Category Archives: children’s stories

Alice in Wonderland Christmas Story – chapter five

Chapter Five

The Trip of a Lifetime and the Fright of her Life


As the sleigh sped bumpily through the snowy terrain, illuminated by only a pale quarter moon hanging lazily in the rapidly darkening sky, Alice marvelled at the wintry landscape, watching it rush faster and faster toward her. Her eyes, watering from the icy cold blast of wind, saw many strange things in that half-light, like igloos, and beavers, small houses and kittens, babies and hatters and even a walrus reclining next to a coat stand. She saw all these things – and more – in that bitter cold night of the far north.

“Oh, I do hope that’s not Dinah,” she said in concern, when she saw a small feline, alone. “And if it is her, she’ll surely catch her death of cold out there…”

The sleigh sped ever faster, and although Alice was fascinated by these strange and bizarre things she was half seeing, she began to wonder why the magical sleigh was still set firmly upon the ground. For the moment, however, she decided to say nothing, for although Father Christmas was undeniably an amicable old man his attention was set fully on driving his sleigh.

“Rarr, rarr,” he shouted at the top of his voice. “Rarr, rarr,” he shouted again, his eyes fixed firmly upon the terrain ahead.

Following his gaze, Alice became immediately aware of the reason he was getting so worked up. You see, directly in front of the sleigh (they were approaching it at a frighteningly fast speed) was the biggest, darkest forest she had ever seen.

“Rarr, rarr,” the old man shouted, spurring the reindeer to gallop faster and faster. “Rarr, rarr,” he shouted again, wrestling to keep control of the reins.

‘We will surely drive right into those trees, and be smashed to pieces,’ thought Alice, ducking beneath the blanket, in fright.

For a split second Father Christmas looked across to Alice, to see that she was securely seated. Then shouting, roaring at the top of his voice, he said, “RARR, RARR, RARR” And with that, with one huge effort from his loyal reindeer, the speed of his sleigh increased exponentially and it rose from the icy cold ground, missing the trees by mere inches.

It was quiet up there, in the black of the night sky, and although Rudolf and his companions were still galloping at full pelt, not a sound could be heard from their hooves pulling on the cold air for traction.

Looking across to Alice, whose head was still tucked firmly beneath the warm blanket, the old man said, “I’m sorry if I gave you a fright, back there…”

Alice peered out from under her blanket and when she saw how high they had already climbed, she let out a gasp of astonishment.  “Are we really flying?” she asked.

“As sure as there is a Father Christmas,” he replied laughing.

Alice liked that; in fact she liked everything about the old man.  “It’s so quiet up here,” she said, looking tentatively over the side of the sleigh, into the inky darkness far below. “How high are we?”

“Not yet at our cruising altitude,” he said, “but when we have achieved it, we will be nine hundred feet, give or take a couple.”

“Nine hundred feet,” said Alice, in surprise that anything could be so high. “Is that as high as the moon?”

“No, I’m afraid that it isn’t.” Father Christmas chuckled. Then gazing up, he said, “The moon is over a quarter of a million miles away, not even my magical reindeer can get us that far.”

Alice laughed at the funny old man, and he laughed along with her.

“You can relax now, Alice, we’re at our cruising height, nine hundred feet,” said Father Christmas. “The air up here is as smooth as a hippopotamus’ hide.” And it was, they might well have been on the ground for all the sense of movement Alice felt.

“Where do you think he is?” she asked, feeling down, thinking she might never catch up with the hard-to-find Rabbit.

Stroking his bead, giving Alice’s question some considerable thought, the old man eventually replied, “It all depends…”

“It all depends on what?”

“On where you think he might be…” he replied. Uneasy with this answer, Alice asked him to explain further.  “You already know that things behave differently up here, in the north,” he went on, “how left can be right, and up likewise down.”

“Yes,” said Alice, recalling her conversation with King Tut.

“Being here for so much of the year, I tend to forget this, but for someone like you, Alice, on a mission, this is perhaps the most important piece of advice I can give…”

The old man said no more after that, nor did Alice, as they crisscrossed far above the icy cold wastes, searching for the Rabbit’s house.

And he was thorough, for hour after hour Father Christmas searched doggedly, trying to find the Rabbit’s abode, until the coming dawn, chipping away at the darkness, heralded a new day…

“I’m afraid that’s about it,” said the old man, finally admitting defeat (and tactfully saying nothing about Alice’s accident with the black cube). Pulling on the reins, Father Christmas said, “Come on, Rudolf, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blixen – we have a home to return to…”

NO!” Alice shouted, surprising even herself by her forcefulness. “No, I must go on,” she said, her eyes desperately searching the bleak terrain far below. Then she saw something, something moving. Letting out a shout of wild excitement, Alice tugged at his sleeve, saying, “Look, Father Christmas, look, there’s someone down there.” And there was, far below, barely visible in the deep snow, a lone figure was moving silently through it, apparently oblivious of the eyes staring down on him.

“Let me off, please,” said Alice, feeling a newfound confidence in her quest to find the Rabbit.

Looking down at the figure, and with a great deal of uncertainty, Father Christmas asked, “Are you sure that you want to do this? You have no idea who he might be… You are more than welcome to stay in my workshop, especially with Christmas being so near.”

“Christmas so near?” said Alice. “But it’s not yet past October!” Putting the matter, for the time being at least, to the back of her mind, she said, “Yes, I am certain that I want to do it, to meet that person, whoever it might be!” After saying that Alice refused to say anything more on the subject, as she kept her eyes set firmly on the figure below.

“Rarr,” Father Christmas whispered to Rudolf, “Rarr,” he whispered again, guiding the sleigh to soft landing in front of the lonely figure.

It stopped; the figure, which had been making its way silently through the snowy terrain, stopped. Jumping out from the sleigh, Alice thanked the old man and his reindeer for the wonderful ride.

“Take this,” said Father Christmas, handing Alice another black cube (though this one being a great deal smaller than the first). “If you need me, you can use it to call.” Lifting the reins, shouting, “Rarr, rarr,” he guided the sleigh up and away. Alice watched as the nine galloping reindeer whisked the old man high into the early morning sky. He was gone.

After placing the cube safely into her coat pocket, Alice approached the silent figure. Straining to see its face (there were so many layers of torn and tattered clothing surrounding it), Alice said, “Good morning, my name is Alice, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”

It said nothing; the figure, its head lowered, remained eerily silent.

Undaunted, Alice repeated, “Good morning, my name is Alice, and I am plea–,” Alice froze in fright, for the creature had raised its head.

Staggering away, coughing, heaving with fright, from the terrible visage that she had seen – a skull and bones, that she had supposed to be human, Alice dove a hand into her coat pocket, trying to find the cube that she been given only minutes earlier. As her trembling fingers caught hold of it, and she withdrew the cube from her coat pocket, Alice began wishing so much for the old man’s speedy return.

She heard nothing; she saw nothing in the rapidly lightening sky, as all the while the brooding figure, slowly lifting its bony arm and even bonier fingers to where its lips should have been, whispered, “Wait…”

“Wait?” Alice whispered, afraid.

Whispering again, it said, “Wait…” Alice watched in horror as it pointed its bony arm and fingers ahead of them, into the heavily falling snow.

“What are you?” she asked, yet afraid to hear its reply.

Barely audible, it said, “I am Death…”

“Death?” Alice whispered, shuffling away, in her growing fear.

“Yes, Death,” it replied, “but also Life…”

Now this confused poor Alice, and she began to wonder whether the terrifying figure might perhaps be only a figment of that overactive imagination her parents were so fond of telling her she had. Having said that, the figure remained stubbornly present, so guessing that it had to be real, she plucked up enough courage to ask, “How can you possibly be both Life and Death, when the two things are such opposites?”

The figure, its breathing laboured, its bony arm outstretched, showing the way forward, said nothing else, it just glided away from her.

“Do you want me to follow you?” Alice asked quizzically. “I thought I was supposed to wait!”

Without answering her, without saying a single word, the figure continued on its way, through near whiteout conditions, and Alice obediently followed.

After the wonderful friendship and warmth of Father Christmas, not to mention his little helpers, Alice felt only an icy coldness from the skeletal being gliding over the ground, ahead of her. However, despite its foreboding demeanour, she so wished it would speak some more. She so wished it would say something – anything friendly – to cast away the fear she harboured that it was pure evil.  But it didn’t. It just kept on gliding; its bony arm outstretched before it, pointing the way forward…

The snow continued to fall, but Alice struggled on, doggedly following the frightening figure, picking her steps carefully in the treacherously icy conditions. It

was hard going, with no rest breaks, and only a bony, brooding figure for company, and with the faint hope that the White Rabbit’s little house might be somewhere ahead.

Alice walked. The figure glided. She was tired. It kept on going. She felt as if she had been following it for hours, as it continued moving, gliding over the ground a few yards ahead of her, without saying another word.

A blister began to form on Alice’s foot, and with each new step that she took it grew that little bit more painful, that little bit closer to the point where she feared she would have to say, she would have to shout, ‘NO, I can’t go on another step.’

Despite her acute pain, Alice forced herself on for another mile (or was it two?), until her blister, suddenly bursting, soaked her foot in its clear warm liquid, sending her crashing to the ground, in agony. “I can’t go on another step!” she shouted, “I CAN’T!”

The bony figure stopped; the travelling was over, the journey complete – but had the purging been done?

Finding herself outside a strange building, Alice was at her next destination. With no warning as to the how or the why, the pain in her foot suddenly stopped. She was so surprised by this she tore off her shoe and sock, to inspect the blister in fine detail.  As she gazed down at her bare foot, Alice was astonished to see that the blister had gone, that it had healed completely. “To be sure,” she said, “it’s gone. What a curious thing to happen, but then, come to think of it, hasn’t everything up here been curious?”

After donning her sock and shoe, Alice stood up and inspected the building she was outside. It was large, with leaded windows and ornately carved columns, one on either side of a tremendously sturdy front door. And attached to this door

there was a holly wreathe. “Perhaps Christmas really is near,” she said, feeling the prickly leaves with a gloved hand. “I wonder where I can possibly be?” she said, taking hold of the door knocker and giving it a good bang. “If there is anyone inside,” she said confidently, “they will be in no doubts at all that they have a visitor and, hopefully, I will be invited inside, where I can warm myself in front of their fire, away from this awful snow. Alice shivered at the mere mention of the word snow.

The door, creaking slowly open, invited Alice to enter. Seeing no one behind it, she asked, “Hello! Is anyone there?” But she received no reply. The wind began to pick up, sending the falling snowflakes through the open doorway and far into the building. “I will catch my death of cold if I remain out here,” said Alice, stepping into the eerily quiet building.

Making her way down a long corridor, Alice called out again, “Hello! Is anyone there? Is there anyone at home?”But for a second time she received no reply. Undaunted, Alice opened a white painted door at the far end of the corridor, and passing through it she entered a large room devoid of furniture.  The only thing within it was a crackling log fire in a grand old fireplace. “Well, at least I’m out of the cold,” she mused, warming her hands in front of the golden flames, “and away from that frightful figure. He had such dreadfully bony fingers, in fact he had such dreadful bony – everything.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Alice thought she saw something moving, a little mouse running. She looked again, and she was right, she had seen a mouse running, and it was still running, scuttling along the white painted skirting board, circumnavigating the room. Having nothing better to do, she decided to follow the little rodent as it disappeared beneath a door at the far side of the room.

Carefully opening the door, Alice tiptoed into the next room. Once inside (it was as sparsely furnished as the previous room), she caught another, fleeting glimpse of the mouse as it scuttled along the skirting board and then under the door at the far side.  Again showing no hesitation

or fear, Alice turned the handle, opened the door and passed through into the next room. However, unlike the previous ones, this room was anything but sparsely furnished – there was furniture absolutely everywhere. In fact there was so much furniture Alice had difficulty in finding a free place to stand, without bumping into something or other.

Holding her breath, keeping her tummy in, Alice tried to make her way through the jumble of furniture, squeezing past tall cupboards, presses, wardrobes and tables, until she arrived at an open area, to the rear, where two exquisitely carved chairs were standing.

“My, they are so beautiful,” she said, “I must try them out.” Sitting upon the first and larger one, Alice liked it enormously, but she felt it was perhaps a little too firm. So moving across to the second chair, she sat upon it, trying it out for size and comfort. “I do like this one,” she mused. “It’s so comfortable, I feel like taking a little nap.” Alice yawned and yawned again, and before long she had fallen fast asleep, snuggled up upon the wonderfully comfortable chair.


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Puppies’ Christmas

Puppies’ Christmas
~ Anon

It’s the day before Christmas
And all through the house
The puppies are squeaking
An old rubber mouse.

The wreath which had merrily
Hung on the door
Is scattered in pieces
All over the floor.

The stockings that hung
In a neat little row
Now boast a hole in
Each one of the toes.

The tree was subjected
To bright-eyed whims,
And now, although splendid,
It’s missing some limbs.

I catch them and hold them.
“Be good”, I insist.
They lick me, then run off
To see what they’ve missed.

And now as I watch them
The thought comes to me,
That their’s is the spirit
That Christmas should be.

Should children and puppies
Yet show us the way,
And teach us the joy
That should come with this day?

Could they bring the message
That’s written above,
And tell us that, most of all
Christmas is love.

Alice in Wonderland Christmas

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Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer
Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walking home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe

She’d been drinkin’ too much egg nog
And we’d begged her not to go
But she’d left her medication
So she stumbled out the door into the snow

When they found her Christmas mornin’
At the scene of the attack
There were hoof prints on her forehead
And incriminatin’ Claus marks on her back

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walkin’ home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe

Now were all so proud of Grandpa
He’s been takin’ this so well
See him in there watchin’ football
Drinkin’ beer and playin’ cards with cousin Belle

It’s not Christmas without Grandma
All the family’s dressed in black
And we just can’t help but wonder
Should we open up her gifts or send them back?

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walkin’ home from our house Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe

Now the goose is on the table
And the pudding made of fig
And a blue and silver candle
That would just have matched the hair in Grandma’s wig

I’ve warned all my friends and neighbors
Better watch out for yourselves
They should never give a license
To a man who drives a sleigh and plays with elves

Grandma got run over by a reindeer
Walkin’ home from our house, Christmas eve
You can say there’s no such thing as Santa
But as for me and Grandpa, we believe!


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A Politically Correct Christmas

Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”,
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the North Pole,
were alleged by the union, to stifle the soul.

Four reindeer had vanished without much propriety,
released to the wilds, by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear,
that Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!

The runners had been removed from his beautiful sleigh,
because the ruts were deemed dangerous by the EPA,
And millions of people were calling the Cops,
when they heard sled noises upon their roof tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe, had his workers quite frightened,
and his fur trimmed red suit was called “unenlightened”.

To show you the strangeness of today’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose.
He went to Geraldo, in front of the Nation,
demanding millions in over-due workers compensation.

So…half of the reindeer were gone, and his wife
who suddenly said she’d had enough of this life,
joined a self help group, packed and left in a whiz,
demanding from now on that her title was Ms.

And as for gifts…why, he’d never had the notion
that making a choice could cause such commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur…
Which meant nothing for him or nothing for her.
Nothing to aim, Nothing to shoot,
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls and nothing for just boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific,
Nothing that’s warlike or non-pacifistic.

No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish upon the truth.
And fairy tales…while not yet forbidden,
were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden,
for they raised the hackles of those psychological,
who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.

No baseball, no football…someone might get hurt,
besides – playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist and should be passe.
and Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.

So Santa just stood there, disheveled and perplexed,
he just couldn’t figure out what to do next?
He tried to be merry he tried to be gay,
but you must have to admit he was having a very bad day.
His sack was quite empty, it was flat on the ground,
nothing fully acceptable was anywhere to be found.

Something special was needed, a gift that he might,
give to us all, without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy – with no indecision,
each group of people in every religion.
Every race, every hue,
everyone, everywhere…even you!
So here is that gift, it’s price beyond worth…
“May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on Earth.”


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Nice Cat?

Nice cat,

Good cat,

Kind cat,

You think.

Bad cat,

Dire cat,

Grim cat,

I think.

What to do,

With this cat,

Treat him nice,

Or punish him,

Kill the cat,

Treat the cat,

Or let him be,

Ignoring him.

Castleknock Henry


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A Treasury of Children’s Stories

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Posted by on November 16, 2016 in children's stories



Fantastic Beasts and where to find them

Fantastic Beasts and where to find them,

That’s the aim and conundrum,

For they are keen and magical too,

And if not careful they will get you.


So when you set off with wand in hand,

Make sure it’s primed with magical rhymes,

For as sure as night follows each day,

You will need that magic to get your way.


And if you do, if you kill those beasts,

And make the world safe from gruesome deeds,

Don’t you forget how many there are,

Waiting, just waiting to strike from afar.

And where to find them

Fantastic Beats and where to find them



My Socks That Magically Changed Colour

My Socks That Magically Changed Colour

This story, one of the earliest from my childhood days, is about my socks changing colour. Yes, they really did change colour! I am sure you are thinking, ‘Did it really happen or was it just the result of a child’s overactive imagination?’ Read on, my friend, and you can decide for yourself…
I was only six years of age when we set off on our first summer holiday, to Ireland. Although my mother hailed from there, in my young, innocent mind Ireland was a far-off, exotic country. I thought it something akin to Africa, India or even Borneo, where it was claimed head-hunters roamed.
We lived in a quiet part of southern England, a place called Sunbury-on-Thames, where nothing exciting ever happened. Setting off, on holiday, to another country was as exciting as it could possibly get.
My sister, Maria, two years my elder, and my brother Tony, two years younger than I, were almost as excited as I was. Moreover, when we boarded the electric train that was our transport to London, we could hardly contain our excitement.
When I say electric train, it probably stirs up visions of sleek, shiny carriages whistling along even shinier tracks in a most efficient manner. That vision, however, could hardly be further from the truth. The green painted electric trains travelling from Sunbury to Waterloo Station, in London, were old. Even to my young, idealistic eyes, that saw the positive side of most things, they were old, run-down and dilapidated.
As our train rattled, creaked and shook its way slowly along the tracks, transporting us on the first leg of our journey, the lights in our carriage flickered on and off all the way there. Despite the flickering lights, we were determined to enjoy our ride in the train, Tony, Maria and I gazed through the windows. It was a magical, mesmerising world outside, alongside the tracks. There were parks, factories, houses and shops. We even spotted a racecourse. I was so jealous of the people whose gardens backed onto the railway line. I imagined their lives were so exciting, with trains whizzing past their properties night and day. I so wished that I was living in one of those houses.
If the gardens backing onto the railway line were exciting, the land running alongside the tracks was HEAVEN itself. In that wonderland of sidings, buffers, sheds, water towers, turntables, goods trains and, most importantly of all, steam locomotives, my heart yearned to reside. In those heady days of steam locomotion it was every boy’s dream to be an engine driver, just the thought of being a part of that magical world of fire, smoke and steam sent our hearts racing.
As we passed station after station, stopping at each and every one of them, the excitement burning in our bellies grew exponentially. The closer our train approached London, clanking its way noisily across points, where so many tracks converged on the nation’s capital, the slower it became. Offsetting the frustration we felt due to our slow moving train, the increased number of steam locomotives present, the closer we got to London, perked us up no end. In Sunbury, where we lived, with the station only one stop away from the end of the line, the presence of a steam locomotive, there, would have been a major occasion. The only thing railway related that was remotely exciting was an old Pullman carriage parked on a siding at Shepperton station, at the end of the line three miles away. With my face glued to the windowpane, I stared out in wonder, at the metal beasts thundering past us, pulling enormously long trains, heading to far-flung destinations such as Edinburgh, Liverpool, Swansea and Bristol. I was in heaven.
When our train reached Waterloo station, the end of the line, it pulled into platform one. As it inched its way slowly towards the buffers, my heart skipped a beat, knowing the next leg of our journey was about to begin. Before the train had stopped completely, we heard people opening the doors. Slamming hard again the green painted carriages, they offered free exit to the impatient people within.
Whenever she saw this, mum, my Irish born mum, said “Why is it that everyone in England is always in a hurry?”
Looking back, all these years later, I believe she was right questioning this. We rush about all of our lives, getting nowhere most of the time. It’s a pointless occupation.
We didn’t rush off the train; we had far too many bags and cases to organise, first. But let me tell you, right here and now, dad was about to show us what, being English and rushing, was about.
“Porter, sir?” a kindly looking individual enquired.
“No!” dad sternly replied. “We are perfectly capable of carrying our own bags, thank you very much.”
“But we do need a porter!” mum protested. Her words, though, failed to reach dad’s non receptive ears. Carrying his suitcase, dad marched along the platform as if his life depended on it.
“Mum!” Maria, Tony and I grizzled as we struggled, trying to carry our own bags.
We caught up with dad at the ticket barrier. Mum had the tickets; she was minding them in her handbag. “Show the man our tickets,” he told her. Mum opened the bag, searching for the tickets. “They are in a brown envelope,” dad said to her.
“Ah, here they are,” mum said triumphantly.
“Give him the tickets,” dad told mum.
She dutifully handed our tickets – all of them – to the ticket collector.
“No, no, no!” dad complained. “Only give him our tickets to Waterloo.”
“Oh, sorry,” mum answered. She put the rest of our tickets back into the envelope and then into her bag.
Although mum was a little bit doddery, at times, dad chose to let her mind such things as tickets. Having an irrational fear of losing tickets, he thought it the better of two evils, her minding them. Inspecting our luggage, particularly so how we were struggling under its weight, dad said, “This is not working.” Grabbing hold of the first suitcase, dad balanced it on his right shoulder. Then he tucked a smaller one under the same arm. Grabbing hold of two bags, he gripped them firmly in his left hand before picking up the second suitcase with the very same hand. Having done that, he said, “That’s better, so it is,” then he marched away from us. Looking back over his shoulder, he said, “Keep up with me this time!” We obediently followed dad as he scorched his way across an open area, to a place or places unknown…
However, despite trying to keep up with our fast moving dad, he got further and further away from us.
“Mum!” Maria, Tony and I whined, panicky and frightened, when dad disappeared behind a Royal Mail delivery van, on a cobblestone plaza.
“Faster,” mum ordered, “so we can catch up with him!”
Trying to avoid being hit by Royal Mail delivery vans, fast moving scooters, and dive-bombing pigeons, we quickened our pace, following dad across the cobblestone plaza.
Catching up with dad on the far side of the plaza, we found him busy, trying to thumb down a taxi.
“Why didn’t you get one inside the station?” mum asked him, after the third taxi sped past us without stopping.
Shaking his head from side to side, he answered, “No, no, I couldn’t do that! There’re far too expensive, back there.” With his hand high in the air, trying to hail the next taxi he spotted, dad watched hopefully, but it also sped past us.
“Don’t they charge the same rate, wherever they are?” mum asked dad.
“No, not all!” he insisted. “They charge different rates, from difference places – everyone knows that!” He said, convinced by the soundness of his case. “They might tell you they charge the same price, but they don’t fool me, by jingo!” Just then, he spotted another taxi. It had stopped a distance away from us. Determined to secure it, he hightailed it across the busy plaza, luggage and all. When he reached the taxi, he opened the door, flung in the luggage and then parked himself inside it. We watched from where we were still standing, thinking dad would tell the cab driver to drive across to us. Nothing happened, though, apart from dad and the cab driver talking animatedly to each other.
A few minutes later, the cab began to move – and it was heading our way. Seeing this we breathed a sigh of relief. When the cab drew to a halt alongside us, dad stepped out from it, and said, “There you are; I told you I would get us a cab.” Grabbing hold of our suitcases and bags, dad packed them into the cab’s boot. When we were seated inside the cab, the driver set off for Euston station. Soon we found ourselves passing the large, stone lions guarding its entrance.
“Hurray for Euston!” we cheered as the driver steered his cab into the station.
The interior of Euston station bore an uncanny resemblance to Waterloo station. There were postal delivery vans and scooters speeding in every direction, and dive-bombing pigeons all over the place. The cab driver, who had up until then remained remarkably silent, suddenly spoke. He said, “Euston Station; two pounds please.”
Dad almost choked on his cigarette when he heard the price he was being charged. “Two pounds?” he hollered. “We agreed on one pound.”
The cab driver smiled condescendingly, and said, “That’s true, sir, we did agree on that price. But I did tell you there would be some miscellaneous expenses on top of it. Your bags are those expenses, and they are one pound exactly.”
Dad was beaten; there was no way of getting away from that fact. Instead of getting a bargain price fare, he had been ripped off. Grumbling, he begrudgingly paid the man his money.
From the comfort of his seat, the cab driver said, “Don’t forget about your luggage in the boot.” Grumbling and grizzling away to himself, dad removed our luggage from the boot. He was so annoyed with the cab driver, he forgot about closing the boot lid.
“Excuse me, sir!” the driver said condescendingly, “You failed to close my boot lid.”
“Don’t worry, dad,” I said to him, “Tony, Maria and I will shut it.”
I smiled, Tony smiled. Maria smiled. Then we closed the boot lid and walked away from the cab.
“Why are you all looking so happy?” mum asked, as we watched the taxi pulled away from the kerb and join the thickly packed traffic.
“There is no reason,” we lied.
Then she heard him, mum heard the taxi driver cursing and swearing from deep within the thickly packed traffic. He was shouting, “NO, NOT A STINK-BOMB! NO!”
Hearing this mum laughed. We also laughed. Dad never laughed, though. He was far too busy searching for the platform our train was departing from.
“Tickets please,” a jovial, dark-skinned man said to us, when we approached the platform barrier. Dad pointed to mum. She searched through her bag, looking for them.
Gazing innocently at the ticket collector, Tony said, “Hello, black man.”
“And hello to you too, little white man,” he jovially replied.
“Tony, what are you thinking of?” mum chastised. “I am so sorry, ticket collector, she apologised, “he doesn’t usually say such rude things.”
“It’s okay, Mrs,” he answered. “No offence has been taken. I have been called a lot worse than that, in my time.”
Mum shepherded us through the gate. “Now where had your father gone?” she asked.
I never heard mum’s question, because, having entered the platform, one of ever so many in Waterloo station, the mecca for all things STEAM, I was in a world of my own; a world populated by steam locomotives. Euston station, although soot laden and grimy, was a wondrous place in my steam loving eyes. I marvelled at everything I saw – and then some.
As I walked along the platform, oblivious to everything going on around me, I marvelled at the steam engines some more. Turning my attention to the carriages, I marvelled at them also. Although they were old, almost as old as the rickety, electric train carriages we had travelled in, on our way up to London, they were so different; worlds apart. These carriages, in a magnificent shade of deep purple, had a set of narrow lines, white, yellow and black, painted half way up them. Moreover, these lines spanned the entire length of the train. Complimenting the wonderful colour scheme of the carriages were lions. Splendid British Railways Lion logos, standing majestically and regal, were featured at the centre of each and every carriage. It was sheer perfection.
We caught up with dad at the far end of the train. Smoking a cigarette, he said, “This is the carriage, number twenty-three. See?” He pointed to a piece of paper glued to the inside of the carriage window. “Mum (dad had a habit of calling mum that), have you got the seat tickets?”
Mum looked in her bag, searching for them. Retrieving the brown envelope, she said, “Here they are, I knew they were in here somewhere.”
“Let, me see,” dad said to her. Taking the envelope, he opened it, and then delved a hand into it. “Here they are,” he said triumphantly, a few moments later. Waving five pieces of paper high above him, he said, “These are our train tickets and seat reservations, so they are!” Having said that, he stepped into the train, turned a corner then vanished from sight.
Following dad, we climbed aboard the splendid steam powered train. It was a corridor train (most of the trains on the main lines were in those days). The corridor was over to one side, and opposite it were a series of compartments running the entire length of each carriage. It was an excellent setup, offering a great travelling experience. Within each compartment, which had its own sliding door, there were six seats, roller blinds on the patrician widows, and a small table under the carriage window. It was, like I have already told you, a great travelling experience. Moreover, for the life of me, I cannot understand why these types of carriages are not still in use.
We still had to find our compartment. Dad set off once again at a blistering pace. We struggled to keep up with him. It still puzzles me as to how he managed to negotiate such a narrow corridor – and so quickly – with so much luggage in tow.
When we caught up with him, dad was standing outside one of the compartments as if he owned it. “Here you are,” he said to us, “your home from home.”
We entered; we entered our compartment. Tony and I bagged the window seats. Sliding the door closed, dad said, “There will be no interruptions for us until we reach Holyhead.”
Gazing at the empty seat opposite dad, I wondered if anyone had reserved it. I tried to ask him about it, but he would hear none of it. “That is a spare seat,” he insisted. “Nobody travels alone. Pull down the blinds,” he ordered. “No one will be any the wiser, with them down.”
Forgetting about the empty seat (at least for the moment), my eyes wandered around our compartment. The seats, of a striped design fabric, were extremely comfortable. Above each seat were framed pictures, promoting various holiday destinations, such as The Isle of Weight, Bognor Regis, Blackpool and Holyhead. I wished I was a train driver, setting off to splendid destinations each day.
“What time does the train leave?” mum asked dad as he slid open the compartment door.
Lighting a cigarette, dad looked at his watch, and then he replied, “At seven thirty,”
“Good,” mum said to him, “we have plenty of time left until we set off.”
It was true; we had an hour and a half left to kill before the train began moving. This was how they did it, my parents, when going on holiday; they arrived at the station long before our train left it. “Just to be sure we don’t miss it,” is what they usually said to me, “just to be sure.”
When dad finished smoking his cigarette, he became restless. “I’m just popping out for a moment,” he said to mum.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“Just out,” he answered vaguely.
We smiled, Tony, Maria and I knew exactly where dad was going. He was going to the station cafeteria, because of the second love of his life – tea. Tea was dad’s pastime. HE LOVED IT.
When dad was gone for almost half an hour, mum began to worry about him. “Where could he have gotten himself to?” she said to herself. We knew, though.
Five minutes later, mum was beside herself, with worry. “He’ll miss the train, so he will,” she said to us. She gazed through the window, looking for him. “I can’t see your dad,” she worriedly told us.
Several minutes later, dad was still missing. “Maria, go see if you can find your father,” mum ordered. “He must be somewhere out there.”
Waving a hand excitedly in front of mum’s face, Tony said, “Can I go too?”
“No, you’re far too young to be going out there on your own.”
“But I won’t be on my own!” he protested. “I will be with Maria! She needs help to find dad!”
“Return to your seat,” she ordered. A few moments later, however, after considering the situation some more, mum said, “Perhaps Maria could do with some help… Gerrard; go with your sister and find your dad.”
I was thrilled. Jumping up from my seat, I raced to the door and opened it so quickly it almost bounced off its runners.
“Take it easy,” mum ordered, “we have enough to contend with, without you destroying the train carriage.”
Stepping down from the train, Maria said, “Mum said you must stay close to me” Stepping down from the train, I sauntered away from her as if I hadn’t a care in the world. “Didn’t you hear what I just said to you?” she asked me.
“We are either in this together or not at all,” she barked. “Do you want to go back to your seat?”
“Okay,” I lied, “we are in this together.
“I wonder where the cafeteria is,” Maria said, thinking out loud.
She should have asked me, because every train enthusiast knew where the cafeteria was located.
“Ah, there it is,” she said, pointing ahead of us. “It’s at the beginning of the platform. Come on, Gerrard, we’ve no time to waste.”
I had absolutely no idea why she said that, because we had plenty of time left before out train pulled out from the station. Exiting the platform Maria set off at a brisk pace, heading for the cafeteria. With so many steam engines I wanted to see, inspect, I seized the opportunity to give her the slip. I set off in the opposite direction.
Stopping at the next platform, I spotted a dirty nondescript locomotive attached to an equally dull train. Deciding to give it a miss I set off for the next platform. Gazing through the platform gate, I spotted a steam engine. It was clean and shiny, and hissing great clouds of steam as it pulled to a halt in the station. “I wonder where it has come from.” I whispered to myself. As I stood there, admiring this shiny beast, its passengers began to disembark. I stood away from the gate, allowing the passengers free access onto the station concourse. I just had to know the exotic location it had come from. Spotting three children exiting the gate, I said, “Excuse me, please, where has this train come from?”
Looking at me as if I had two heads, the eldest child (it was a boy) replied, “Oxford of course.”
I was so disappointed. Oxford was too close. It could never, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered exotic. Although it was a magnificent steam engine, it had lost its appeal. I wandered across to the next platform gate.
As I gazed hopefully through the next platform gate, I hardly believed my eyes, when I spotted the steam engine therein. Resting, resplendent amidst huge clouds of steam, was the Mallard; the fastest steam engine in the world. “Wow! Wow! Wow!” I said over again. “This cannot be happening! Wow!” My eyes were glued to it.
When I finally calmed down, I wondered why no one was guarding it. I stepped closer to the barrier, hoping to slip through it. “Where are you going?” the ticket collector at the gate suddenly asked me.
“Onto the platform,” I coyly admitted.
“Oh no you’re not,” he told me.
“No. You’re going nowhere without a platform ticket, young man,” he informed me.
Rummaging through my pockets I found a thrupenny bit, “Here you are,” I said, holding up the money for his inspection.
“I’m the ticket collector, not the seller,” he told me. “Go over to that machine, yonder, where you can buy one.”
I looked at where he was pointing. It seemed so far away from the Mallard.
“You won’t get a platform ticket, standing there,” he told me. I tore across to the said machine.
“You were quick!” the ticket collector said when I returned with my ticket. “We could do with the likes of you working on British Railways.”
I was chuffed, incredibly chuffed that he had said such a thing.
“Hand me your ticket, and I will clip it,” he instructed me. “Then you can enter the platform and see the train.” I handed him the ticket, which he duly clipped. Waving my through the gate, he welcomed me onto the platform. As I approached the Mallard, my legs trembled with excitement. At the gate, the ticket collector said quietly, “Kids and steam; what a strange mix.”
I could hardly believe it, that I was standing so close to the Mallard; the fastest steam engine in the world. “No one at school will believe me when I tell them about this,” I said to myself. “I wish I had a camera.”
Running my fingers along its streamlined body, I marvelled at it. “I will get my bedroom painted the same shade of blue,” I promised.
Although there was no one anyway near the Mallard, it was brimming with energy; fired and ready to go. Approaching the driver’s cab, I said, “Is there anyone there?” There was no one inside. Taking hold of the handrail, I climbed the steps and pulled myself up into the cab.
Inside the cab was a world dials, levers, cogs, soot and, above all, steam. It was heaven, sheer heaven. Although it was small, the driver’s cab was crammed full of instruments, dials, gauges and other pieces of equipment, all of them so important for driving a train. It reminded me of Doctor Who’s Tardis; bigger on the inside than on the outside.
Then I spied the engine driver’s seat. Although it was a rather primitive affair, it was a hallowed article in my idealistic, young eyes. It was high, though. I scratched my head thoughtfully, wondering how I might get up to it. Just then, something to the rear of the cab caught my attention. “That is just what I need,” I said gleefully. To be truthful, the item was actually located in the coal tender. Moreover, it was on top of the huge pile of coal secreted therein. Entering the tender, I was in the world of the fireman. There was coal, shiny black coal, everywhere. “I am coming up to get you,” I said to the item above me. Clambering up the mountain of coal, I stretched out my arm and grabbed hold of it. “Got you,” I said to it.
“You got what?” someone suddenly said to me. I had been found out. With face, hands and clothes covered in coal dust, I returned to the driver’s cab. “What have we got here, one of the black and white minstrels?” an old, round-faced man, dressed in timeworn dungarees, asked.
“I, I was just getting this,” I explained, showing him the item. “It’s a stool,” I told him,
“What do you want that for?” he enquired.
“You wanted to climb it, didn’t you?” he said to me. I nodded. “You wanted to climb it, to the engine driver’s seat, my seat?” I nodded again.
“Are you the engine driver?” I dared asked.
“I am,” he told me. “But not for long, though…”
Intrigued and saddened by his statement, I had to hear more. “Why not?”
Withdrawing a battered old pipe and an equally battered old tin from one of his pockets, he set about filling the pipe with tobacco. “You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?” he asked, more out of politeness that concern for the health of my lungs (that’s that way things were in those days, you know).
“It’s fine with me,” I answered.
Striking a match on the fire door, he sucked on his pipe, filling his lungs with smoke. Watching him, smoking his battered old pipe in front of me, I decided, right there and then, that I was going to smoke a pipe when I grew up.
“You see,” the engine driver said slowly, thoughtfully to me. “You see,” he said again, as if for added emphasis, “I am retiring today…”
I was shocked; I was totally shocked that anyone might want to retire from the best job in the world (in my innocence, I had no idea a person has to retire when they reach a certain age), so I said, “Don’t you want to keep working?”
“Of course I want to keep working,” he answered. “However, they say I am too long in the tooth, to do it safely.” He sucked some more smoke into his lungs, and then he exhaled, filling the cab with same smoke.
“That’s terrible,” I said to him.
“The smoke?”
“No – them making you retire,” I explained.
Changing the subject, the engine driver asked, “Where are your family?”
“Mum is in the train, the one that’s going to Holyhead. So is my brother. Maria, my sister, is looking for dad. He’s mad about tea,” I told him.
“I like it myself. How about you?” he enquired.
“I like it,” I lied. I hated tea, but could never admit such a ‘failing’ to an engine driver.
“Do you fancy a cuppa?” he asked me.
“I would love one,” I answered, lying again.
Grabbing hold of a duffle bag that was hanging from a hook in the cab, he searched for some tea. “Your train doesn’t leave for almost an hour, you know…”
“I know,” I glumly replied. “We always arrive early at the station, when going on holiday.”
“That’s not bad.”
“It’s not?”
“No, not at all,” he answered. “Arriving early gives you plenty of time to explore the station. “By the way, the name is Joe; Joe Bloggs.”
I laughed. I tried not to, but in vain. “I’m sorry,” I apologised. “I thought that was only a made up name, for funny stories and the like.”
“Think nothing of it,” Joe answered. “It takes a lot more than that to rile me.”
Using the hot water from the engine, the Mallard herself, Joe made two mugs of piping hot tea. Then he asked me if I would like to sit in his seat.
With eyes beaming bright with excitement, I answered, “YES, YES PLEASE.” Placing the stool under his seat, Joe told me to climb up to his seat. I climbed the stool, and then sat on his seat, the best seat in the world.
“Here is you tea,” he said, handing me a mug of piping hot tea.
Accepting the mug, I drank heartily from it. Gazing in front of me, at the dials, gauges and levers, I felt as if I was a real engine driver. It was GREAT.
When we had finished our tea, Joe showed me around the engine. He showed me every part of it, from top to bottom. He explained what everything was for, how it worked and why it worked so much better on the Mallard. Before stepping aboard the Mallard, I considered myself an expert on steam locomotives. By the time Joe finished, telling me about the Mallard, I realised how little I had up until then known.
“I think it’s about time you returned to your family,” Joe said to me, when we finished inspecting the outside of the steam engine.
“Do I really have to go?” I grumbled.
“If you want to get on your train, you do,” he answered.
Thanking him for the wonderful tour, I waved Joe a sad goodbye. As I walked slowly away from the Mallard, a huge blast of steam escaped from the engine. I was engulfed within it.
A few moments later, when the steam had dissipated, I glanced back over my shoulder, to see if Joe was still waving goodbye. Joe, however, was nowhere to be seen. As I made my way along the platform, I felt dampness in my shoes. Gazing down at them, I was surprised – shocked by what I saw. My socks were wet – and they had changed colour, from blue to yellow!
“Wow! That’s magic!” I whooped. Then I noticed my hands; they were perfectly clean. My clothes were also clean. “Wow!” I whooped again. Turning round, I raced along the platform, to tell Joe what had just happened. “Joe, Joe!” I called into the cab. “Are you there?” The driver’s cab, however, was silent and empty. “Where is he?” I grizzled, confused by his sudden disappearance. “Perhaps he is inside the train, having a rest,” I said hopefully. I boarded the train and searched it from one end to the other, but never found Joe.
“Did you have a good time?” the ticket collector enquired, as I exited the platform.
“I did. I had a very good time, thank you,” I told him. “Do you know where Joe is?” I asked him.
“Joe? Joe who?”
“Joe Bloggs, of course,” I told him. “He is the engine driver. He drives the Mallard.”
“Joe Bloggs, you say?”
“Yes, he made me some tea then let me sit on his seat…”
“That’s mighty peculiar,” the ticket collector said, as he gazed peculiarly along the platform, toward the Mallard.
“Why is it strange?” I asked him.
“You see,” he said slowly, thoughtfully, “Joe Bloggs is dead.”
“He can’t be dead!” I answered. “I was just talking to him!”
“I’m afraid that he is,” he instituted. “He died a year ago, to this very day. I don’t know if I should be telling you this, you being a young kid, and all…”
“Tell me, tell me!” I implored.
“He – Joe – died right there, where he worked, seated in the cab of his beloved Mallard…”
As I made my way back to our train I was in a daze. I was confused and bewildered by what I had seen. My friend, my new friend Joe Bloggs had died a year before I met him. Suddenly remembering my socks, and how they had changed colour, I said, “Magic; it was magic that helped me to meet Joe, and my socks changing colour are proof that it really did happen.”
I caught up with Maria, where she was standing outside the cafeteria. “You were supposed to stay with me!” she growled. “Where have you been?”
“I was talking to Joe,” I told her.
She ignored what I had just said; she was far more interested in telling me about dad. “Do you know where dad is?” she asked me, her annoyance with him only too evident in her voice. “I will tell you where he is,” she continued. “He is inside that, that cafeteria – drinking his fourth cup of tea, no less!” Fuming, she said, “Look at the time! We’ve only got five minute until our train leaves!”
She was right; there were only five minutes before the train pulled out from the station.
“Go into the cafeteria and get him out of there!” she ordered me. “I’ve tried it four times already without any success.”
Entering the cafeteria, I approached dad. He was standing at the counter, where he was drinking his beloved tea. “Dad, dad!” I said to him.
“What is it?” he answered.
“Dad, the train leaves in less than five minutes! You have got to come with Maria and me – now!”
“I will leave when I am ready,” he told me. “Why aren’t you on it?” he enquired.
“I, we…”
“Go, go get on the train!” he told me. “Your mother will be sick with worry, wondering where you have got to.”
“Go – now!” he barked. “Hurry!”
We ran; Maria and I ran as fast as our legs would carry us, to our train.
“Where on earth have you been all this time?” mum asked, as we slid open the door and entered our compartment
We stared; we stared at a Chinese man sitting in the sixth seat. He smiled at us.
“Stop staring at the man,” mum told us.
“Dad’s still in the cafeteria!” I told mum. “He said he was going to get you some tea.”
“He would,” mum answered. “It’s not for my benefit, though, but his…” The carriage moved; it shuddered and jolted back and forwards for a few seconds. “They’re getting ready to go!” mum cried out in alarm. “Where is dad?”
The train shuddered again, and then it began moving.
“Dad, dad!” mum cried out, worried for him. She opened the window and poked her head through it. “Where are you, dad?” she asked.
Then we saw him, we saw dad running alongside the train, carrying two beakers of tea.
“Open the door, before he runs out of platform!” mum roared.
On hearing this, the Chinese man leapt up from his seat and ran out of the compartment. Opening the carriage door, he invited dad in.
“Thanks,” dad said gratefully as he clambered aboard. “It’s leaving a bit early, isn’t it?” The Chinese man smiled in reply. Coughing nervously, dad entered our compartment. “There you are, my dear,” he said, handing mum one of teas, “a nice beaker of tea for you.”
Sliding the compartment door closed, dad returned to his seat, where he began drinking his tea. Finishing his tea, dad rested his feet on the empty seat opposite him. “I need some shuteye, he said to us. “Running along the platform has played havoc with my feet, so it has.” The compartment door suddenly slid open, revealing the Chinese man who had helped dad onto the train.
“I am sorry, but this compartment is taken,” dad advised him.
“Yes,” the Chinese answered. “I am in it.”
“No, no, you don’t understand!” dad told him. “There is only one empty seat!”
“Smiling at dad, the Chinese man said, “I am only the one person.”
“But no one travels alone!” dad insisted.
“I do,” he admitted, smiling again.
“But, but…” dad spluttered, “where is your wife?”
“In china,” he answered. “You like to see picture?”
“No thank you.”
“Can I come in now?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” dad answered, accepting defeat.
after taking his bag down from the overhead luggage rack, the Chinese man sat on his seat with it.
“How did that get up there?” dad asked.
“It’s mine,” the Chinese man told him. Opening the bag, he produced some bowls and plates from within it. “You like some curry?” he asked dad.
Eyeballing the curry with a growing disdain, dad answered, “Curry is from ‘out foreign’, is it not?”
“It’s from Luton, where I live,” he told dad.
“But, but you are Chinese,” dad insisted. “So your curry must be Chinese, also!”
Smiling yet again, the Chinese man produced a boiled egg from one of his containers. “You like a boiled egg, instead?” he enquired.
Accepting the egg, dad answered. “That’s more like it! You wouldn’t happen to have any tea in that bag of yours, would you?”

That was how my first holiday to Ireland began. Regarding my socks, well, no one believed they actually changed colour. They paid no attention to me, either, when I told them about my hands and clothes miraculously getting cleaned. Despite what they thought, these things really did happen. Moreover, Joe Bloggs, the man who had the best job in the world, had been a part of this magic, despite being dead.


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Skulduggery’s Afoot

Skulduggery’s afoot; did you hear him say,
Trouble’s abroad and that means TODAY?
It’s time to get out there and face the Faceless Ones,
Skulduggery and friend; his best number one.

Skulduggery is dead; he is only some bones,
Traipsing through of Dublin, appearing alone
Then, just as we think he is finished – again,
Valkyrie appears and saves her best friend.

Derek Landy, a cabbage farmer by trade,
Was inspired to create this detective and aid,
While tending his crops in the field one day,
He shouted, Eureka, I have it; I’m made!

I won’t have to tend cabbages anymore,
Working the fields until my back is quite sore,
Skulduggery and partner will give me it all,
Money and fame; I will have such a ball.

So it’s goodbye from Derek and adios from me,
He’s off to the bank and I’m off to a field,
Searching through cabbages for some ideas of my own,
Like The Crazymad Detective and his sidekick called Bones.

Nah, that’s no good, it’s too corny. Now let me see…
Ah, I have it, Doctor Bones and his Grievous Travelling Palaces.
That certainly has a ring to it.
Pardon, you want to know what a Travelling Palace happens to be?
Hah, that’s easy to explain.
No! I won’t tell you! Read Alice in Wonderland on Top of the World On Top of the World.
And when you have read it you will understand what they are.

If you liked Harry Potter you will love this story

Stories for children and young at heart adults

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Mad Eye Moody

Mad Eye Moody – can it really be,
That splendid interpretation, a hero so free?
Who gave us his all for the cry of the truth,
So we could remember that good is forsooth.

Oh, yes, they can Twitter, be it here, be it there,
About American Idol and Celebrities fair,
But can they replace the genius so fine,
Like Rowling and Dahl – or Wilson’s strange mind?
When next you are shopping in Wal-Mart, I think,
If its bargains you’re after then remember the ink,
On the paper, in the book section, where I’m waiting for sure,
To temp you with my writing and to open the door.
And when that door has been opened, my world of strange stuff,
Will entrance and beguile you; the air will be hushed,
As you read about Alice, the Cat and the Mouse,
Harry Rotter and Jimmy – and Beetle about.
Forget about Powerball, cars and the news,
Never mind Danny Choo – who is he? I muse
Wikipedia doesn’t know me but, heck, do I care?
When I’ve got so many readers in the real world, out there.

I am not Roald Dahl

Stories for children and brave enough adults.


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