Christmas Competition 2020

I'm currently running a **Dear Santa** competition where I encourage you to connect with your inner child. Write your letter and I will post it to Santa, and also put you in the competition for a chance to win. Just join the group and you can post. 

Hope to see you there.

The Fairies of Bluebell Wood

Once upon a time, in a most beautiful place called Bluebell Wood, there lived a large and assorted family of fairies. While fairies are fairies and they usually live in beautiful places there was something a little different about these ones.

     Many years back a spell was cast on those of the wood, by a nasty old witch - a spell that turned regular, everyday garden fairies into mere shadows of themselves.

     How did this happen … you might wonder? Sit back and I will tell you.

     Once there lived the prettiest girl named Emerald. She had hair like spun gold and the biggest green eyes that you ever did see. She lived in a house called Sandy Hollow, a place not so far away from the wood. Her father was a farmer but sadly he’d died before Emerald got to know him.

     Despite this unhappy fact, Emerald’s life was a magical one. She was well-loved by her mother and doted on by her older sister, Ruby. Every week day, with her books tucked securely under her arm, Emerald would walk the short distance to William, the woodman’s, house. There she leant her ABC’s and how to count to ten and more. And every evening on the way home she would stop at the wood and play with the fairies. Together they would sing silly songs and dance and dance and dance. Or sometimes they would sit and make up ridiculous stories that would make them all laugh so hard they would fall over. And occasionally there were even moments when they would sit quietly together on wood-moss and make necklaces out of wild flowers. They had so much fun and Emerald was a welcome and beloved addition to this fairy troupe.

     Now the house in the Hollow, where Emerald lived, was believed to be a very special house. It was rumoured to have been built when the moon was blue - a blue moon is an enchanted moon. Before long all the fairies from Crinklebottom Creek and Balderdash Mountain, along with those of Bluebell Wood heard about this and they moved to the garden of the house in Sandy Hollow. They believed that they would always be safe there, because of the blue moon’s magic. But oh … how wrong they were!

     Days flowed into weeks, with these weeks adding up until eventually they became years. During this time the garden was always filled with sunshine and laughter. The fairies couldn’t have been happier. Emerald would feed them fat slices of bread, dripping with globs of honey, and sing to them in her pure sweet voice. Because of this the fairies took to looking after the garden - the flowers and trees - and they also taught the butterflies to dance, and the bees to hum a fine tune. The days continued on in this most marvellous manner until the winter of the big freeze.

     The weather had been out of the ordinary for many months; there had been little rain and the temperatures had dropped lower than they had ever been. The ground was hard and cruel with frost, and the air was hazy and cold with a thick fog that rolled in off Crinklebottom Creek. The fairies wrapped themselves in wood-moss as they tried to keep warm. They huddled miserably together under the bushes. Emerald still ventured out during these months, bringing them what she could to help them through these darkest of days. But it was a constant battle against the elements - one that Emerald found hard to fight.

     Fortunately, winter always blossoms into spring and the fairies were soon able to put these times behind them. Once more they took to tending the garden. The flowers emerged as they should, but things were different this season. The fairies saw less and less of Emerald.

     At first it was just a matter of an odd day here and an odd day there. Emerald didn’t seem quite herself on these days. Her eyes were weepy, and she sniffled as if she had a cold. Then she began to cough, and she refused to stay and sing, saying that she must go and rest. She was indeed pale, but the fairies, being immortal beings, did not understand the ways and illnesses of humans.

     The time between Emerald’s visits lengthened and she no longer played as she once did. Instead she sat and shivered inside her cape until she could no longer stand the bother of it all. Despite this the summer made its appearance but Emerald never returned to the garden again!

     At first the fairies were just puzzled. They wondered about her and some even ventured to the back door of the house to see if they could catch a small glimpse. But the house was quiet, and the shades were drawn, with not even the older sister being seen.

     The fairies withdrew to the bottom of the garden. There they spent the long warm months of summer and the cooler months of autumn doing what fairies do best. They kept to themselves until the chill of the winter days returned.

     It was another freezing and lean season and it drove the fairies nearer the house again. Some went to the hen house and snuck into the nests to find warmth under the feathers of the chickens, with some of the braver ones cuddling up with the household’s cat in his basket. Food was scarcer than the previous year, so they approached the house once more, knocking on the door with trepidation.

     When Ruby answered their call, they begged and pleaded for some bread and honey, but she just shooed them away with a swish of her apron, saying they must not come back. Ever!

     What were the fairies to do?

     Finally, a meeting was called, and it was agreed by all that despite their last encounter with Ruby they would ask Emerald’s mother for food and shelter against this lowest of times. Otherwise they were doomed.

     The morning was crisp and cool when the fairies carried out their plan. Some shook in their little pointed shoes as they neared their destination, for it was supposed that Emerald’s mother was once a witch in her younger days, but most assumed that they need not have any fear if they were protected by the magic of a blue moon.

     The huge oak door of the house opened to their appeal and a voice spoke softly. ‘Go! Go away! It is because of you that my sweet Emerald is gone. She took cold while she frolicked with you and so she died. A Riddance Curse will grow on you by summer’s end.’

     The fairies did not comprehend the woman’s words, yet they knew they would never find shelter in the house of the Hollow.

     By chance an early spring saved the fairies and their life went on in the usual fashion. Flowers blossomed, and frogs sang in the pools of rain water left behind by spring showers. The fragrances of summer soon filtered through the air, but the strangest things began to happen. Emerald’s mother started to visit the garden just like Emerald used to do. The fairies got excited there for a moment, for they believed that they would see their dear Emerald again. They would stop what they were doing and wait a while, but it was only her mother they ever spied out between the shrubs and plants, so the fairies returned to what they were doing.

     At first, it was noted, Emerald’s mother collected herbs, petals and twigs, along with other assorted oddments. Then she could be seen each night watching the rise of the moon. When it became full she started to walk about, first in a circle anti-clockwise around the garden, then in clockwise circles. At the same time, she could be heard reciting strange words. And they went like this.

Hear me once and hear me twice, fairy wing and touch of ice.

Hear me now and hear me then, count from one and count to ten.

Hear me not and hear me all, gone by fading sun of fall.

Hear me soft and hear me loud, fairies draped in graven shroud!’

Then the house became dark and quiet, though they fairies knew that Emerald’s mother and sister dwelt there still.

     The last days of the summer drifted gently into autumn and suddenly the fairies began to disappear one by one. It was the most frightening thing. One minute they were there, dancing or singing or fussing about with the late flowers, dandelions puffs and coloured leaves. Then the next minute they seemed to just vanish into thin air, as if they had never really existed at all. Fortunately, some managed to return to Crinklebottom Creek and Balderdash Mountain before they got caught up in the enchantment but most, especially those of the wood, were spirited away by the spell that had been cleverly woven during the warm lazy days of summer. By winter every fairy was gone from the garden of Sandy Hollow.

     One day Emerald’s mother decided it was time to leave her home of many years. She bustled about busily, packing everything in sight. She shut up the house, pulling closed the blinds and locking the door behind Ruby as she stepped away. But before Emerald’s mother left the Hollow forever she took a turn around the now-deserted grounds. She hated the fairies with such a vengeance that she would not leave until she was completely sure her spell had worked its sorcery.  When she returned to Ruby’s side she nodded with satisfaction. Then the pair left without looking back.

     But what Emerald’s mother didn’t know was that fairies never disappear completely, no matter what. They fade instead into the outer reaches of our imagination, there to stay until something tweaks a memory that might bring a fairy fully back into existence.

     It’s been a long, long time since that day. The fairies may have disappeared to wherever it is that fairies go, but a small portion of the original Bluebell Wood sign remains still. It leans against a fence not far from the house in the Hollow. It’s old and most of it is faded but … it is a reminder that, many years ago, fairies once dwelt at Bluebell Wood.

 THE END (c) Margaret R Blake 2014


A Dog's Life ...

     ‘Hey, Charlie, you old bastard, how are you? Haven’t seen you in an age.’

     ‘Good, mate, good … and you?’

     ‘Not bad, cobber, didn’t expect to see you here though.’

     ‘Under normal circumstances I couldn’t have made it. I was in town, so I had to pay my respects.’

     ‘Yeah … I know what you mean … sad state of affairs.’

     ‘Funerals usually are.’

     The men nodded silently, each within their own thoughts.

     ‘So … how’s the missus?’

     ‘Oh … didn’t you hear, Fred, she passed on … hmmm … about four months back now, I reckon.’

     ‘Oh … sorry, mate –’

     ‘That’s okay, these things happen. We’re not spring chickens anymore.’ He looked around the room as if to emphasise the point.

     Fred finally ventured forth with, ‘Yeah … that’s for sure.’ He grinned and patted his rather rotund waistline.

     Both men slipped into silence again. The steady drone of the surrounding conversation wrapped round them as the moments ticked on. Fellow mourners drifted by with cups of tea gripped tightly in one hand, plates of small nibbly bits in the other; the general feeling was hot and oppressive.

     Fred ran a finger around the inside of his collar then loosened his tie before slipping off his jacket. ‘I guess all the formalities are over now.’ He scanned the room as he draped his coat over the back of a chair. ‘Want a beer … or some other coldie, mate?’

     ‘Beer’ll do, thanks Fred. Might be more comfortable in the garden too, eh?’

     Fred nodded in agreement as he sauntered off to fetch the promised drinks. ‘So, Charles, me old mate …’ he said, swallowing a long draught not two minutes later, ‘how’s retirement treating ya?’

     ‘Yeah … good … took a while to get used to not getting up at the crack of dawn Mondays to Fridays. And Ethel helped … showed me there was more to life than being a postie. I took an interest in the garden - got into growing prize dahlias - that’s why I was in town today … had to set up for the yearly dahlia show.’ Charles went quiet for a moment while he put together his next words. ‘And … you’ll never guess what …I finally got that small yacht I wanted,’ he said finally.

     ‘Good on yer,’ Fred said with a nod of appreciation.

     ‘Even Eth got into that once she’d mastered her seasickness … got her sea legs so to speak.’

     ‘Done well for yerself then, Charlie … can’t say I was as adventurous as you. Molly and me, well … we kept doing the same thing with the dogs … always off to some show or another, gallivanting all over the countryside … remember?’

     ‘Crikey, how could I forget? She had those ribbons and bows of hers everywhere. Still has the dogs, has she?’

     ‘Nah! Once the old arthurititis set into her hands she couldn’t do the grooming anymore and stubborn old cow that she is, said nobody could look after her babies like she could.’

     ‘Yeah.’ Charlie smiled fondly.

     ‘And talking of dogs – the old posties’ peril – Johnno could tell a tale or two, eh?’

     ‘That’s for sure. I reckon he was the only bloke who got bitten just the once in thirty-seven years of service.’

     ‘And that was by old Black Jack, that cantankerous mutt in Frazier Street. Remember how he used to sit behind that bush at the gate and just wait for Johnno to come along, rain, hail or shine?’

     ‘Then frighten the buggery out of Johnno every time. He swore the dog laughed at him as he picked up the letters off the street. Jack only bit him the once though.’

     ‘Yeah … but that’s all it took … eh?’

     Charlie and Fred chuckled as they finished off their beers.

     ‘I think that calls for another one, Johnno’s shout, wadda yer reckon, mate?’

     Charlie handed over his empty as Fred got to his feet. He soon returned with fresh drinks, one of which he handed over with a salute.

     ‘To Johnno.’

     ‘To Johnno.’

     Charlie wiped a tear away with the back of his hand. Fred patted him awkwardly on the shoulder.

     ‘Don’t let it get to you, mate.’

     ‘No … no … tears of mirth, cobber. I’ve been chuckling to myself over Johnno’s escapades. He was a right card that one … think about it … he gave the saying of ‘man-eating dog’ a whole new meaning.’

     Fred’s face split with a grin as he recalled the incident that Charlie was referring to. Fred took a swig of his beer. ‘And that should have been in The Posties’ Training Manual.’

     ‘Oh … bloody oath, Fred,’ Charlie broke out into new chuckles, ‘I can hear him now … “Listen up, boys. Don’t let them furry four-legged mongrels sneak up on you and get the upper hand … or in this case … paw.”’

     With this, both Fred and Charlie doubled up with laughter, their faces turning beet-red as they gasped for breath.

     Charlie couldn’t help but go on with, ‘” Do you want to spend most of yer day sorting yer mail a second, a third and maybe even a fourth time? If the answer is no, then it’s about time yer enrolled in Johnno’s Postie Defence Course. You will not only save time, but those bothersome bite marks will fade away to nothing in an instant.’”

     ‘Oh, Charlie, you were always a comedian.’ Fred sat back crossing his legs and shaking his head.

     ‘Nah … not me, it was Johnno who took the cake there. I reckon I laughed for a month when he told me about the day him and Black Jack finally had a showdown … and he was so calm and matter-of-fact about it … like it’s something you do every day. “Bastard … bloody mutt … scared the stuffing out of me, muddled up me mail and tore the arse out of me good trousers. It was the last flaming straw, so I bit him back, bit his bloody ear orf, didn’t I?”’ Charlie had tears streaming down his face as he worked on getting a really good giggle up.        

     Then Fred picks up the story, ‘Then as droll as they come, he says, “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears … bugger orf,” Johnno says. “… I got Black Jack’s for keeps. Won’t hassle me again … won’t be able to hear me now.”’

     Again, the men doubled up with a fresh bout of laughter.

     ‘But that’s not the best part…’ Charlie gasped. ‘Johnno calmly pulls out a bit of Jack’s ear from his pocket and threw it on the sorting bench and Mrs Burke fainted … remember? Hit the floor like a ton of bricks.’

     The men roared once more. In between breaths Fred says, ‘Oh, yeah … what a character, eh?’

     ‘Yeah,’ Charlie agrees, dragging a striped handkerchief from his own pocket and mopping his face.

     Settling back again Charlie and Fred sipped quietly on their drinks as they enjoy their shared memory. Then Fred looked at his watch.

     ‘Got to get going, me old mate. It’s been good catching up.’

     ‘It sure has.’

     They shook hands then drained their beers.

     ‘So … here’s to old Johnno, then … he finally got his dog,’ Fred said, flourishing his empty bottle.

     ‘Yeah,’ Charlie agreed, climbing stiffly to his feet. ‘And may he rest in peace.’

     ‘Amen to that,’ Fred finishes with a Catholic flourish. With another chuckle the men parted. THE END