Chapter One: Fluffy’s Story

Once upon a time there was a fluffy little kitten and she was walking along the path down to Dingley Dell to take homemade sweets to Mr Badger the wish maker. When who did she meet but Mrs Twinkle the good fairy

“Hello Mrs Twinkle” said Fluffy little kitten. “Hello” said Mrs Twinkle, “What’s your name?”. “My name is Fluffy little kitten” said Fluffy little kitten. “That’s a strange name, I mean, given that you are an Ostrich” exclaimed Mrs Twinkle. “I can’t help that” said Fluffy little kitten, “it’s my name”. “Well” said Mrs Twinkle “how about I use my magic wand and turn you into a fluffy little kitten?”. “Not really” said Fluffy little kitten, “I mean it’s a bit dramatic and imagine the psychological and physiological impact. It would also rather upset my mother and father”. “Wouldn’t it be easier to use your magic wand to change my name?”. Mrs Twinkle gave it a bit of thought. “Yes I can do that too, what would you like your new name to be?”. Fluffy little kitten thought for a moment and said “well, definitely not Oliver. I have six brothers all called Oliver”. (Narrators note: Fluffy little kitten’s parents were not good at naming children). “How about” said Fluffy little kitten, “Fluffy little Ostrich”. (Narrator’s note: not being good at names seems to run in the family).

So with a wave of her magic wand Mrs Twinkle changed Fluffy little kitten’s name to Fluffy little Ostrich. “That magic spell is so powerful it will change your name everywhere” said Mrs Twinkle. “Your Parents will think its always been your name, your brothers will think its always been your name. Everyone who knows you will only remember you as Fluffy little Ostrich”. “Thank you so much” said Fluffy little Ostrich and she carried on along the path on her way to see Mr Badger at Dingily-dell.

Fluffy little Ostrich arrived at the home of Mr Badger the wish maker at Dingily-dell. Mr Badger was busy working in his workshop as usual. Fluffy little Ostrich knocked on the door. It took a little while for Mr Badger to hear the knocking. “Oh I do wish I had a proper door-bell” thought Mr Badger. “DING DONG!” said the proper door-bell. Mr Badger put down his wish making tools and went to answer the door. You do have to be careful being a wish maker. At one time Mr Badger had been called “Cyril Badger” But he had wished he hadn’t been named “Cyril” so suddenly it wasn’t his name. As he had not wished for any other name, he just became “Mister Badger” or “Mr” for short. The Badger family had been wish makers for generations. Their family motto was “Be careful what you wish for”.

Mr Badger opened the door. “Why, hello hello hello, if it’s not my darling Fluffy little Ostrich” (narrators note: see just how good Mrs Twinkle’s magic had worked). “Do come in” he said, “and to what do I owe this pleasure?”. Fluffy little Ostrich reached into her bag handed Mr Badger the big bag of sweets. “These are from my Mother”, she said, “freshly made this morning”. Mr Badger took the bag and peered into it. “Oh wonderful, my favourite, Raspberry and Chocolate, Pop, Snap and Suckables. I must write and thank her. I wish I had a telephone, then I could call her and tell her directly”. “Ring-Ring” said the phone that had suddenly appeared on the wall next to Mr Badger. He lifted the receiver. “Hello, Mr Badger Speaking”. He frowned. “Sorry, you must be mistaken, I have not been in any accidents that were not my fault or anyone else’s”. He hung up the receiver “What a waste of everyone’s time. I do wish they would stop calling with these silly questions” “Ring-Ri”. The ringing stopped. “My mother doesn’t have a phone anyway” said Fluffy little Ostrich. “I wish this pointless telephone thing hadn’t been invented” said Mr Badger. Suddenly it hadn’t. In an office, a long way away, a group of people sat down and started writing letters asking if people had been in accidents that weren’t their fault. Their manager was wondering if this business idea was really viable.

Mr Badger wrote a little note of thanks to Mother Ostrich and handed it to Fluffy little Ostrich. “There” he said, “Isn’t that a nicer way to communicate. I will have to pay her a visit some time soon”. Fluffy little Ostrich had another visit planned today. Her Mother had asked he to call in to the Dingley-Dell Sugar Mill and get four pounds of extra sweet sugar. Now this would normally be quite heavy but the Dingley-dell Sugar Mill had invested in a hundred and twenty magical homing trollies. These were very popular with customers. You could borrow a trolly to carry as much sugar as you needed and when you got home and took the sugar out, the trolly would take itself back to the Mill.

Mr Badger waved goodbye to Fluffy little Ostrich as she set off towards Dingley-dell Sugar Mill. The Dingley-dell Sugar Mill is always a joy to visit. The first thing you notice, even before seeing the building, is the sweet smell of sugar that fills your every pore and stays with you all day. The next thing that hits you is the grand entrance. A magnificent flight of marble stairs and at the top there is a pair of gigantic crystal doors that look like they are made of sugar. As Fluffy little Ostrich climbed the stairs and as she approached the doors they opened wide and she was greeted by soft beautiful music. She walked through the palatial entrance hall and up to the long, highly polished, mahogany counter. Behind the counter sat old Fletcher. Old Fletcher was a sugar gnome. He was also the owner and sole employee of the Sugar Mill. He was a strong believer in automation. He had robots doing all the work. Much of that work was maintaining and cleaning the huge grand Sugar Mill. “How can I help you?” asked old Fletcher, as if he didn’t know full well what she was going to ask for. Before she had time to answer a robot arrived followed by a trolly, number 25, loaded with four, one pound, bags of extra sweet sugar. “Just that” said Fluffy little Ostrich. She gave old Fletcher a sweet smile (with the sugar smell wafting all around the building everyone gave sweet smiles). “Thank you Fletcher” said Fluffy as she turned to go. “See you next week”. Fletcher was already thinking about how he could save the customer the trouble of visiting with a new automated home delivery service. As Fluffy little Ostrich got to bottom of the Sugar Mill stairs she found Trolly number 25 was waiting for her. Trollies have their own exit from the Sugar Mill on account of them not getting on too well with stairs. Fluffy headed off up the path that led out of Dingley-dell with Trolly number 25 trailing behind her. As she walked along the path she met Mrs Twinkle again. “Hello Fluffy little Ostrich” said Mrs Twinkle, “How’s the new name suiting you?”. Fluffy little Ostrich looked confused. “Oh of course, its not a new name is it, silly me” said Mrs Twinkle amazed by her own powerful magic. Even Fluffy little Ostrich would think its always been her name. “Give my regards to your family and tell your mother I will be putting in another order for Banana and Treacle Pop snap and chewables” said Mrs Twinkle with a broad smile. Good fairies are of course perfectly capable of magically conjuring up any confectionery they want, but Mrs Twinkle liked to help the local economy. “Thank you Mrs Twinkle, I will” said Fluffy as she continued on her way home.

Fluffy’s home, where she lived with her Mother, Father and three of the Oliver brothers who had “not flown the nest” was called “The House where we live” . It said this on a sign over the front door. Fluffy’s father had it made when they first moved in. “What do you want on the sign?” the sign writer had asked and Rover, Fluffy’s Father, had said “The House where we live”. (Narrator’s note: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear).

Fluffy arrived home. Trolly number 25 pulled up by the gate. “OH OLIVER” called Fluffy. The oldest of the three Olivers opened the door and, without needing further prompting, he went over to the Trolly and lifted out the four bags of extra sweet sugar. Another Oliver came out of the house carrying a dozen comfy feather cushions that he carefully placed into the trolly. Fluffy’s father, Rover, was a comfy feather cushion maker. The local economy was entirely based on the exchange of services. All those years ago the sign writer had been paid in Quills (Narrator’s note: Rover’s occupation at the time had been a Quill maker). And so Trolly number 25 set off back to the Sugar Mill. A much lighter, and very comfy, load this time.

Fluffy little Ostrich went into the house, down the hall and into the enormous kitchen. There were several large pans on the hob that were bubbling, popping and positively brimming with deliciousness. Mother was pouring a thick slow moving stream of piping hot caramel and gooseberry mixture into the sweet moulds on the table. Father was decanting the bags of extra sweet sugar into the sugar pots. “Hello Kitten” he said seeing her enter the room. He had always called her ‘kitten’ as an affectionate name, although he couldn’t remember why. (Narrator’s note: Kitten, although completely nonsensical, was one of the better attempts at coming up with a name). “Hello Daddy” replied Fluffy little Ostrich. “Hello Mummy. Mr Badger sent you this note to say thank you for the sweets”. “Yes, I knew he would, as some strange contraption appeared and then disappeared in the hall that I thought must be something to do with Mr Badger”. Oliver, the youngest, came into the kitchen. Earlier he had been helping Mother by licking the spoons clean and then he had been helping Father by testing the feathers for softness. As a result he was now a great mass of sticky feathers. “Fluffy darling” said Mother, “would you be a dear and take your little brother upstairs to help test the temperature of the soapy water in the bathroom sink?”.

The next day, Fluffy little Ostrich’s job was was to fetch two vats of cocoa butter and a large bag of cocoa powder from the Port at the bottom of the hill. Now this would be too heavy to carry up the hill but fortunately, many years ago, someone had had the good sense to build the Cable Bus. There was a Cable Bus at the top of the hill and a Cable Bus at the bottom of the hill. They were joined by a long chain. Taking with her a big bag of Caramel and Gooseberry coated Honeycomb Moreofthems, Fluffy walked down the path towards the Port and as she arrived at the top of the hill, she boarded the Cable Bus. Now with her on board, the Cable bus at the top of the hill was heavier than the Cable Bus at the bottom so it started to descend the hill. Half way down she saw the other, empty, Cable Bus passing on its way to the top. When Fluffy’s Cable Bus came to a gentle halt at the bottom of the hill, she she got off and walked over to the Port Emporium. She went in and was greeted by Norbuttley Rabbit, the chief salesswapper. “Hello, Norb” said Fluffy. “Today I need two vats of cocoa butter and a large bag of cocoa powder”. She handed over the bag of Moreofthems. “That will do nicely” replied Norbuttley. He fetched the two vats and the large bag of cocoa powder. One by one Fluffy carried them over to the Cable Bus. When they were loaded and she was on board, she tugged the rope that rang a bell at the top of the hill. At the top of the hill, the three Oliver brothers were waiting. When they heard the bell they all boarded the Cable Bus and it started on its way down. Mother Ostrich had calculated just the right weight of ingredients. Half-way down the three boys waved to Fluffy who was in the other Cable Bus on her way up. She waved back. When her Cable Bus got to the top she unloaded the goods and tugged the bell rope. This told the Olivers that it was now safe for them to exit the Cable Bus and start walking back up the hill towards home. When they were all at the top the brothers helped Fluffy carry the cocoa ingredients to the house. 

Derrick the Post arrived in Dingley-dell at full gallop. He pulled up outside the Sugar Mill and called out “POST!”. Trolly number 59 trolled out of the little side hatch and pulled up alongside Derrick. Derrick grabbed a pile of letters bound by an elastic band from his saddle bag and dropped it into Trolly 59. While he did this Trolly 101 arrived with a small pile of letters, a small bottle of sugar soap and bag of sugar lumps. Derrick picked up the letters and put them in his saddle bag. He put the bottle of sugar soap in his side pannier and popped a sugar lump into his mouth . (Narrator’s note: the sugar soap would be great for cleaning the saddle bags and it bought up the shine of Derrick’s unicorn horn a treat). Derrick set off again and after exchanging letters to various places he arrived at Mr Badger’s house. “POST!” He shouted. “DING DONG” said the proper door bell not wanting to be done out of a job. Mr Badger opened the door. Derrick handed him a letter. It was from Ebenezer Badger, Mr Badger’s brother. Mr badger read the letter and scribbled a letter of reply, put it in the same envelope as Ebenezer’s letter had been in, crossed out his own name and address and wrote “To Ebenezer Badger, FAR AWAY”. He handed it back to Derrick along with a small card marked “A Practical Wish”. (Narrator’s note: “A Practical Wish” card was always most appreciated. You could not do anything major with them but they were very handy for small things like, for example, if you broke a favourite cup or chipped the tip of your horn going under a low bridge. Anything where you might say “I wish I hadn’t done that”). Derrick set off down the path up to “the house where we live” at the top of the hill. As he cantered past he saw Mrs Twinkle. “See you later” he called out to her. (Narrator’s note; Mrs Twinkle worked part time at the sorting office). He arrived at Fluffy’s house. He had three letters addressed to Mum and Dad Ostrich. They were from each of the three older Oliver brothers. In return he had been handed a letter addressed to Queen Victoria Ostrich (Narrator’s note: Fluffy’s Grandmother, who was not actually royalty but had been named Queen Victoria just because her parents liked the name). He also received a box containing a Carrot Cake. Derrick the Postal Unicorn continued down to the Port. He used the Cable Bus for no better reason than just in case someone at the bottom need a counterweight. They didn’t. The other Bus was empty as he passed it. Finally he arrived at the Port. He had a few letters for the ships crew and one for Norbuttley Rabbit. Finally he trotted back to the sorting office. When he got there he found Mrs Twinkle waiting to help sort the letters. She was a great help. When she saw Ebenezer Badger’s letter, she crossed out “FAR AWAY” and wrote in “10056 Main Road, Metrotown (between the tree and the duck pond), OFFERSLAND”. She put it in the tray marked “OVERSEAS”. (Narrator’s note: she could have just magically made the letter appear at it’s destination but that would put several Unicorn out of work). 

On a Wednesday there was always a special market called the SwapExchange. Everyone went. The main purpose of the SwapExchange was to swap things that were given in return for goods or services that were surplus to requirements. If for example you worked at the tomato farm just outside of Dingily dell you were probably paid for your efforts entirely in Tomatoes. Not just Tomatoes of course. You might get Tomato Puree, Tomato sauce, dried tomato, vine tomato, baby tomato, tomato soup, tomato chutney, pickled tomato, stuffed tomato and I think you are probably starting to understand the need to have somewhere to exchange your tomato produce for absolutely anything else. Wednesdays were not working days. Apart from swapping things it was also a great social event. 

Opposite the Dingley Dell Sugar Mill stood the Dingley Dell Town Hall. The Town Hall had clock tower with a clock that struck the hour every hour. The Town Hall Clock was so accurate that, if you had one, you could set your watch by it. Nobody did have a watch of course as nobody needed one. You could hear the clock striking the hour from everywhere. Dingley Dell did not have a Mayor or a council or any officials, except I suppose you might count “Sothwik Sloth”. Sothwik was the only one who ever entered the Town Hall. He was a sort of self appointed caretaker. He kept it clean and in good repair. He polished the big brass door knocker and oiled anything that needed it. If anyone ever sent letters to the Town Hall he would receive them, read them, maybe reply to them and file them. His replies to any letters would usually be along the lines of “There is no-one here. Thank you for your letter”. He did have an actual job at the Town Hall. Once a week it was his job to wind the clock and set the time. At exactly 4 o’clock his mother would call him for dinner so he would check the clock and sometimes he would need to set the hands back just a little. If he found himself feeling hungry before 4 o’clock he would sometimes set the hands forward a little. However, everyone agreed the Town Hall clock was the most accurate clock ever. Mother Sloth swore by it. 

While the SwapExchange was great for getting many things and had a huge variety of goods and services, there were some things that everyone needed a lot of. Vegetables for example, in particular, Potatoes and Carrots. Mother Ostrich could not constantly be swapping Ginger and Barley Flaming Flapjacks for all the vegetables needed for a family of six. The solution was simple. Nobody was a full time farm worker. If you wanted to eat potatoes then you, or members of your family, would work on the farm part time to get paid in potatoes. Then you might work on the next farm to be paid in carrots. No-one owned the farms. The farms were run as co-operatives. Yes, there were some like ‘Marmaduke the Shire’ who managed the farms but this was really only because he knew what needed to be done. There was a wide range of farms around Dingley Dell and plenty of work was needed to plant, water, harvest and plow. Then there was the likes of Oliver Ostrich (the eldest) who had got into exporting the excess vegetables. He arranged for them to be taken down to the port and shipped off to all sorts of places and in return he imported nuts, berries and lots of things that could not be grown locally. He and his wife, Olivia, ran the Dingley Dell Co-operative Store. (Narrator’s note; Yes, that’s right, Oliver and Olivia Ostrich. How they did laugh, but it was entirely coincidental). Fluffy little Ostrich had spent the day helping to water the carrots and in return she had been paid in Potatoes as the carrots were not ready for harvesting yet. There where some times in the year when nothing was ready but the farm work was still needed. To solve this issue the farms had introduced various means of preserving vegetables and fruits. So in the winter the farms could pay in dried fruits or preserved vegetables. There had been attempts to import ice to freeze vegetables but then some bright spark, (Narrator’s note: it was another of the older Oliver brothers), had come up with the idea of exporting vegetables to naturally frozen places and then importing them back in winter, allowing those who stored them to exchange a percentage of the crop to other places. 

Fluffy little Ostrich was sitting with her mother in the front room when she heard the cry “POST!”. She went to the front door where Derrick, with his polished hooves and horn and looking very smart indeed, was waiting and holding up three envelopes. Fluffy took them. One was addressed to her, the other two were addressed to Oliver and Oliver. Fluffy turned to quickly go and fetch a slice of Treacle coated Carrot cake but Derrick stopped her saying “No, No need, they are ‘PaidPost'”. (Narrator’s note: ‘PaidPost’ simply meant the sender has already exchanged something (probably sugar cubes) for postal service to deliver a large number of these letters). Derrick cantered off to the next address on his round. Fluffy went back into the front room. “I have a letter” she said excitedly. She opened it and read it out loud to her mother. “Dear FLUFFY, you are formally invited to a dance. To be held next Wednesday at the Dingley Dell Town Hall Hall at 5 o’clock”. (Narrator’s note: Dingley Dell Town Hall Hall was a community Hall attached to the Town hall. They had had a competition to choose a name for this new community hall. Unfortunately Fluffy’s father had won it). The other two letters addressed to Oliver and Oliver said the same thing. They knew this meant the two older Olivers still at home. Oliver the youngest would be a bit of a handful at a dance. The following Wednesday, with ribbons and a lovely necklace borrowed from her mother, Fluffy attended the Town Hall Hall Dance. She had a wonderful time. They had borrowed the Sugar Mill Robot Band that usually played the music in the Sugar Mill entrance hall. Fluffy danced with everyone. She danced with her brothers, she danced with Sothwik, she danced with Mr Badger’s nephews, Billy and Malcom Badger. She even danced with Trolly Number 120 (who was surprised to have been invited at all but turned out to be a very good dancer). Afterwards, Fluffy had danced all the way home with her brothers and even with Mrs Twinkle when they met her on the path. Then she danced with her parents and then danced into bed where, when she finally fell asleep, she danced in her dreams.

Chapter Two: The Sugar Mill

It was well known in Dingley  Dell that the Fletchers had run the Sugar Mill for many generations. What was less well known was that in all that time it had been run by the same Fletcher.  Old Fletcher the sugar gnome. He had originally arrived in Dingley Dell with nothing more than a handcart. He had a sack of sugar that no-one was interested in at all, as they had all lived quite happily without this new and expensive product. He also had some smaller bags of other commodities and it was these he set up a stall to sell. He put up a sign that said“Cocoa bars , price one carrot”“Coffee, price one potato”Passers-by would stop to see what he was selling and it did seem very reasonable. A luxury like Coffee or Cocoa Bars for just a potato or a carrot. Word spread like wildfire and each day when he arrived to set up his stall there would be a long queue all eager to buy.  Then Fletcher started introducing new lines.“Lemons, price one carrot”“Green Tea, price one carrot”.All these rare and sought after products were becoming more and more popular with everyone in the village. Everyday he would bring the big bag of sugar but still no one wanted it, One of his customers was Miss Tabatha (yes, that’s how she spelt it) Rabbit who ran the tea shop (narrator’s note: this was the great great grandmother of Norbuttley Rabbit although she didn’t know it back then). She was doing a great trade selling tea, coffee and chocolate cake. But some of her customers had been saying they were finding her delightful and quaint afternoon refreshments just a little….well…bitter. She was the first to ask Fletcher for a small bag of sugar, just to take the edge of the bitter coffee and chocolate. “Certainly said Fletcher. The price is one brick”. Fortunately for Miss Rabbit she did know someone who worked down at the new port that was under construction. He could get her a few bricks.So everyone was happy. Norman Rabbit, the “someone” who Tabatha knew (and would later get to know a lot better) was happy to be helping her out. Tabatha was happy to be suppling her customers with sweeter tea, coffee and cakes. The villages were all happy as word spread about the lovely tea shop, and of course Fletcher was happy as within just a few weeks he was selling bags and bags of sugar and gathering up a large quantity of bricks. As Fletcher didn’t eat potatoes or carrots he was soon able to buy mortar and employ a bricklayer and soon had a small brick built shop to replace his hand cart and stall. This was the beginning of what would slowly develop into the Grand Dingley Dell Sugar Mill.

Now you might be wondering how Fletcher could afford to exchange luxury items for such cheap things as carrots and potatoes. Well, its simple. Fletcher came from a place called LAND. The climate in LAND was ideal for growing sugar, coffee and cocoa plants but terrible for growing carrots and potatoes. For quite a long time the occupants of LAND didn’t know anywhere else existed. There was LAND and SEA. That’s all. Then Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins (a very Noble and dignified looking Zebra in a grand uniform with plenty of braid, a peaked hat and more medals than his broad chest could really accommodate) arrived on a ship looking for a faster route to OFFERSLAND. He had told them about the other places. This opened up a new trading route and Fletcher had decided this was the opportunity he needed. There really was no point in trying to trade in Sugar in LAND as everyone already had more than they could possibly use. The exporting process in Sugar Gnome culture is difficult to explain. “Other” sugar gnomes would ship Sugar, Coffee and Cocoa out to Fletcher. But in the culture of Sugar Gnomes there really wasn’t the concept of “other”. To try to explain this, imagine you have four bags of sugar. There is one bag plus three “others”. Now pour all four bags of sugar into one bag. There is still the same quantity of sugar but now there are no “others”. For practical and logistical purposes you might need to pour the sugar into separate bags but the concept of one bag of sugar owing or exchanging goods with another bag of sugar is senseless. It’s probably not worth trying to get your head around this. Just accept it as Sugar Gnome culture. Fletcher received sugar, coffee and cocoa and no one expected anything in return. Everyone was happy.After a while the immigrants from LAND started to refer to LAND as OLDLAND.

Now if we might return to the present day. Old Fletcher’s Grand Sugar Mill has grown into a huge Sugar empire where he exports his Sugar products to every known town and city that has been built or discovered. But to really understand Old Fletcher you need to understand Sugar Gnomes. 

Sugar Gnomes are not social creatures. Maybe “creatures” is not the right word. Maybe “entities” is better. But then maybe “social” isn’t the right word either. They are not really part of a society to be social in or really to be engaging with other societies. We can keep the word “Social” if we think of societies as organisations. Sugar Gnomes do organisation big time. So while we cannot call them social creatures we can call them organised entities. This is why Old Fletcher got on so well with his robots, automated processes and his magical Trollies. You might even be forgiven for thinking that lending his musical robots to the villagers on special occasions was a social act of kindness. You would of course be wrong there too. It was organisational marketing. However, if you didn’t think about it at all, he appeared as quite a lovable old character. 
(Narrator’s note: Throughout this story we have been referring to Old Fletcher with the personal pronouns of “he”,”him”,”his”. They are not the right words either but I think we should not pull on that thread right now).