow; I love my big Christmas dinner that Mother Christmas makes me after I have delivered all of the gifts; but most of all I love making sure that everyone has a gift that they can treasure. Sometimes it is something small, but it brings them great joy.”
“Now, help me to put your family’s presents under the tree, please?” He asked.
Clara helped him to arrange them all neatly under the tree: Norah’s, Jasper’s, Mummy’s, hers and Rudy’s. She started sniffing her gift, but stopped when Santa looked at her.
“Could I open mine now please?”
“Ho ho, no young Clara,” laughed the plump old man, “you have to wait until the morning, like all of the other people and pets. Now, I must get on, it’s a busy night for me, you know.”
“OK, bye bye Father Christmas! Thank you for our presents. Goodbye Estella!”
“You’re welcome. Goodnight.” He popped the tiny dog into his front coat pocket.
“Bye bye,” whispered Estella sleepily.
“Goodnight, safe journey! Sorry about your trousers.”
Santa turned around and headed back up the chimney. Clara noticed that he was wearing snowman pants underneath his red trousers.
She went back to bed, giving her present one more quick sniff on the way past.
“It’s Christmas!” Rudy was panting in her face.
“Get off!” Clara laughed, pushing him off her.
Rudy started running around the kitchen in circles, chasing his tail and then biting it.
Clara stretched and smelled the air. It smelled like turkey, roast potatoes and joy.
“Good morning puppies,” grinned Norah.
She was putting something delicious-smelling in the oven.
Rudy and Clara went to her for pats and cuddles, licking her hands happily.
“Where’s Mummy?” Clara asked Rudy.
“She is in the living room, let’s go see what Father Christmas brought us!” Replied her brother.
Clara remembered what had happened the night before, and smiled to herself as she followed Rudy out of the kitchen.
Jasper was handing Rudy his Christmas present – Clara recognised it as one that Father Christmas had brought.
“This must be from Norah,” Jasper said, “I don’t remember it.”
Rudy jumped in excitement and tore at the wrapping with his teeth. It was a squirrel squeaky chew toy. He threw it up in the air and caught it, tail wagging.
“And here is one for you, Clara,” said Jasper.
It was also one from Santa. She opened it – a snuffle mat with small treats hidden in it. Wonderful!
Mummy opened her present: it was a cosy red blanket.
“Let’s save your other gifts until after dinner, shall we?” Suggested Jasper.
Clara didn’t think that was a great idea, but she could be patient.
Jasper started cutting up vegetables and stirring things in big pots on the stove, so Norah took them for a walk. The frost on the grass was cold under her paws and looked like icing sugar, sparkling in the winter sunshine. All the humans were wishing each other “Merry Christmas” and they saw Bert again, wearing a fluffy red and white hat. They had a lovely walk but were in a hurry to get home, ready for Christmas dinner.
After a delicious meal of turkey, pigs in blankets, roast potatoes, honey parsnips and carrots, the family were snoozing in front of the fire. They would open presents after the Queen’s speech.
“Mummy, what do you love best about Christmas?” Asked Clara.
“The thing that I love most about Christmas is seeing your and Rudy’s happy faces and wagging tails. And also the food,” Mummy smiled.
Clara thought that she loved everything about Christmas.
What do you love most about Christmas? Can you draw it? Have you written to Father Christmas yet this year?