Four Lions & A Cub

By Mark Willis

Jenny Wren

By Jay Laverick

Jenny Wren was a kindly bird who was known for thinking often of others, helping many fellow birds whenever they had troubles. Only a few weeks before she had assisted Mr and Mrs Robin to escape an attack from a ferocious Hawk. She had used her wit and speed to distract and lead the bird of prey away whilst the couple gathered up their eggs and found a new safe place to hide.

But know she knew now she was ready to start laying eggs, she had a partner and as is customary he had built a beautiful moss and leaf nest in a mighty oak tree next to the great river. She was happy and content and only had to find a beak full of feathers to complete her home.

With her rich brown plumage and short cocked tail she spent a day a flight, searching the trees and hedges for the discarded plumage of other birds. Tired, hungry and dejected she returned to the mighty oak, having found no feathers, to rest and think out her plan for the next day.  Her friend Mr Robin was flying up the river and noticed Jenny sat looking forlorn. He circled and perched next to her, asking how her day had been, immediately she began to sob and told her tale of a wasted day and how she knew she would be laying her eggs soon and likely as not, if she didn’t have better luck tomorrow she would be having her chicks in an incomplete nest.

To the little Wrens surprise Mr Robin paused briefly, gave his apologies and headed off back down the river from where he came, heading for Mr and Mrs Sparrows nest. Feeling a little upset Jenny just managed to snaffle a Daddy Long Legs crawling along the branch, which would do for her supper then headed for bed.

Shortly after sunrise with the Dawn Chorus in full song she headed across the river to hunt the hedgerows she had not covered the day before, after much searching and diving and a close call as she encountered an old Barn Owl in his nest who eyed her hungrily, she once again returned to the home Oak fatigued, hungry and more than a little miserable.

As she felt the pressure from inside her due to the nearness of her eggs to make the next part of their journey, she wondered how she could ever finish her little home. As she looked at her small feet her attention was caught by a great commotion coming from downstream. She looked to see a large bird heading towards their part of the river bank and fearing an attack from a bird of prey, she backed into her nest with just her beak and eyes looking out following the flight of what she could now see was a tremendous creature with a large brown wingspan, heading directly for her Oak tree. Poor little Mrs Wren was terrified as this animal landed on the branch by her nest with its ferocious long sharp claws biting into the wood. To make things worse this monstrous being still had the remnants of its last poor prey sticking from its mouth.

Clearing its beak on the branch of the Oak the bird spoke with a deep and assured voice “Mrs Wren, are you home?” cowering in the furthest point of her nest she meekly called “I am, but please don’t eat me as I am carrying children” at this the large bird boomed with laughter, tipping back his great head and beak. “Little Jenny” he said “I received news that a tiny little wren was in need of feathers for her nest and I have flown from the great forest with these for you”. Slowly emerging and more than a little shocked Jenny saw that his face wasn’t covered with the remnants of dinner but it was in fact a large stack of every kind and colour of feather that she had ever seen.

The great Buzzard smiled kindly and began to tell the tale of how Mr Robin had spoken to Mr Sparrow, who had told the Blackbirds, who had passed on the message to the Finches and so it had proceeded until, carried on the song of what seemed like every bird, he had heard the story of a kind, helpful and selfless Wren who needed a little support herself. “It may be so that birds prey on birds” the great animal said, “but we all live in the same great world and can only exist when each other does”. Please accept these feathers as a gift from all of the birds who live by the river and I hope you have a successful brood. With a wink, he took off and flew back down the river to return to his wood.

Phoebe’s Hidden Talents

By Charlotte Nicol

Once upon a time, in a land far far away deep in the Indian Ocean near the Suda Islands of Indonesia lived a fish called Phoebe.  Phoebe was a catfish and had deep grey scales on her slow body and long whiskers that tickled the peach pink coral as she swam along the floor of the ocean.

Phoebe had a lot of friends and played with her shoal of fish all the time, she particularly loved playing with Sami and Lydia, her best fish friends.  They were beautiful rainbow fish with bright orange scales, and long pointy noses that hid behind the coral.  She loved to play hide and seek with them and although her grey slow body lagged behind them she loved to see them dart between the rocks and the coral.

Phoebe did love her friends but she found it difficult to see them be so colourful when she was so grey and dull.  ‘Why am I not like Sami and Lydia mummy’ she cried as her mummy tucked her into her sea bed.  ‘Darling you are who you are and you must never wish for anything else’ her mummy said wisely.

One day, whilst playing hide and seek she heard a sound ‘WHOOOOOOSH’ a fishing net came through the water and panic set in the shoal of fish.  Phoebe’s uncles and aunties were taken by the net and she managed to escape by hiding under the rocks.  Sami and Lydia darted behind the coral.  WHOOOOSH came another noise, it was becoming more familiar now and she began getting used to the fishing nets coming down into the ocean every day.  ‘Why are the humans ruining our home’ wailed Lydia and Sami.  Slowly the ocean became more and more murky and green, the algae that was once eaten by the whole shoal had started to grow and become overgrown.

Slowly, Phoebe set to work on the bottom of her sea bed, doing what she did best.  ‘See Phoebe’ said her mum, it’s colourful once again!

Is This Me ?

By Chris Riley

Tom was a fantastic athlete, he trained every day, he ate properly. You could tell by his physical appearance that he took care of himself, trim, well proportioned. He was a true athlete, trained hard and in fact, had won many marathons with his running club.

The Director of the running club asked to speak to Tom, he was intrigued.  The director wanted Tom to coach the club’s A team for a local half marathon that was coming up. Tom was elated, he was so happy to be asked, and obviously he would do it, he was so positive he smiled from ear to ear as he shook hands with the director, what an honour to be bestowed upon him.

Over the coming weeks, Tom arranged for the members of the team to meet regularly at the local athletics club so that he could walk them through their paces, he arranged diet plans for them all, he even gave them individual training plans.

As it got closer to the race, the club director came to watch the training session, Tom was nervous and wanted to make a good impression. As the team went through their paces, he pushed them harder and longer and longer, until they were too exhausted to do any more. But they were getting there, Tom thought to himself.

Finally, Tom came off the training ground and spoke to the director, “How do you think that went?” asked the director, with a note of question in his voice, Tom hesitated and then said, “I think they are getting there, I am sure they will be ok!” The director laughed and in a humorous voice, said, “Well don’t expect them to be as good as you, but as you say they are trying!”

As the race day approached Tom could not think of anything other than the words of the director. Had he not done enough? What would the club think of him? What would the club think of the other runners if they don’t perform?

It was Saturday, race day. The sun was out, it was 7am and the warm sun was reflecting off the bright yellow club outfits of Tom and the six members of his team, all with running numbers on their chests and looking like they were ready for action.

Tom thought it would be best to give them a pep talk before the race, so he huddled them together, “I just want you all to enjoy the race, no matter how well you do, at least you have tried your best”. They all gave a big high five and walked off to the start line. As they walked through the hundreds of people all waiting to start the race, Tom heard one of his team shout to him “see you at the finish”. That’s nice Tom thought as he was a lot quicker than the rest of his team.

Bang! The starting gun sounded and they were all off. Tom was soon away from his team, despite all the jostling, noise and sweat, he was off like a bullet from his own gun. He soon realised he was far in front of his team, and his clear mind started to race as fast as him. What if they are struggling? I need to help them, I cannot let them down… Question after question, they kept coming.

He reached a water station and stopped, not normal for Tom. He could feel something in his stomach, not food he had a healthy breakfast, his heart was pounding, he was not out of breath, I know he said to himself, I will wait for the team, they need me.

Ten minutes later the team came round the corner all together, but only five of them. As the team drank at the water station Tom asked them where Jane was, he was concerned for her. The team replied we thought that she was with you. She has been practicing for months to keep up with you and beat your times. “Really” said Tom, “I had no idea”

The five runners and Tom left the water station and stayed together as they made their way through marker after marker along the roads as they got closer to the finish line. Tom was feeling good that he had the team around him, that he was able to help them all, but what about Jane; Was she ok?

As they joined hands together to cross the finish line, they could hear the crowd cheering, but also a really loud voice shouting to them “come on team”, Tom looked over to the left and could see Jane standing on the winner’s podium, her arm around the club director, with a gold medal around her neck, and a smile from ear to ear.

The Boat…

 

By Lisa Ayling

There was once a boat. The boat was unique, crafted from aged wood grown in a beautiful forest. The grains of the wood running like fingerprints throughout were a quiet reminder that this boat, even though similar in appearance to some, was like no other: it was truly unique.

The boat was independent, over the years it had charted its way through many waters, exploring the changing, undulating landscapes and taking in the views along the way. All the time learning the craft of moving elegantly through the water. The boat had many passengers on its journey, some whom stayed a while, others who conversed fleetingly from the banks. The boat was proud, it used its sails and rudder to work with the ebb and flow of the water and the changing breeze, gliding seemingly effortlessly at pace towards the horizon.

One day the wind had dropped (this had happened before) and the boat almost came to a stop, but as the conditions around it changed it found more time to take in the views that had gone unnoticed along the way.

Whilst sitting, almost still, on the smooth glasslike water, the boat was joined by a majestic eagle who swooped effortlessly down and perched on the edge of the boat. The eagle asked the boat if it could rest a while, it explained that the still conditions were making it more challenging for it to travel large distances and see everything from above, so it would wait for conditions to change before continuing its long, majestic journey.
The boat asked whether the Eagle always needed to travel so high above the landscape? “Why, of course” it responded, “how else can I progress if I can’t see great distances from above and see what lies ahead on the distant horizon?” The boat pondered this statement, and after passing the time of day a little longer bid farewell to the Eagle as it continued on its’ journey.

The boat was enjoying the delicate view as it gently bobbed along a new stretch of the river. Coming close to the banks it could see new flora emerging from
its winter sleep: a whole new landscape. Peering out between two emerging buds  a mouse moved nimbly along. The boat greeted the mouse and welcomed it aboard so that it could rest a while.
The mouse thanked the boat and commented on how quickly they seemed to be gliding along the banks “but we are barely moving” smiled the boat. The mouse gazed on in wonder, observing the banks as they passed from the boat. After a while it thanked the boat “you have taken me further in this short time than I could have traveled in the whole day!” and it nimbly returned to the banks, renewed and rested.

The breeze picked up a little and the little boat’s sail once again embraced the warm air. As the boat resumed its journey it glanced up at the expansive sky, and considered the path of the majestic eagle, then at the banks bursting with life and thought of the nimble mouse, then looked ahead and set its course. This time the boat noticed how smooth the water felt, how warm the breeze was and how much more could be seen on its own horizon.

The Path of the Rainbow

 

By Alison Roberts

Let me tell you about a distant land, an enchanting place full of magic and discovery.

It was a place of beauty: The trees were forever in blossom, fragrant petals drifting through the air, tickling the faces of all who lived there, perfuming the atmosphere. The air was quiet, devoid of wind, rain or any sound but the delicate chirping of colourful birds that soared the sky, never leaving the confines of this paradise. The sun and moon were in constant conversation; their established dance controlling the gentle flow and ebb of tides, bringing fish and feeding all who lived there. It was a place of peace and calm, a place of such contentment and appreciation that nobody yearned for more; nobody questioned if there was anything else. What more could anyone want? In this place of magic, there was no discussion, no challenge, no heated conversation; just one viewpoint, a shared knowledge which everyone believed was all there was to know.

Surrounded by water and without any form of modern technology the inhabitants of this isle were content to look up to the sky, learning about their world from the moon, the sun and the ancient stars above – their teaching never varied; it followed the same rhythm, and the accepting pupils listened day in, day out. Faces turned to the sky, they listened. The direction of their gaze did not waver – they looked up, but never out, never around.

And so life continued in this way.

One day there was a change. The inhabitants of this island woke up to a sudden chill, the sky was darker and droplets of water fell from above like tears. The people ran out in confusion. They looked upwards for reassurance when through the glimmer of the sun’s rays, they spotted a gentle arc of colour, a myriad of faded blue, indigo red, green and yellow. It shimmered softly and everyone looked up in awe, squinting to see more.

The ancient stars looked down, their light dimming next to the wondrous beauty of this young rainbow. From above they could also see what the others could not. The colours did not fade, but seemed to glow strongly and curved majestically across the ocean, touching the soil of a distant land in a golden glow of treasure.

In that moment the sun, moon and stars knew that the path to the future had arrived and a time of new knowledge and opportunity was beginning. This young arc of beauty would provide the path to a new perspective, something they had not been able to do.

Embarrassed by the gaze of these ancient forces, the young rainbow bowed down with respect and humility, urging them to continue their stories, humble about her own powers, not believing the part she was to play in the future of this magical island and the beings that existed on it.

Days passed. More and more rain fell and the jade green grass and jewel like flowers began to drown in the rivers and streams that had erupted. The people stumbled in clods of earth, not knowing how to save themselves, looking up to the stars for guidance – still looking up, not out or around for a solution. They were alone, stranded, oblivious to the other land which beat with life just a short distance away.

The ancient stars were desperate. Their powers were fading and they knew they did not hold the answer to the horrific situation below. With certainty they knew that new direction was needed – only a new perspective, a fresh approach would change the fate developing below.

Together the ancient stars urged the rainbow to believe in herself and her own powers. Together they urged the rainbow to change the fate of their people. Their thoughts and encouragement combined with such force that they suddenly illuminated the sky, before vanishing forever.

In that moment of illumination, the colours of the rainbow appeared like a solid path, concrete, enticing. For the first time the people’s eyes moved to the right and to the left, following the arc of this path. As their eyes moved, so did their feet and soon they were standing on curve of the rainbow. For the first time they saw the world from a different angle – they could look down, around, across. They could see out and their perspective was changed forever. Hypnotised, they continued the journey across the spectrum of colour before their feet touched new land, new opportunity. A new future opened up and the people looked around, eager to learn more. They moved forward into a land of noise, debate, excitement and challenge, thrilled by the prospects in front of them. And as they moved onwards, the rainbow delivered each and every one with a golden nugget of knowledge that they would never relinquish.

The Mouse & the Owl

 

 By Jenny Gaughan

There was once a little mouse, who was kindly and unassuming. She loved to help others by sharing her own knowledge and wisdom but she couldn’t help feel something was lacking. The little mouse wondered what she needed to do to be better at helping, how could she be kinder, how could she make sure she was saying the rights things to others to help them? What could she do to make a bigger difference to others and their lives? She pondered so much that she decided to visit the wise old Owl who lived in the old oak tree. ‘ excuse me Wise old Owl?’ Said the little mouse… The wise old Owl awoke from her daytime slumber. ‘What can I do to be get better at helping others? How can I be a better listener who always knows the right things to say to help? How can I share my knowledge better so that other will listen and really learn from me?’

The wise old owl thought for a minute ‘Hmm she said, I think all you need to do is find the jewels and let them shine’. At this the owl was so tired, her eyes closed and she went back to her usual daytime nap. Slightly confused, the mouse set about on a treasure hunt…’find the jewels’ she thought. Where do I even start? At this she packed a bag and left the village and off she went on an adventure, imagining the shining emeralds, diamonds, rubies and sapphires she may soon have. Over the next few years, mouse travelled hundreds of miles, visiting many villages, towns & cities along the way. She met so many villagers, many were curious about her treasure hunt and they enjoyed listening to her adventures and stories of her travels. Some villagers were hostile and Mouse had to work a little harder with those villagers, even taming the scariest of creatures helping them to trust her, and over time, the little mouse knew exactly what to do when she wasn’t welcome in a village or was faced with hostility, she studied others, listening hard and watching them carefully, and eventually she found she could break down any barriers she faced and have a warm meal and somewhere to rest while delighting the villagers with her stories and in turn learning about their lands and cultures.

Over the years, news of the little mouse travelled far and wide she was welcomed wherever she went by those eager to learn from her, curious about her knowledge of other lands she had discovered in her hunt for treasure. However, no matter where she went, nobody could really tell her what she was looking for, there were stories about sunken ships, pirate treasure and secret maps but despite her searching, she never found any jewels. Eventually she grew tired of her travels and defeated, decided to go home. Disheartened, she once again visited the wise old Owl. ‘Wise old Owl, she said, I have travelled far and wide over land and sea, I’ve encountered so many dangers and so many delights but I am weary now and need to rest. Please tell me where the jewels are that you speak of?’

The wise old Owl opened her eyes, with a big yawn she wearily started to speak, but the little mouse stopped her speaking in her tracks ‘Oh I’m sorry’, said the little mouse….’should I come back when you’re a little less tired, I can see you’re exhausted, perhaps it’s a bad time to talk?’

With this the wise old Owl spoke, ‘It’s very kind of you to notice that I’m not my best during the day, in fact, I remember being so tired last time we spoke, I didn’t even finish what I was saying about where the jewels were…..and well, you never asked… never mind… I’m so glad you seem to have enjoyed your travels and have learned so much… I guess you never really needed my advice afterall. I can see the jewels are shining brighter than I could have ever imagined’.  With this the Owl went back to her nap.

34 Hillyside Lane

 

By Gillian Davies

It was here again: the annual garden competition at Hillyside Lane.

In the weeks creeping up to this heralded day, every resident was decked out in their armour of gardening tools, gloves, and boots. But there was only one gardener who was a champion in pulling up the ranks of his flowers at sharp speed: and that was Howarth. Every year, as the competition neared, Howarth would loudly traipse his boots across his grass with the thunderous roar of his latest gtech cordless lawn mower. This year however, his artillery was even stronger. After purchasing a new razorsharp cutter, he swiftly ended the progress of any flower which looked too feeble to be on his canvas. Every day, during his meticulous inspections, he interrupted the natural calm of his soil by loudly hacking and churning at it. This made his soil appear fresh at the surface but it covered its unhappy dried-up texture below. On the day before the competition, he sat back on his chair with music blaring out. He watched whilst a robotic model 2590xpower trimmer, growled across the edges of his grass shaving off any threatening imperfections.

Howarth spotted John next door who was also loudly cutting his lawn and Howarth screamed over
“I’ve picked up this super strength miracle gro John it’ll bring the grass up to a blinding green in no time!”

John nodded at Howarth but was not listening because his podcast on ‘super strength gardening’ was pummelling his eardrums. Julie, on the opposite garden, glared over at the men and joined the cacophony of sound. She clicked on her jet washer as it blasted any remnant of soil on her patio. But whilst glaring over at the men, she had not realised that she had mutilated her daffodils in the path of the jetwasher.

Howarth stood up and poured the ‘miracle gro’ over every speck of grass. The soil was so drunk on chemicals that a bee, which had landed to help out his flowers, quickly diverted its flight from the stench.

The bee buzzed away from the whirlwind of sounds. It landed on a group of roses and accompanied many other bees who knew that this was the place to be: number 34 Hillyside Lane. Tucked away at the end of the road, this garden grew in abundance and was a quiet oasis of colour. The grass grew at different heights and shades. Ivy had been allowed to freely stretch up the face of the house like a large “go” sign for nature to arrive. Birds nestled themselves in the bushes and their melodic chirpings would now and then punctuate the silence here. Flurries of bees congregated here too. And so, this was a garden of growth where some flowers were bending over, some were withered but showed off their bright petals and some were quietly making their progress drinking from the sun and moist soil.

Mr Remember

By Sara Close

 

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I will begin.

Mr Remember lived in Memory town. He was a thoughtful fellow who loved to think and wanted to preserve each and every moment. It is good to think. It is therefore not a surprise, you will agree, that he worked in the town archives recording and conserving key events.

He often found that he brought his work home with him. Not in the way that you or I would bring home an assignment. Instead, he found his work became an extension of himself. He became he his work and his work became him.

Think, preserve, repeat. Think, preserve, repeat. Think, preserve, repeat.

It started small, like a tiny, little seed; insignificant and unnoticeable. They say the best ideas start out small. So do the worst. Over time it grew and as it grew the roots took hold. It sprouted new shoots and was no longer a tiny, little seed. Fully formed it became established. Think, preserve, repeat.

To put it simply, his work was to record events. But at home he recorded ideas. Some were brilliant, bright, beautiful sparks of genius. We all have these and I’m sure you can see the benefit of recording them. These where the seeds of hope he began with. A post it note here or there with a revelation. He grew confident and with this confidence he told himself you must write more. So he did. Soon every idea he ever thought had to be written down. The house became decorated with ideas. More and more cluttering and choking the walls. He wrote so much he couldn’t see the wood for the trees; the idea for the post it notes.

He knew he had had a good thought, but it became it lost. He started to read through what he had written. He couldn’t find what he wanted. As he despaired he continued to write, for what else could he do. These were not the flames of imagination that at first ignited his passion. Dark negative thoughts. I can’t do this. I am no good at.  I tried, but it’s rubbish. He thought and he wrote, he wrote and he thought. Out of control he knew it must stop.

It is a good thing that Mr Remember was a close friend with Mr Tidy, the cleaner, at work and he noticed a marked change. As he cleaned Mr Remember’s office he found that it too had been covered with post it notes. Each negative idea persevered and looming over. The windows covered with negative thoughts no light could come in. It was stifling. Things needed to change.

Mr Tidy took his friend for a walk. Whilst cleaning he had uncovered under an array of negative messages some sparks of inspiration. Confronted with these truths of I can, I shall and I will it was clear that there was talent. He had achievements and successes. Things had to change. He must own his thoughts. I did and I can.

A seed needs nurture: planting, water, warmth, sunlight. If you plant it in shade it will not grow. If you pile rocks on top, the shoots with stumble. If you tell the seed it will fail, it will fail.

Returning from their walk it was clear what had to be done. Dustpan and brush in hand was time for a spring clean. They were going to take back control.

 

The Blue-Black Bowerbird

 

By Kay McNee

Jake was a black bowerbird who lived on the Eastern side of the majestic Mount Bromo in Indonesia.

The Old Chief bowerbird – Chief Harry – had recently left to lead a flock on another mountain, and Jake had been elected as the new Chief, but his initial feelings of pride and excitement about his role were gradually being replaced with feelings of apprehension and a growing sense of pressure.

As Chief, Jake was expected to set an example for the other male bowerbirds on Mount Bromo when it came to attracting a mate – the others would follow his lead and act as he directed them, with the intention of the whole flock finding partners and continuing the survival of their species. Bowerbird numbers were falling across the world, and there was an underlying fear of extinction that lurked just below the surface of every flock meeting. Old Chief Harry had achieved great success in improving bowerbird figures on Mount Bromo, but rather than reassuring Jake, this fact only served to instil a sense of inferiority within him.

“I’m not sure I’m cut out for this”, Jake confided in his friend Brown Eagle. “They all think Old Chief Harry was the best Chief we’ve ever had. They have no confidence in me”.

“What makes you think that?” asked Brown Eagle.

“I just know. I hear them talking all the time about it”.

“You hear who talking?”

“I don’t know, all of them. Anyway, I’ve got a few ideas which I’m going to try. Thanks for chatting Brown Eagle”.

The next day, Jake put his first idea to the test. He flew down to the lake and strutted around the edge, puffing his black chest out and parading himself in the hope that potential partners would be impressed by the immense power he effortlessly exuded. They weren’t. Puffing out his chest got him nowhere. It was back to the drawing board.

On the second day, Jake flew back to the lake and perched on the edge before performing a song. Rumour had it that previous Chiefs had wooed potential partners using song. Jake wasn’t exactly sure where these rumours started, or which specific Chiefs had been successful with this method, but, he thought, this rumour had been running for years, so it was highly likely to be true. It wasn’t. His song got him nowhere. It was back to the drawing board.

On the third day, Jake arrived at the lake with his best idea yet. The other bowerbirds still talked about Old Chief Harry’s famous dance routine – by all accounts, a mesmerising dance that had potential partners queueing up for him. Jake began the dance, remembering all of Old Harry’s steps. It still wasn’t working – potential partners were either ignoring him or laughing at him. ‘If it worked for Old Harry, why isn’t it working for me?’ Jake sighed. He would dance for 1 more minute, then go back to the drawing board.

But suddenly, from behind him came a flash of piercing, electric blue. He stopped dancing and the colour went away. Intrigued, he started dancing again – bowerbirds around the lake had now stopped what they were doing and were looking over at him. The more he danced, the more the shocking blue seemed to flash and swirl in the air. Where was it coming from? Bowerbirds around the lake were now surrounding him, cheering and clapping.

As Jake turned around, he realised that his tail feather had opened out during the dance – that beautiful blue was the blue of his own tail!

‘How had I never noticed that before?’ wondered Jake. ‘It must have been in me the whole time’.