Puppy’s first Christmas

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.

“Hmph.”

“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?”

“Yes?”

“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.

‘Chomp!’

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.”


Clara smiled. 


“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. 

“Ow.”

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.

The end

What do you love most about Christmas? Can you draw it? Have you written to Father Christmas yet this year?

For more literacy resources and stories for kids, please go to https://literacytrust.org.uk/

This story is dedicated to my labrador puppy. It will be her first Christmas this year. ❤

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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

Fluffy is kind

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.

Autumn and Fluffy and the foggy day

Autumn woke up, yawned widely, showing off all of her sharp teeth, and peeked out of the window.  


“Oh no! The world has disappeared!” She cried.


The young fox ran downstairs to tell her Mummy.
“Mummy, the world has gone, look outside!”

She pointed to what used to be the back garden.
Mummy put down her cup of coffee and looked outside the kitchen window. Autumn was right. The back garden was gone. Instead, everything was all white.


“That’s ok Autumn, it’s only fog.” Smiled Mummy Fox.


“What’s fog and why did it eat our garden?” Asked Autumn, feeling concerned.


“It’s cloud. Thick cloud that is very low. Our back garden and the world is still there. It’s just that you can’t see it.” Explained Mummy.


“Ok. I am going to wake Fluffy, to show him the fog.” Replied Autumn.


Autumn ran up the two flights of stairs to the attic, where Fluffy and her family lived. Fluffy was a hedgehog. 


“Fluffly, wake up! There’s fog!” She shouted into the attic room.

Fluffy sat up in her tiny bed, looking confused.


“What’s fog? Where’s fog?” She asked, rubbing her eyes.


“The fog is outside of course!” Said Autumn.


Fluffy crept to the window and looked outside cautiously.


“Where has everything gone? Why is it so white?” She asked.


“I told you, it’s fog!” Laughed Autumn. “But don’t worry, it’s not eaten the whole world! It’s just a cloud.”


“Oh.” Replied Fluffy. “I thought that clouds lived in the sky.”


“They do live in the sky usually,” replied Mr Hedgehog, who had put his slippers on, and was now looking out of the window too.


“But fog is low cloud. It sits on the ground and makes it difficult to see anything.” He explained.


“Fog, like a stratus cloud, is a cloud which forms when cool, still air is trapped underneath a warm air. Fog normally occurs at a relative humidity near 100%…”         

 “Daddy, that sounds incredibly complicated.” Interrupted Fluffy politely.


“Oh, sorry kids. Sometimes I forget that you are still young and don’t have your science degrees yet.”


“That’s ok, Mr Hedgehog. We like to learn all of the facts that you teach us.” Smiled Autumn.


“I have a great idea!” Said Fluffy. “Let’s go and play hide and seek in the fog.”


“Ok  but only after we had breakfast.” Said Autumn. “I’m hungry.”


The friends went downstairs and enjoyed their breakfast.


Fluffy had slugs and snails on toast and Autumn had pickles and chicken on toast. Yum.


Then the friends went outside to play hide and seek. The fog was swirly and white. They couldn’t see much. Autumn held up her paw in front of her face.


“Oh, I can’t see my paw properly.” She said. “I know it’s there, but it looks… smudgy. Like I am a pencil drawing and the artist started to rub me out!”


Autumn giggled. Imagine her being a drawing? Wasn’t that a silly thought? She was a real fox, not just a picture! 


“You hide first, I’ll seek.” Said Fluffy.
“Ok, good luck finding me in this fog!” Laughed Autumn.


“10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, ready or not here I come!” Shouted Fluffy.


Where could his friend be? He couldn’t see a thing. Maybe she was behind the shed? No. Perhaps Autumn was in the gazebo? Fluffy looked all around it. No, she wasn’t there. Maybe behind the apple tree? Fluffy crept close to the tree and peeked behind it. 


“There you are!” He cried happily.


“It was so easy to hide,” smiled Autumn. “The fog is so thick that I bet you didn’t see me until you got really close, did you?”


“No, not until I was right next to the tree.” Agreed Fluffy.


“Now it’s my turn to seek.” Said Autumn.


The friends played hide and seek for the rest of the morning, until they got too cold and had to go inside to ask for hot chocolate.


Later, they looked out of the window, and the fog had gone. The sun was beautiful and shining.


“Where has the fog gone?” Fluffy asked his Dad.


“The sun warmed up the air and so the fog went. We only get fog if the temperature of the air cools to the dew point, or if the dew point rises to be the same as the temperature of the air, fog will form.” Said Mr Hedgehog. 

    “Ok, thanks for all of the facts Daddy. Replied Fluffy.


“I do hope that the fog doesn’t go on holiday for long.” Muttured Autumn sadly.


“Oh, I’m sure that it will come back soon.” Said Mr Hedgehog.


The end.

My daughter Bethany and I wrote and illustrated this story.

Reading, writing and drawing builds confidence in kids, as well as developing their literacy and imagination.

To listen to stories, and access a great selection of educational activities, have a look at the National literacy trust’s website: https://literacytrust.org.uk

The yellow balloon


Faith had a yellow balloon. It was her favourite balloon because it was yellow. Everywhere she went, she carried her yellow balloon.

She took it to the shops with Mummy. When she went to Granny and Grandpa, along came her yellow balloon. When she went for a walk with Penny the dog, she carried her yellow balloon. Faith could not remember when she got it, and it felt like she had always had her yellow balloon.

One day, Faith and Daddy took Penny for a walk to the park. Faith brought her yellow balloon of course.
It got windier and windier and even windier. Penny ran off after a squirrel, and Daddy chased her. Faith was swept up by a gust of wind, still holding tight to her yellow balloon.


The wind lifted her up, up, up. She floated over Daddy. She swooped over the houses in town.

She soared over the sea. Faith and her yellow balloon flew all the way to the moon! It was beautiful up in space, and the Earth looked tiny.

“Wow! This is the greatest adventure ever, isn’t it, yellow balloon?”

After a while she got scared and wanted to go back home.

The yellow balloon carried her back down to the park safely. When she landed, Daddy was still there with Penny, looking for her.


“Where were you, Faith?” Asked Daddy. “I was looking for you everywhere!”
Daddy was upset because he thought that Faith had got lost.


“I was ok Daddy. My yellow balloon flew me all the way to the moon.” 


Daddy looked at her and laughed.
“Ok darling, but please don’t run away again. I was very worried that you were lost or hurt.”


“Sorry Daddy.” Faith replied.


She took Daddy’s hand and they walked back home. Penny walked beside them, and the yellow balloon was in her other hand.
Suddenly another gust of wind swept the string out of Faith’s hand, and before she knew what was happening, the yellow balloon went flying off. She tried to chase after it, but she couldn’t fly. It flew over the road, over the houses and far away.


“No! Come back!” Faith shouted. 


But the yellow balloon did not come back.
Faith cried and cried. She had never been so sad in her life. 


“I want my yellow balloon back!” She cried, all the way home.


“I want my yellow balloon back now!” She sobbed in the back garden while Penny looked at her sadly.


“Why doesn’t my yellow balloon come back?” She asked Mummy at dinner time.


‘I’m so sorry, darling. The balloon has gone away now. We can’t ever get it back again.”


“That’s not fair!” Shouted Faith.


Faith went to bed very sad that night. She missed her yellow balloon. Things did not feel right without it. She was still the same Faith, but just a bit sadder. 
That night, she could not sleep. It was very late. She looked out of her bedroom window. The moon  was big and bright. Then, Faith saw her yellow balloon! It was on the moon. She could just make it out, a tiny yellow dot ever so far away. She had excellent eyesight.


“So that’s where you went.” She whispered into the night sky. 
“I miss you yellow balloon.” 


Faith climbed back into to bed. She knew that her yellow balloon would never come back now. But, she just knew that it was safe, up on the moon. 
She yawned and fell asleep. In her dream, her visited the moon and her yellow balloon, and that made her feel happy. 


The next morning, Faith woke up and looked around her room for her yellow balloon. Then she remembered that it was gone forever. She felt sad all over again.


“I feel sad Mummy, I miss yellow balloon.” She told her mum at breakfast.


“I know Faith   I’m sorry. I know what, why don’t I buy you another yellow balloon? Will that help?” Asked Mummy.


“No thanks, I want my yellow balloon, not another one.” Sighed Faith as she ate her toast.


Daddy drank his cup of tea and thought.Penny looked at Faith’s toast and wished that she could have some.


“Why don’t you draw a picture of you holding your yellow balloon?” He asked. “I know that you love drawing.”


Faith chewed her toast and had a drink of orange juice. 
“Ok Daddy, I will.”


After breakfast, Faith went and sat in the garden with her crayons and some paper. Penny came too, and lay down next to her feet.
She drew a picture of her and yellow balloon standing on the moon, because that is where they had their greatest adventure. Penny had a nap and dreamed of squirrels.
When she had finished her drawing, Faith showed Mummy and Daddy. 


“Oh, that’s beautiful darling, well done.” Smiled Daddy.


“What an artist!” Agreed Mummy. “Would you like to put it up in your room?”
“Yes please.” Replied Faith.


So Mummy put the drawing of Faith and her yellow balloon up in her room. Whenever she felt sad, Faith would look at it and remember her greatest adventure with her beautiful yellow balloon.

Dedicated to my niece Lara, who loves yellow balloons.

And my baby son Samuel, who is my little yellow balloon in Heaven. ❤

Alan and the fairy

Alan lived alone in a nice chalet-style cottage.
Alan was bored and lonely. He had been in isolation for 4 months and 17 days. He was working from home and had done all of the Joe Wicks PE sessions every day (if you asked him, Alan would say that Joe was a little too enthusiastic); and he had re-read every book in his home library. All series of Friends had been watched. What he needed now was an adventure.
“Sigh.” He sighed, “I am so bored.”
Unexpectedly, a fairy appeared in his living room, where he was listening to 80s tunes.
“Hello,” she announced, “I am Felicity the fairy.”

“Hello, pleased to meet you,” replied Alan, who never forgot his manners.
“Where did you come from?”
“Just round the corner,” answered Felicity, “I live in the flats.”
“OK.” Said Alan, wondering if he had spent too long in isolation or consumed too many chocolate brownies.

Alan excited with Fairy at home

“I heard that you were bored?” Asked the fairy.
“Yes,” answered Alan, “I am.”
“Ok, I have a special task for you, and at the end you will get what you really need.” She answered mysteriously. Or it may have been sarcastically, Alan couldn’t really tell the difference.
“Is it for Costa Coffee to open up again?” wondered Alan.
“Um, no.” She replied.
“Pity. Well, what is my task then?” He was starting to miss his own company.
“You have to help someone in need,“ she replied.”
“Oh… I would love to help someone, but how can I do that if I can’t leave the house?” Asked Alan.
“Don’t worry, I’ve already thought of that. I’m going to turn back time to take us to 6 months ago when things were still normal. Just for one day, so that you may complete the tasks and hopefully receive the thing that you need.” Felicity smiled.
“Right, but what if it takes me a longer than one day to achieve my goal?” Wondered Alan
“Then you will not receive your award, I’m afraid. Everything will return to normal, back to the present day and lockdown, in 24 hours. So you must complete your task before 1pm tomorrow.”
“It would be a real shame to miss out on that thing that I need,” sighed Alan. “Perhaps I could just have it anyway, for trying my best?”
“Sadly that is not an option,” she replied, “Sorry, I am not the one who makes the rules.”
“Who…”
“So, if you’re ready, the first task is to help someone. Just walk outside your house and see if there’s anyone who needs assistance.” Felicity announced rather strictly.
“Sure, why not? I haven’t spoken to a real human beings in months. But what do I do when I find the person?” He asked.
But Felicity fairy had already disappeared, so she couldn’t answer Alan’s query, annoyingly.
“Well, at least I can go outside for a bit now.” He said to himself as he opened the door of his chalet- style cottage and took a little wonder around his neighborhood in the frosty air.
It was exactly as Felicity had said, the weather and plants were wintry, just as though it really was February again. People were busy, cars were driving around on unnecessary tasks, the shops were open and fully stocked with milk and loo rolls. It felt like another world.
Alan saw some ducks swimming on the nearby lake.
“Hello,” said Alan to the ducks, “Do you need my help by any chance?”“Quack.” Said the most harassed-looking duck.
“Ok. Now I’m talking to birds.” Sighed Alan.
He swiftly left the ducks behind and continued his walk. Would he find anyone who needed help today? He wondered. Did he really care?
Soon he came across a penguin standing next to a car, who was in tears. The penguin was in tears, not the car.

“What’s wrong? Do you need any help by any chance?” He asked the penguin.
“It’s my new car. I can’t get it to work.” Replied the penguin.
“I can have a look if you like?” Offered our hero.
“Great, thank you,” answered penguin, “I think it might be the catalytic converter.”
Alan had watched some automotive related YouTube videos when he was younger, so he felt quietly confident.
“I see your problem mate.” He said after a minute, “It’s just this little bit of plastic needs to be put on the right way.”
Alan quickly fixed the problem. The car started up first time.
“Thank you so much!” Smiled the young penguin, screeching down the road enthusiastically.
Alan waved him goodbye. It felt wonderful to help somebody.

Percy's car is broken
“That’s the task successfully completed.” Said Alan to himself. “I wonder if the fairy will appear with my reward?” He looked over his shoulder, in case she was following him down the road. No. No sign of a fairy.
Now slightly concerned about his stress levels, Alan walked slowly back to his house and made himself a cup of tea.
“Oh well.” Sighed Alan. “That’s that then.”
Suddenly Felicity the fairy appeared in his kitchen.
“Hi again,” she said, “Well done for completing your first task.”
“Thank you,” replied Alan, “it felt good to help somebody else. Now what is my reward? What is it that I need? And it had better not be deodorant.”
“Oh, I’m afraid there’s another task to complete before you receive any rewards.” She answered.
“Oh man, you didn’t say anything about another task… go on, what’s my second task then?”
“You have to put someone else before yourself. You must be kind even when it hurts.” Felicity said.
“Right. What does that mean? Let them stand in the queue at the post office or something? I mean, you should be more clear on these tasks, someone could…”
But he was talking to himself again. The fairy had gone.
“Oh man.”
He finished his cup of tea, and then helped himself to the last bourbon biscuit in the tin. He must go to the shops soon.
“So, I need to put someone before myself. I must be kind. I wonder if those ducks need some peas… no probably not.”
Alan thought about putting on some MC Hammer again, but reconsidered.
Our unlikely hero decided to walk around the neighbourhood again, as this method was successful last time. He didn’t see any more ducks, but he did see a sad-looking giant cactus in a park. It looked like it needed some kindness. He approached the potted plant with some trepidation.

 

“Um, hello, my name is Alan,” he said to the cactus, “Uh, are you… that is can you talk?”
The cactus looked at him with an impatient air.
“Yes, I can talk, what do I look like, an aloe?” She answered rather spikily.
“Great, I mean, you don’t look an aloe, no.” Stumbled Alan. “My name is Alan, nice to meet you.”
“Well, you don’t look like an aloe either,” the cactus replied. “And my name is Cassandra.”
“Oh, you’re a lady!” Smiled Alan.
“How rude! Of course I’m a lady!” She huffed. “Why have people got to be so rude? Just because I have spikes, doesn’t mean that I haven’t got a heart!”
“Oh gosh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean anything by that… I mean, I’m not great at talking to ladies at the best of times, and I am having a rather strange day. Um, well, you are quite far away up there. Would you mind awfully if I climbed up your pot?” Alan asked, blushing.
“Well, sure, that’s fine.” Cassandra replied, in a more friendly manner.

Alan talks to Cassandra dog nearby
Alan climbed to get closer to Cassandra.
“Sorry that we got off on the wrong foot, er, root… I haven’t met many cacti.” Alan explained.
“Sure, I get it. We aren’t known for being sociable.” She replied with a smile.
“Is that your dog?” Asked Alan.
A small friendly dog had turned up, looking for attention.
“No, I don’t have any pets.” She replied. “Sometimes she just visits me. I don’t know who she belongs to.”
Alan patted the dog’s head.
“Woof!” Barked the small friendly dog.
Cassandra and Alan chatted for some time. Soon it felt like they were old friends. The sun was starting to set, and Alan was freezing cold.
“Well, it’s getting late, and those spaghetti hoops won’t cook themselves,” he chuckled.
“Mmm, sounds delicious. Nice to meet you anyway, Alan, people aren’t usually very nice to me, it may surprise you to find out.” Said Cassandra.
“No, surely not?” Alan suddenly had a thought. “I noticed that your skin is rather spiky. I wonder, has anyone ever hugged you?”
“Hugged me?” Cassandra laughed. “No one has ever hugged me. Cacti don’t do hugs, you know, and people don’t tend to want to get near to my kind either.”
“Well, this is crazy but would you like me to give you a quick hug? Please, say no if you don’t want one, I would completely understand.” Alan blushed.
“Wow, nobody has ever… yes please, I would love a hug!” Cassandra grinned. “But be very careful, I am sharp!”
Alan hugs Cassandra with stars

Alan leaned in and gave her the most gentle hug. It hurt a little, but it felt amazing to be a friend to someone who wasn’t used to kindness.
“Thanks.” Cassandra whispered.
“Oh, you’re welcome.” Alan replied. “Right, I’m cold, so am going to head home. See you soon?”
“That would be nice,” she smiled.
Alan walked briskly back home, shivering in the chilly air.
Alan had just finished off his spaghetti hoops for dinner, when Felicity appeared in his living room.
“It’s you again.”
“Indeed.” She agreed.
“Are you going to give me my prize now?”
“Well, no, not yet… you see, there is just one more bonus task that I’d like you…” The fairy began.
“Oi! First there was only going to be one task before I got my reward of the thing that I need. Then you added another. And now you expect me to do a bonus task on top of that? No way! Please leave, I am fed up with your incessant tasks.” Alan cried.
“Oh…ok.” Stuttered Felicity. “If you insist, then I will go.”
She disappeared.
Alan made himself a cappuccino with frothy milk, looked in the biscuit tin, saw that it was empty, and sat heavily down on his armchair.
“Hmph,” he mumbled, “Who does she think she is? Expecting me to do all sorts of tasks, for some silly reward. Well, I won’t be pushed around anymore. I don’t want to help others, or be kind to spiky plants anymore. Hmph.” Alan sipped his coffee grumpily. He felt out of sorts. He didn’t want to watch TV, listen to Human League, or even read. He went to bed early that night.
When Alan awoke late the following morning, he wondered if the previous day’s adventures had all been a dream. Or perhaps he was going mad. He realised that there was an easy way to find out: when he switched on the news, if everything was about coronavirus, he would know that it was all back to normal. If not, he was no doubt still stuck 6 months in the past, before the lockdown.
Alan got out of bed, made himself a coffee and some toast, and switched on the news channel.
“Storm Jorge will soon hit coastal parts of the UK, with winds of up to 70mph expected.” Read the presenter.
“Ah, so I must still be stuck in the past.” He said to himself.
Alan remembered that Felicity had said everything would return to normal at 1pm today. So, he had a couple of hours in which to complete the task, if he wanted that elusive reward… no, what was he thinking? The silly fairy was probably making the whole thing up. Why should he waste his time being kind to others, when he was perfectly happy by himself?
He switched the news off. What was he going to do today? It was a Sunday, so he wouldn’t be at work anyway. He could go shopping at least, or maybe a trip to Costa. He finished his coffee and breakfast.
“I wonder what the reward would be, if Felicity was telling the truth?” He said to his teddy bear.
He had a shower and got dressed. He listened to some Wham. He watered his plants. His tidied his sock drawer.
“Maybe I should find out what the last task is, before deciding?” He asked his teddy.
Teddy just sat on the bed, looking at him and not offering any opinions.
“Oh, go on then” he sighed, “I’ll do the silly task. Probably be completely wasting my time, but…”
“Good morning.” Smiled Felicity.
“Oi, what are you doing here?” Alan asked. “Have you got my house bugged or something”
“No, I am magical, remember?” She replied. “Now, would you like to know what your final task is?”
“Well, ok. But this had better be the last task. And the reward, ‘what I need’ had better be amazing!” He answered grumpily.
“It is, and it is.”
“Go on.”
“Today, Alan, I would like you to be brave.” The fairy replied.
“Be brave? But I am a complete wuss! I hope that it’s nothing to do with roller coasters? I swore that I would never get on one again after that awful incident when I was in college… I never lived that one down. And that poor man…” Alan began.
“Oh no, nothing like that.” She said. “This is about facing your fear of drains.” She explained.
“Drains?” Alan gulped. “But… they… they’re worse than rollercoasters!” Alan gulped.
“Yes, I have heard of your phobia. There was a childhood incident I believe?” Enquired the fairy kindly.
“There was.” Alan nodded. “I would rather not talk about it.”
“I understand.”
Felicity explained that she had recently heard on the fairy network that a resident had had an accident in the park, and needed some help. It involved a drain.
“Does it have to be me who helps this unlucky resident?” Asked Alan.
“It doesn’t have to be you,” said Felicity, “but decide soon. The poor man is getting cold.”
“Ok then. Seeing as it’s going to be my Last Ever task, ah…how close exactly do I need to get to this drain?” Alan shuddered.
“He’s in the park.” Replied Felicity before disappearing.
Alan really did not like drains. He headed off to the park to see what he could do to help.
He found the poor man quickly. He had fallen into a drain and did not seem pleased about it.

Jeffrey stuck in drain

“Help, I have fallen into this drain!” The man shouted, unnecessarily.
“Yes, I can see that. I don’t like drains though.” Replied Alan sadly.
“Neither do I at the moment.” He answered. “Why don’t you grab that stick over there?”
“Good idea.”
Alan got the stick and held it out to the man. He grabbed hold of it, and our hero pulled him out of the dreaded drain.
“Thanks.” Said the man.
“You are welcome.” Smiled Alan.

Alan rescues Jeffrey from drain

Alan swiftly stepped away from the drain. Suddenly he needed a coffee.
“Right, I am going home to have a coffee.” He announced.
“Coffee? Great. I am desperate for a drink. I was stuck down that drain for 3 hours!” The man replied.
“Oh… I thought that you lived nearby?” Asked Alan.
“It’s a fair walk. Your house is probably closer. I really need the toilet, too.” The man said.
“Ok… um, well I can give you a coffee too, I guess.” Muttered Alan.
“Great. You lead the way.”

Soon after they got back to Alan’s house, Felicity appeared.
“Eek! There’s a fairy in your kitchen!” Spluttered the man.
“Hello Felicity.” Said Alan.
“Hi Alan. Hi Jeremy.” She replied.
“How does she know my name?” Cried Jeremy.
“She’s a fairy, they know things.” Answered Alan, sipping his coffee.
“Pleased to meet you.” Smiled Felicity.
“So, I completed all of your, frankly ridiculous, tasks.” Said Alan. “Where is my reward please?”
“Your reward, as I am sure you remember, is something that you need.” Said Felicity.
“Yes, what do I need? Is it a holiday? An endless supply of bourbon biscuits? A yacht?” Prompted Alan.
“Alan, did you introduce yourself to Jeremy after you removed him from the drain?” Asked Felicity.
“No, I was too busy thinking about coffee.”
“Right. Alan, this is Jeremy. Jeremy, meet Alan.”
“Hello.” Said Alan.
“Pleased to meet you. Properly.” Answered Jeremy.
“Great, how nice. So, where is my reward? Outside?” Alan peered into his garden, hoping to spot the prize.
“The thing that you really need is not an item, it’s a person.” Smiled the fairy.
“It’s what?!” Alan spluttered in disbelief.
“Alan, more than anything in the world, you need a friend. Jeremy is your reward.” Said Felicity.
“My reward is a man?” Alan stared at Jeremy, feeling confused.
“Your reward is priceless. A friend.” She smiled.
“Um, well, I like your coffee…” Said Jeremy. “Is it Italian?”
“Oh yes, single origin from Italy,” replied Alan enthusiastically, “I get it online from a boutique coffee supplier. Most people haven’t heard of it, it’s called IactuallyloveItaliancoffee.com “
“Oh! I’ve heard of them! They’re amazing. Have you ever tried their Napoli rich dark roast?” He asked.
Felicity’s work was done. She disappeared. The clock struck 1.
“I’m just going to switch the news on for a bit.” Alan told Jeffrey.
“And in international news, Donald Trump has blamed the Red Cross for the current covid 19 crisis in the US. He says that they knew about the virus even a month before China did, and chose to keep it under wraps, in order to damage his chances of re-election at the end of the year…” The Newsreader stated.
“I guess that we are back to normal time then.” Said Alan.
“Huh?” Replied Jeffrey. “How did I get to your house? I don’t remember leaving my place.”
“Never mind.” Smiled Alan. “Do you like football?”
“Sure.”
“Should we go to a game when the lockdown has finished?” He asked his new friend.
“Yes, that sounds good. I should probably go now… I shouldn’t be at your house … so, yeah, see you soon. I’ll text.” Said Jeffrey, looking a little confused.
“Ok, bye.” Replied Alan.
Alan looked in his biscuit tin after Jeffrey had left. It was still empty. Oh well. Time to listen to some more 80’s tunes.

When lockdown had finally ended, Alan and Jeffrey went to a football match.

They also visited Bournemouth one day in the summer, where the small friendly dog mysteriously appeared. Sometimes they would walk to visit Cassandra, who always enjoyed a chat.

 

There was no sign of Felicity, which was probably just as well. She was quite annoying.

Taste

Doris was teaching her granddaughter to cook. Tonight they were doing bangers and mash with peas and gravy.

“Always be very careful with sharp knives,” Doris instructed as she chopped up a potato to show Lauren how best to do it.

“Yes Gran,” nodded Lauren seriously.

“Please get the peas out the freezer for me,” asked Doris, “they are behind the ice-cream.”

Lauran ran to the freezer, eager to help.

“Oooh, can we please have ice-cream for dessert, Gran?” She asked, eyeing up the expensive chocolate treat.

“Well, I have made an apple pie…”

“Oh.”

“But you can ice-cream with it, instead of cream if you like.”

“Yes please!”

Lauren brought the large bag of peas over, and Doris showed her how to carefully tip it into the pot of hot water.

“You need about a handful of peas per person…” well, your hands are quite small, so maybe two hands full if you are measuring.” Smiled Doris.

Lauren nodded sagely. She popped a pea into her mouth. It was freezing cold but delicious.

“Now it’s time to wash the potatoes. Can you see that I have chopped them all into a similar size?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Give them all a quick wash in the sink while I…”

The phone rang and Doris went to answer it. It was her friend Muriel. Muriel was having husband trouble again. She was on her forth and still couldn’t seem to work men out. Doris kept telling her that she shouldn’t over think marriage – men are very simple creatures after all – but Muriel never listened.

“I must go, Muriel,” Doris interrupted her friend’s tale of a recent holiday to Rome that had gone sour after her husband’s argument with a greengrocer over the correct colour of aubergines.

“My granddaughter Lauren is here and I’m teaching her to cook.”

“How delightful!” Replied Muriel. “All of my grandchildren are complete ruffians. I blame their parents, of course.”

“Of course, well, nice to speak to you again. And good luck with the lawsuit.”

“Thanks Doris. Bye.”

Doris hung up the phone and rubbed her eyes wearily. She must check on Lauren, she really shouldn’t have left her with a kitchen full of sharp knives and bubbling pots…

“Hi Gran. I put the potatoes in the water to boil. I hope you don’t mind?”

“Not at all. You’ve done a great job.” Doris was just relieved that there hadn’t been any accidents.

She switched off the peas; put the sausages under the grill; and showed Lauren how to make gravy. She used the packed stuff, even if it wasn’t the ‘proper’ way to do it. Life’s too short after all.

When the potatoes had cooked, Lauren enjoyed mashing them.

“It’s quite difficult, isn’t it Gran?” She asked.

“Yes, it’s a good workout for your arm muscles,” she agreed.

Doris added a little ground black pepper and sea salt to the potatoes, as well as some butter and milk.

“I can’t wait to try those potatoes!” Grinned Lauren.

“They do look lovely, don’t they?” Agreed Doris.

Lauren set the table while Doris called Granddad and Lauren’s little sister Jo to the table.

“Bless this food to our bodies and bless Gran and Lauren for making it, and thank you Jesus for ice-cream too.” Prayed Jo before they all tucked in.

Doris was very pleased with her first attempt at teaching her grandchild to cook. She took a forkful of mash and gravy. Mmm… yuk!

Doris spat out the mouthful, much to Jo’s delight.

“Gran! You spat out your food! That is very naughty!” Screeched the little girl.

Lauren pulled a face and also spat her food out.

“Gross!”

“Um Lauren dear, when you washed the potatoes earlier, did you use soap as well?” Doris asked.

“Yes Gran. Mummy taught me how to wash dishes, so I know how to do it.” Replied Lauren with a frown. “But they don’t taste very good ,do they?”

“No darling. Not to worry – Charlie, I think we’ll order a takeaway pizza for dinner instead.”

“Good idea.” Agreed her husband.

“Don’t worry Gran, Daddy says that not everyone can teach.” Smiled Lauren.