Monday, 25 January 2010

Professor McGherkin's monkey

Professor McGherkin had a pet monkey.

The monkey was extremely clever and could pour water into a cup, hit a nail with a hammer and build a tower with wooden blocks.

Professor McGherkin looked at her monkey and thought, 'What a clever monkey. I bet I could teach it to speak.'

So the monkey suddenly found itself by Professor McGherkin's side all day long. They went to work together, drove home in the car together and went to the shops on Saturday together. All the time Professor McGherkin talked and talked and talked, about everything she saw and thought and heard.

The monkey looked at her, and said nothing.

So Professor McGherkin bought the monkey everything it could wish for; a new swing in the garden, a basketful of bananas, and a little furry toy monkey to play with in case it got lonely.

The monkey looked at Professor McGherkin, and said nothing.

Professor McGherkin was starting to despair of ever teaching her monkey to speak. Her friend, Doctor M'Flingo, noticed how uspet she was and suggested that she treat the monkey a little more like a human being, then it would undoubtedly learn to speak.

Delighted with this new idea, Professor McGherkin purchased a comfy bed, with quilt, for the monkey, a little chair for it to sit on at the dinner table, and, best of all, a fine pair of bright blue breeches for the monkey to wear.

Professor McGherkin helped the monkey to pull the breeches on, and she sat down, waiting.

The monkey looked at Professor McGherkin, and said:

'Do you mind if I don't wear these breeches? They are dreadfully itchy. And, I've never thought blue is my best colour.'

Professor McGherkin fell off her chair.

The monkey looked at Professor McGherkin, and said nothing.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Tiny monsters


So said the banner, carefully placed at the foot of the old oak tree in the park; the one that had been hollowed out by time and heart rot but still bore a good display of leaves each summer and acorns every autumn.

Hmm, I thought and peered closer. The plaque was a small piece of wood barely ten centimetres long and the words were carved then blackened. I sat a tree root to pick it up, then winced as something small and blue ran out from the hole in the tree and hit me on my bare toe with a sharp stick.

'Ow! What did you do that for?'

'Grrrr,' said the small blue thing, very faintly, and waved its arms about.

'Don't Grrrr at me,' I replied, a bit cross. 'There was no need to be nasty.'

The small blue thing frowned, then beckoned me closer. 'There was every need. I am but one of a terrifying horde of monsters. We live in this tree. We frighten passers-by on a daily basis and should be renowned throughout the park for our dreadful deeds and awful acts.'

I tried not to smile. 'But you're tiny!'

'Exactly our problem,' replied the tiny monster. 'Why do you think we've made this banner? We are truly horrendous, but not many people notice us. It's not a good situation.'

I pondered for a while. 'I can see that is tricky, for what good is a monster if it is not scary?'

The tiny monster sat down on my toe, looking dejected.

'Wait, I have an idea!' I cried. 'No one can see you individually, so you have to make yourselves bigger! Fetch the other tiny monsters!'

The tiny monster glanced at me dubiously, but did as I asked.

Slowly, all the tiny monsters sidled out of the hollow. It was true that they weren't very frightening.

'May I?' I asked, and arranged a row of the monsters standing together with their arms linked. Upon their shoulders I placed another, smaller row, and on those another, and so on until I'd made a human pyramid. Of monsters.

'Try that,' I said, pleased with the effect.

They wobbled a bit, and the top one fell off a couple of times, but they finally got the hang of it. The small blue monster winked at me and they staggered off to the other side of the tree where they immediately scared two children and a man on a bike.

I hear that they are now enjoying being extremely terrifying and have also learned the power of teamwork.

The valley of the lost balloons

The party had been good, but not as good as the silver and blue superhero balloon that he was given at the end. His mum wound it around his wrist a few times so it wouldn't blow away, for balloons had been lost before, and there were always tears.

As they walked home, the wind picked up until both the boy and his mum were bent into it. It tugged at their clothes and messed with their hair, and pulled the balloon out and away behind him.

Oh, oh no! Oh!

His mum held one hand, the balloon held the other, but the balloon won and up, up, up the boy went. He was, it has to be said, a bit scared, but he managed a brave wave and his mum waved back – 'be home for tea!' she called, before a mighty gust of wind took him up above the rooftops and past a perplexed seagull, who squawked crossly to see a boy in a place where a boy shouldn't be. He stuck his tongue out at the seagull and the wind whipped him away.

He could see the silver grey sea, and the boats far out on the waves, and below him people and dogs looked up as he floated, waving, over their heads.

The balloon carried him toward the hills as if it knew where it was going. He left the town behind and instead of people looking up at him, surprised cows and horses mooed and neighed in greeting. And then, hidden in a deep valley, was the most amazing sight he'd ever seen; thousands upon thousands of escaped balloons, all bobbing and meeting and bumping; round ones and long ones and funny-animal ones, some with writing on, or numbers, yellow and blue and cherry red and gold.

The boy unwound his balloon and bobbed around with them for the rest of the afternoon. Sometimes he thought he heard other children, laughing and squealing with delight, but he never saw them, and gently the balloons bounced him up and down, some sighing as they deflated, new ones arriving all the time.

How he would have liked to stay with these friendly balloons. But the sun dropped and the wind picked up again, and the superhero balloon found him for the return journey.

A nice cup of tea

If you travel across the sea for a very long time, eventually you'll come to a rather beautiful, mountainous land of thick trees and soaring blue skies. However, it's extremely unlikely that you'll ever go, and for one very good reason.

Giants live there.

Well, only two giants. One lives on the peak of one mountain. The other lives on the peak of its neighbour. The two giants can just about see one another's house if they squint, but they never make the trip down the mountain, across the V- shaped valley floor and up the other side of the mountain, because they can't stand each other. This has been going on for so long that neither giant can remember why they dislike each other so, but there it is.

The first giant (let's call him Bill) was sitting outside his house one fine spring morning warming his toes in the sun and feeling surprisingly perky. Occasionally, he'd glance over the valley and amuse himself by thinking of really horrible names to call the other giant, and this made him feel even happier. 'A cup of tea would go down well now,' he thought, and went inside to put the kettle on.

But, oh no! There was hot water, tea bags, a mug, but no sugar! A cup of tea was unthinkable without sugar. The giant hummed and haaed for eons, then decided there was only one thing to do. So he took a deep breath and roared across the valley:


The reply took a while, but finally he heard:


So he pulled on his boots, cursed and set off down the mountain, across the valley and up the other side.

Without saying a word, the second giant handed Bill a brown paper bag, folded over at the top.

'HNNF,' he said.

'GRFF,' was the reply, and Bill trudged back down the mountain, across the valley and up to his house to reboil the kettle and open the bag.

Inside was indeed enough sugar for one cup of tea, and something else, hard and round. The giant frowned and scratched his head. It was bound to be something horrible, something to ruin his day: A nasty smelly thing? A slimy wet thing? A dirty rubbishy thing? He pulled it out, fearing the worst.

It was a biscuit.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

The hole at the bottom of the garden

One winter's afternoon I found a hole at the bottom of the garden. A hole too big for a rabbit. A badger maybe?

So I fetched my trowel and dug a little, just to see if I could find out what lived there.

As I scraped around the entrance, the soil fell away by itself and the hole got wider and deeper. Little steps of earth had formed, looking a bit like stairs. I should stop, I thought. But I couldn't. What could possibly live down here?

I forgot to have any lunch, so busy was I digging. I started to notice that the hole was divided into areas, almost like rooms. And the rooms had little mounds of earth in them, almost like tables and chairs.

The afternoon drew on. I felt uncomfortable about digging any more so I jumped down into my hole and called out 'Hallo?' There was no answer. I tried again. 'Halloooo?'

Then I heard a faint 'hallo?' I looked around me but couldn't see anyone. Again it called, and it seemed to be coming from the direction of my house. I peered into the gloom and realised I'd left the back door open all this time. Did my eyes deceive me, or did I see a tiny person standing there, looking as puzzled as I did? Quickly, I started shovelling earth back into the hole, but before I covered it completely I pulled out a pen and a scrap of paper from my back pocket and scrawled on it; 'Sorry about the mess.'

Then I put my trowel away and returned to the house. The door was still open and there were muddy little footprints all over the place. Stuck to the TV was a tiny note. 'I'm sorry too,' it read.

I went to the window and waved, just in case.