Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Market of Amazing Things

'You'll never believe what I saw today,' cried Leila, running into the house and throwing her bags on the table.

'What did you see?' asked her brother. He was younger and busy drawing a monster with wings.

'A crowd of ragged children, all staring at the ground.'

'What's so special about that?'

'On the ground was a tiny chameleon, no bigger than half your thumb, tottering on stiff legs like a robot lizard.'

He frowned, looking up now. 'And you saw this in the market? All I ever see is meat and vegetables and fish.'

'And I saw a man with nine trays of eggs, all perfectly intact.'

'Oh, I've seen him. He sells them to the restaurants. But how does he get there, with all those eggs?'

'On a bike.'

'Then how does he carry them?'

'On his head.'

The monster with wings was forgotten. 'Tell me, tell me, what else have you seen?'

'Let me think.' Leila chewed her lip. 'Oh yes! A man dressed in blue like the evening sky, who conjures a hen from under his robe. It's a different hen every day. And a million shiny silver birds, flying round and round the tree in the middle of the market, catching flies so quickly that the flies don't know anything about it until they're in the birds' stomachs. And…and…a cage full of bees, who never fly away through the bars even though they could easily fit.'

Leila's brother looked sulky. 'I never see these things. You must go to a different market than the one mother sends me to. The only things in my market are meat and vegetables and fish.'

'Well,' said Leila, taking his hand. 'Next time you go, see if the meat is as shiny as a red marble floor in a sultan's palace, and the fruit and vegetables are heaped into coloured pyramids, each one higher than the next, and the cones of spices smoke in the breeze like volcanoes, and the fish wear coats woven from sequins and their eyes reflect the sun. If you see these things then I think we can safely say it is the same market.'

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Aunt Mildew v the Mud

I have a friend called Bert. He likes:
• Football
• Saturdays
• Grubbing around in the playground
• Sliding on the kitchen floor on his knees
• Trying to pick up stuff that he probably shouldn’t be trying to pick up.

My friend Bert doesn’t like:
• Washing his hands
• Washing his face
• Washing his feet
• Baths

This was all very well when his parents were around – they seemed to have quite a relaxed attitude to these things. But when they went away for a Special Birthday and Bert’s aunt came to stay, well. That was a different matter.

She was there for four days but Bert said later it felt like four million years.

Aunt Mildew likes:
• Cleanliness
• Tidiness
• Things that smell nice
• Baths

Aunt Mildrew doesn’t like:
• Dirty Bert

By the time the four days were up, Bert was a different boy. His teeth sparkled like diamonds. His hair shone like gold. His face was just a face, unsmeared by mud and with no pen on it.

Even his feet were so clean and fragrant that butterflies alighted on his toes, mistaking them for flowers.

But Bert did not look happy. It took me a long time to recognise him. When I did, I threw some mud at him.

Then he smiled.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Small Kings

King Lucullus was young and rather reckless and had never done much ruling before. So when the old king his father died and he took over the reigning of the patch of grass and pebbles between the café and the fishing boats, people drew breath and wondered how it would go.

At first Lucullus was very busy. He decided to have the pebbles moved to the left hand side of his kingdom, and some plants brought in the make the area around his palace look a bit nicer. But there were no plants in his lands, so he had to make a series of sneaky forays into his neighbour’s kingdom. King Pog, an older but definitely more fearless king, was away visiting his wife’s family on the other side of the main road, a journey of many weeks, so Lucullus took his chance and pinched four mighty sea cabbages and some thrift. He would have uprooted more grass as well – for Pog’s lands were greener than his own – but he heard rumour of the king’s return so made haste back to behind the café.

When King Pog saw the devastation caused and the vast craters of soil across his once-beautiful kingdom, he was furious. ‘He could have just asked!’ he thundered. ‘Well, in that case, I will have his pebbles to line my Imperial Avenues! Bring me all the pebbles you can carry.’

King Pog’s soldiers sighed and made a series of daring forays into King Lucullus’s lands to steal his pebbles. Lucullus was not away, he just didn’t notice, being young and reckless.

And so, I am sorry to say, many years followed of the great to-ing and fro-ing of grass and soil and pebbles and little gravelly rocks and plants until both kingdoms looked pretty much as they had to begin with. But King Lucullus felt that he had worked the wilder and more reckless side to his nature out, and could now get down the business of ruling properly.