Category Archives: Story

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).

Chapter Three: The Rabbits

It was a sad day in Dingley Dell when Mrs Rabbit passed away. She was buried alongside where her beloved husband was laid to rest a few years ago. They had both requested to be placed in the same grave yard as Mrs Rabbit’s parents. It was a Wednesday and all the folk had gathered together to remember her. She was well loved by everyone, mainly as the proprietor of the Dingley Dell Tea Rooms. But this was not Tabatha Rabbit. This was Rebecca Rabbit, Tabatha’s daughter. Rebecca had taken over the Tea rooms after her mother had passed away many many years ago. While everyone knew Rebecca from the Tea Rooms, she was also well known for her campaigning. Her mother had always joked about how Rebecca had started campaigning for Ballet lessons when she was very little and how she had been a campaigner ever since.

Once grown up Rebecca had campaigned for the building of a Town Hall in Dingley Dell. Now this had been quite a long and hard fought campaign. It would be expensive and everyone would have to contribute. “It will put Dingley Dell on the map” she had said. “But why?” said Marcus Rabbit, “No one needs a map. There’s the Port, a straight path, up and down the hill, through Dingley Dell and out to the sorting office”. “Shut up Marcus” said Rebecca to her husband with a smile on her face. 

No one was that keen when they saw what it would cost but they started to come around to the idea after The Sugar Mill had made a large donation. Then when they heard it would have a clock tower they warmed to it. Finally, Rebecca had won them all over by pointing out that if Dingley Dell had a TOWN HALL then that would make it a town rather than a village. And so it was decided. The same bricklayer who built the Sugar Mill was engaged to build the Town Hall. The clock was imported from OFFERSLAND where the finest clockmakers were to be found.Dingley Dell was declared to be a town by the Sorting Office so that confirmed it.

But Rebecca didn’t stop there. As soon as the last tile was laid on the top of the tower she started campaigning for a town council and a mayor.This was going too far. The towns folk would have to pay these councillors and the mayor. “What would they do?” Many asked. “Well, maintain the path” said Rebecca. They looked at the path. “The path doesn’t need maintaining, what else?” they said. “Well, they would decide on how much they would be paid” said Rebecca. She knew she was losing the battle. She had got agreement that someone would have to wind the clock. However this was only after she had agreed that this would be paid for indefinitely by adding a tiny amount to the price of teas in her tea room. To start with Marcus Rabbit had been conscripted to this role but when he was too old to manage the stairs they took on Sothwik Sloth.

The bell in the tower was rung especially on that Wednesday in honour of Rebecca Rabbit.

Chapter Four : The Fishermans Story

Just along the coast from the Port, there stands ”The Fisherman’s cottage”. It had its own slipway that had a winch with a trolly that allowed the fisherman to lower his boat into the sea and pull it back up the slipway on his return. This is the home of a Bear called Patrick. He was one of a kind, literally. He was not A fisherman. He was THE Fisherman.  He was the only one. Every day (except Wednesday) he would set off in his little blue boat and sail around the coast looking for the fish he had to find. This boat was also one of a kind. It has a glass bottom. He would gather the carefully selected fish and take them home. He put them into tanks that he kept in the shed behind the cottage.
Patrick absolutely loved fish. He knew everything, anyone, could ever know about fish. The fish he was looking for were those with twisted tails, split or damaged fins. He would treat them with various concoctions that he had developed over the years. Sometimes he would have to fit them with tail straightening splints.

He also had various tanks into which poured seawater and a thick sugary syrup. This use of raw sugar had been suggested to him by old Fletcher. (Narrators note: who would have guessed). Of course, this was not for fish to swim in. Fish really don’t have a sweet tooth (or any type of teeth come to think of it). However, in these tanks he grew algae and that did very well on it. Patrick was then able to feed this algae to his inpatients.
When the fish were feeling better, stronger and slightly fatter then Patrick would take them out on his boat to the same place where he had found them and sent them back home. 

Not all of Patrick’s patients were aquatic. He also did claw clipping, teeth trimming (for the Rabbits of course), grooming and tail untangling. It was these side-hustles that actually paid for his living. The fish, while very grateful for his help, really didn’t have much to exchange with him in return. A couple of them had helped him retrieve things that had been accidentally dropped overboard and they would give him weather warnings.  Fish get all sorts of clues about weather. The currents, the sea temperature, the uninterupted view of the sky and cloud formations. Oh, and of course, from the general chatter and gossip in the local sushi bar.

Chapter Five: School

It was a big day in the Ostrich household. Oliver, the youngest was going to start school. This was very exciting for young Oliver. He had heard about the school from his siblings and his parents. He was really looking forward to it. Mother Ostrich was really looking forward to it too but for a completely different reason that she was keeping to herself.Mr and Mrs Ostrich had applied to the school and had recently had a letter telling them they were pleased to accept him from the b of the next term. There was only one school and everyone who applied was accepted. However, the headteacher liked the formal process of parents applying and being accepted but really it was just a case of turning up. There wasn’t even an age criterion. Education was not free but the fees were based on what the parents could afford. It was also slightly subsidised by those who would benefit from the population being able to read and write. On the notion that educated youngsters grew into educated adults and educated adults worked more and thus had more to exchange. So the school was subsided by the Sugar Mill, the tea rooms and the Port Emporium. The school was situated in Dingley Dell. The school building was a converted stately home where Captain Cribbins had once lived. 

The was no school uniform policy but everyone was expected to be well presented and on time. School days were Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock. Lessons in the morning were Numbers, Reading, Writing and Social Responsibility. Then there was Lunchtime followed by Playtime and finally Creativity.
And so it was that on the following Monday, just before the town hall clock struck 9 o’clock, Mr and Mrs Ostrich took Oliver to the schoolhouse. They went in through the huge heavy front door. There was a sign above a side door that read “HEADTEACHER’S  OFFICE”. Mr Ostrich knocked on the door. “Come in,” said a voice from within. They did so. As they did, an Owl sitting behind a huge desk, looking at them through enormous eyes behind enormous glasses, stood up and bowed. “Good morning, how may I help you?”. “Em, Hello” replied Mr Ostrich, “we have brought our Oliver to start school as arranged, headteacher”. “Wonderful, but I am not the headteacher. I am Mr Owl. School secretary” replied Mr Owl.He gestured towards the Donkey sitting at a desk at the back of the room. “Allow me to introduce you to Mrs Josephine Donkey, the school head.  
Mrs Donkey stood,  came over and greeted The Ostrich family. “Pleased to meet you all,” she said. “And pleased to meet you Mr Oliver Ostrich”. Oliver was unusually quiet and half hid behind his mother’s legs. The Townhall clock struck 9. “Well, time to start. Follow me young Oliver, your new classmates are all eager to meet you. Our first lesson is adding up. She led Oliver out to the classroom next door. Oliver’s excitement had returned and he instantly forgot his shyness….and his parents. This was going to be great fun.

Mr and Mrs Ostrich turned back to Mr Owl, who smiled and said: “we’ll sort out fees on another day. Right now this is too big a day for all of you. You can pick him up at 3 o’clock. See you then”.
Mr and Mrs Ostrich almost skipped home. Oliver was going to be someone else’s handful for the next 6 hours.

Oliver was unrecognisably well behaved in his first class. Mrs Donkey had gone to the cupboard and taken out a brand new workbook. On the front, she wrote, “Oliver Ostrich” in big letters. She held it up in front of the class. “We have a new member of class today, Oliver Ostrich” she announced. “Please make him welcome” she added almost unnecessarily. She handed Oliver the workbook. He looked at it in awe.

The school workbook had tabs sticking out from each page. Every time a lesson was completed the tab could be torn off. At the start of every lesson, they opened their workbook at the latest tab. The first tab in Oliver’s workbook had a picture of two apples on it.School lessons were unusual compared to how most schools do them. Very few in the class were on the same tab. Anyone who was on tab six or above would help anyone on a lower tab. Sitting next to Oliver was Morris Unicorn. He was a unicorn foal. Of course, he didn’t have a horn yet, just a little bump on his forehead. It was like a room full of classroom assistants, Morris showed Oliver the first lesson. “This is one apple,” he said in a hushed voice, pointing at a picture of an apple. “This is another apple, so that makes two apples. “One plus another one is two”. He said. (Narrators note: well, we all have to start somewhere).
Oliver’s older brother Oliver was in the same class but was on a much higher tab. The way it worked was that Morris, who was on tab 6, was not only helping Oliver but also refreshing his own knowledge of the earlier tabs. The older Oliver was helping Brian Rabbit with tab 14 and was himself being helped by Thomas Rabbit who was on tab 22. (Narrators note: there was a lot of Rabbits).
Tab 1 was very simple and Oliver had no trouble taking in its lesson. His father had presented him with a smart new satchel this morning so at the end of the lesson, Oliver tore off the tab and put it in his satchel. 

The next lesson was reading. The first lesson was seeing what “OLIVER OSTRICH” looked like written down. Oliver recognised it as he had seen the round bits several times on letters and most recently on the cover of his numbers workbook.

The third lesson was writing. (Narrators note: actually it was copying rather than writing. but again you have start somewhere). Oliver carefully made a big circle. Then ‘snap’. The pencil broke. He had thought he was in trouble again but Mrs Donkey just showed him how to sharpen it again and advised that he didn’t need to press so hard in future. He copied all the other shapes (after a fashion). Mrs Donkey was very impressed when he drew the second “O” and pointed to it with a shout of “Two”. Numbers tab 1 had stuck.

The next lesson was ‘Social Responsibility”. Oliver didn’t get this at all. It seemed to be all taking. Minutes later he couldn’t remember what they were talking about. Instead, he counted his feet. He counted Mrs Donkey’s eyes. He stuck his head in his satchel and counted his two carrot pack lunch. He counted his feet again. Fortunately, nobody asked him any questions as he really wasn’t listening.  Then the clock struck 12. He started counting the dongs but it was lots more than 2. 
Everyone went into the dining room to eat their packed lunches. There were cups of water and slices of cake and biscuits. This was a good thing too as Oliver had eaten his carrots in the process of counting them.

After lunch, when the clock struck one, they had playtime. For this, they all went out into the enormous gardens. (Narrators note: Gardens in the plural is because it was so huge it had several sections. Each section on its own would be a good-sized garden for anyone. One area had swings, roundabouts and slides. Another area was fenced off and had balls of various sizes. Yet another area was just grass. The class split up into groups without any adult help. These groups were largely by age. The youngest tended to head for the swings, The older youngsters headed for the balls. The older ones just went to sit on the grass and chat.

When the clock struck two they all went in for Creativity.  Now, this is not a subject seen in many schools. Mainly it was making things. For the older ones, there was woodwork and metalwork. but by far the most popular was Sticky-bricks and paper modelling. The Sticky-bricks were just that. Little bricks that could be stuck together. They each had a pile of dry bricks. to stick the bricks together they simply wet one edge of the brick (or lick it) which made it sticky and then it could be stuck to another brick. If they needed a half brick or a shaped brick they could just bite bits off. The bricks were edible. (Narrators note: the Sticky-bricks were provided to the school for free by an anonymous local merchant). 
The Paper modelling was similar but not so edible. They tore up paper into little pieces and mixed it into a sticky watery solution (Dissolved sticky brick in warm water). Then they could shape it and leave it to dry. Some of the more adventurous would combine the Sticky-bricks with the sticky paper modelling to make all sorts of interesting and sticky objects. Some of the results were just ornamental, some were useful objects and some were inventions. They didn’t always work but if at first, you don’t succeed, you can always eat any evidence that you ever tried.

A little before 3, Mrs Donkey and Mr Owl took the younger ones into the school washrooms for a wash and clean up. 
The Town Hall Clock struck 3. Mother Ostrich was waiting by the school door. It had been a lovely quiet day but she had missed him.All the way home Oliver had been counting things (as long as there were two of them). They even had to walk past the house to count the Cable Buses. It had been a magnificent day for everyone. The added bonus was that after tea, and after he had shown off his lesson one tab to everyone, Oliver had actually wanted to go to bed. 

Chapter Six: The Aristocracy

The early morning sun shone in through the bedroom window and onto the highly polished disk of the DayStarter. This sent a beam of sunlight right into the face of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins who woke up and stretched. He jumped out of bed immediately. He simply loved this time of day. “Good Morning, Good Morning” he said to himself. (Narrators note: actually he said it to his ancient and slightly threadbare Teddy, but for the purposes of his biography let’s say he said it to himself).

At this point, we really need to explain the ‘DayStarter”. It’s a bit like a sundial except it only gets sunshine for a few hours first thing in the morning. You have to get up early occasionally to set it so, when the sun shines on it, you can angle the disk to reflect directly onto your pillow. But then each day, maybe just before you go to bed, you adjust the dial on it by one increment to allow for seasonal changes. This is much easier than moving your bed around the room to catch the morning sun. Of course, it doesn’t wake you up on cloudy days, but then who wants to get up early on dull and rainy days.

Arbuthnot (‘Abby’ to his friends, and indeed anyone who had to use his name on a regular basis) got dressed into his work clothes and went downstairs to the kitchen. Here he made himself some porridge for breakfast. He ate it and then headed out to the garden. There was a lot work needed in the garden. The hedges and roses don’t prune themselves.
The grass in the enormous gardens was already immaculately cut and looking beautiful. As a Zebra he could have cut his own lawn but his days were already so full. He therefore, by mutual agreement, had arranged for Sebastian Sheep and his wife and children to keep the lawns cut. This suited him as he had a beautiful garden to look out on and it suited the Sheep family as they had a very tasty job for life. In later years their family had moved into the woollens industry but for now they were very content.

Later that morning, Abby returned to his bedroom and changed into his ‘regular’ captain’s uniform. His ‘regular’ uniform, while smart, was functional and practical. He also had a posh uniform with all the braid, medals and trimmings but it was a bit cumbersome for everyday wear.

He headed off down the path to the coast. There were plans for a port to be built there one day but today there was just a long jetty, alongside which he moored his ship, “The Explorer”.

His rank of ‘Captain’ was bestowed on him by Lord Admiral Cribbins. Lord Admiral Cribbins himself had been appointed by the Dingley Dell Grand Sea Council. To be on the Grand Sea Council, the primary qualification was that you had to own a ship. There was of course only one member of the Grand Sea Council because there was only one ship. There was also only one candidate for the role of Load Admiral, a certain Arbuthnot Cribbins.

Upon arrival Abby walked down the jetty and whistled himself aboard. He made his way to his cabin. There before him was a large map laid out over the table. At one end of the map there was a land mass marked “DINGLAND” (Narrators note: This is a name Abby had come up with as the map needed one). The map showed DINGLEY DELL a short way inland.
At the other end of the MAP was an even larger land mass marked “OFFERSLAND”.

Sailing a ship is not something even a great captain could manage on his own. He needed to muster his crew. Abby went to a cupboard and took out a big bag marked ‘Bird seed’. He took it up to the Poop Deck where he scattered it liberally. Within minutes a flock of seagulls (or Gallant Crew members) descended. There was also one very large bird by the name of “Albert the Albatross” who Abby had promoted to ‘Chief Officer’. (Narrators note: in years to come, researchers could find find no reference to any Albatross family ever existing either before or after this time period and drew the conclusion that Albert was in fact just a rather well fed seagull).
Once the crew had had their fill, Albert gave them their orders to prepare the ship for action. Abby looked at the deck where the crew had been eating and shook his head. (Narrators note: anyone still wondering why this part of the ship is called the Poop Deck, only had to see it now). Abby stood on the quarterdeck and gave the order to set sail for OFFERSLAND.

The history books would later declare that Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins had discovered OFFERSLAND. This was most accurate and true. Abby had discovered it. What the history books neglected to mention was that the OFFERSLAND he discovered was already a fully developed and thriving land when Abby discovered it. What Abby hadn’t known, having inherited his ship from his father, was that his ship had actually been built in OFFERSLAND and had been used by his mother and father to sail to DINGLAND in the first place. However the history books in years to come would say Captain Cribbins had discovered OFFERSLAND so it must be true. (Narrators note: the history books in question were written by the Dingley Dell Geographical Society. The singular member of that esteemed Society had been one Captain Cribbins (retired).

Abby and Albert spent a lot of time chatting on the journey to help pass the time. They mainly talked about the ship but today they got onto navigation. Now Abby had not had any formal training in seamanship (or any informal training come to think of it). He had read books but the books didn’t really explain it very well. “Albert”, asked Abby, “How do we actually know we are going the right direction to get to OFFERSLAND?”. “Well”, replied Albert, “It’s complicated but if you multiply the latitude by the longitude and divide the result by something or other…..and then you shoot the sun…or something like that”.
Abby looked at him, “So you don’t know either then”, he said“.
Albert shook his head. “Sorry, but nobody does really”.
“So how come we manage to get there each time?”. Abby asked.
“Well, I will tell you if you promise to keep it our little secret” whispered Albert.
Abby nodded.
“Well, all we do is fly as high as we can. Then we can see OFFERSLAND on the horizon. We then look down and check the ship is pointing to it”.

This got Abby thinking. Perhaps the sea is curved. But then he looked at the glass of water on the table in front of him and thought better of it. The surface of water is always flat. He could see that for a fact. As he reached for his glass of water he noticed his hoof appeared distorted by the glass. If glass is clear, yet can distort what we see and water is clear then maybe that too can distort.

Abby had a brainwave. Just because the seagulls could see the distorted appearance of OFFERSLAND they could be seeing a distortion.

“Turn the ship 90 degrees to port!” He exclaimed.

“What?” Said Albert taken aback. “That would be the wrong way. As I said, we and see the direction to go”.

“Who is the Captain?” Asked Abby. “I have given my order. Turn to port and set full sail. We will be in OFFERSLAND much faster if My theory is correct”.

“Aye, Aye, Captain” Albert replied reluctantly but also knowing on what side his bread was buttered.

“Oh and send one of you men up and let me know when they see OFFERSLAND. I believe they will see it a lot sooner than you think” said Abby.

Albert did so, expecting to have the pleasure of proving his captain wrong.

However, within minutes of sending Seaman Apprentice Samuel Seagull up to hover on lookout, he heard him squawk “Land Ahoy!”.

Albert was astounded. “Captain, you are right,” he said.

“Of course” replied Abby turning to return to his cabin. This was going to be a great day. The day he discovered a faster route to OFFERSLAND. He got changed into his posh uniform with the hat and medals. This was a day that required looking the part.

It was then all the more astounding for Abby and his gallant crew when they arrived and found it was not OFFERSLAND at all. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere they knew. Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins, Captain of “The Explorer” had discovered yet another land.

Chapter Seven: Magic

On a daily basis, a lot of hard physical work takes place all over the land. At the same time magic also happened. Now you might notice that those doing the hard physical work didn’t just ask those with magical abilities to make the hard physical work happen by magic.
There is a very good reason for this. A reason that everyone understood. In fact, it was taught in Social Responsibility lessons.

So, lesson one.

There is a thing called the Hajam/Majam balance. Good things happening on one side equals good magical things on the other. Those with magical abilities don’t make a secret of this. Magic only works for the greater good. This is why Mrs Twinkle is a good fairy. A bad fairy would be an oxymoron (a contradiction in terms). A fairy is a magical being and for the magic to work it has to be for good.

Then there is the question of quantity. A lot of magic needs a lot of good. For example, take the Cable Bus. It would be good if the cable buses ran by magic. In fact, it wouldn’t need the cable. BUT, they are not used by very many. Only those carrying heavy things up the hill really need it. That’s helpful but not enough to warrant the amount of magic that would be needed. A small about of magic was applied at some point that performs maintenance on the chain and wheels. We think by Mrs Twinkle but it could have been someone with a Practical Wish Card.
Actually, the Practical Wish Card is another useful example of how the Hajam/Majam balance works. You only get given a Practical Wish Card for doing something good. Then you can only use it for good things or to make something better.

Now, some ask how this works with the Sugar Mill trollies. Well, Old Fletcher, the Sugar Gnome is a master negotiator. He negotiates with everyone and everything. He has even negotiated with the laws of nature. Because he does a lot of good he managed to obtain a fleet of magical homing trollies that he uses for the greater good. For the good of his customers and, of course, for the good of the Sugar Mill. Fletcher himself was not magical. He just has a lot of life experience and has a hand in most of the good things that happen.
The other thing to know about the Sugar Mill trollies is that, more by accident than design, they had developed a self-awareness that made them sentient. They have become magical beings themselves.

Chapter Eight: Robots

Everyone knew that the Sugar Mill used Robots to do all the work. If anyone visited the Sugar Mill they would have seen robots doing all sorts of jobs but there were also many robots no one ever saw. A few could move around but many were static. Robots did the measuring, the mixing, the packing and they did a lot of cleaning. Everyone knew the music was performed by robots.
The robots were not magical beings. They used a single, simple, power source. At the rear of the Sugar Mill, there was a river. As it passed by the Mill the width of the river had been reduced which caused it to flow faster and at his narrowest point right behind the mill, it turned a huge water wheel.

In the centre of the water wheel, there is the “Great Drive Shaft” that runs from the wheel at the rear of the mill, all the way to the front where it protruded out. It had a giant glass, flat, disk mounted on the end that was covered in crystals. In daylight, the disk appeared to sparkle as it rotated.

Once inside the mill, attached to the “Great Drive Shaft” there were wheels with drive belts that turned smaller shafts. These had a gear ratio such that they turned much faster than the “Great Drive Shaft”. Through a series of cogs and gears, this power was used to automate the static robots. Fletcher had got the idea from wind up musical boxes that he had seen on his fact-finding trips to OFFERSLAND. Instead of having disks with pins that played musical notes in a specific order to make a tune, his disks with pins drove other cogs, levers and pulleys in a specific order to operate cranes, arms and conveyor belts that performed routine tasks needed to produce the various sugar-based products he needed them to make.

There were also several cogs that drove vertical shafts that had keys on the end. The free-roaming robots were powered by mainsprings. These robots automatically returned to one of the vertical shafts and as they passed under it the key would engage and rewind the mainspring. Once fully wound the free-roaming robots would follow the program specified by the pins in the disk they were fitted with.

The free-roaming robots could clean, fetch and carry and could be programmed with disks that made them appear to have an intelligence (Narrators note: The ‘intelligence’ they appeared to have did exist but it was not the robot’s intelligence. It was Fletchers).

The robots that played the music were really just elaborate musical boxes. Fletcher had obtained a supply of musical boxes and simply copied their tiny disks to make bigger ones and with some cogs and levers made them appear to play instruments.

(Narrators note: It is interesting to point out that, even with all this mechanical automation, Fletcher also relied on the Townhall clock. Of course, he could have replaced it, and I am sure it would have been even more accurate but no one would have thanked him for it. Besides, it would have put Sothwik out of a job).

Fletcher had once considered employing townsfolk to work in his Mill rather than using robots, but then if he had done so he would have had to pay them in sugar. They would not need that much sugar and so they would have exchanged it in the SwapExchange on the Wednesday and that would have killed the demand for sugar completely.

CHapter Nine: The Double Dee Race

Every now and then the Grand Dingily Dell Sugar Mill would announce “THE GREAT DOUBLE DEE RACE”. Posters would appear all over town.
The race would, of course, take place on the coming Wednesday. The race starts at one o’clock.
The course for the race was clearly displayed. It would start in the Dingley Dell market square. It ran along the path up the hill and down the other side to the port. There it performed a u-turn outside the Port Emporium and back up the hill. As it approached the town it turned off to the left down the farm track and around the fields of the potato and carrot farms. From there it carried on along the track out to the sorting office. Outside the sorting office, it returned back onto the main path towards the town and then turned off to the left and onto the riverside path. This follows the river down to the Sugar Mill where it turned right alongside the mill and back to the finishing line in the market square.

These were the rules.

  1. No help or hindrance is allowed.
  2. No using any other means of transport.
  3. Everyone must start and finish the race in the same trolley.
  4. Everyone must use only the trolley allocated.

As you can tell from the rules of the race, it was a trolley race. But not all trollies were equal. The older trollies were not as fast as the younger ones. To even up the race each trolley would have a rider and if necessary an amount of sugar for extra weight.

There was no particular skill required to be a trolley rider. The rider was not driving. The primary responsibility of the rider was to remain in the trolley.

The list of runners was published as follows:
Trolley 1 – Oliver Ostrich (the second youngest)
Trolley 2 – Morris Unicorn
Trolley 5 – Harry Halibut (plus a tank of water and carried to the race by Patrick Bear)
Trolley 15 – Brian Rabbit
Trolley 18 – Thomas Rabbit
Trolley 25 – Fluffy Little Ostrich (her favourite Trolley but supposedly allocated by weight calculation only. What a coincidence!)
Trolley 26 – Billy Badger
Trolley 27 – Malcolm Badger
Trolley 30 – Oliver Ostrich (the third youngest)
Trolley 31 – Mister Badger (who had seen the race poster and had carelessly said “I wish I could still do that”)
Trolley 121 – Sothwik Sloth and six bags of sugar.

On the morning of the race, the good folk of Dingily Dell were going about their business as usual. On a Wednesday that business was mainly swapping their excess goods and services with each over at the SwapExchange. But on this occasion, there was also a degree of excitement in the air (narrators note: and remember there was also a lot of sugariness in the air too. That air was having a busy day today).
A little before one o’clock the Trollies trolled out from the Sugar Mill. They were dressed up with ribbons, big clear panels with their numbers on and were all looking as excited and raring to go (as far as trollies are able to look excited). They gathered in the middle of the market square.

From the crowd, there also appeared a number of race marshals. Everyone knew they were race marshals as they wore sashes saying “Race Marshal”. The race marshals were volunteers from around the town. One such volunteer was Oliver Ostrich from the Farm Cooperative. The first job for the marshals was to ensure the right rider was loaded into the right trolley. Most of the riders were quite capable of finding and climbing aboard their designated trolley. A few needed pointing to the right trolley and a couple needed a helping hand to climb up (the very young and Mister Badger). Patrick Bear placed the fish tank containing the very excited Harry Halibut into Trolley number 5.

The Town Hall clock then struck one. “DONG”.

There was an immediate screeching of tyres (and screeching of riders) as the trollies sped off up the main path from Dingily Dell towards the hill.

Sothwik and Trolley number 121 were easily the first away despite the extra bags of sugar to slow him down.

Morris Unicorn was immediately aware, as he was tossed in all directions, that Trolley number 2 had a wonky wheel. (Narrators note: isn’t that always the way. You grab a trolley, and soon as you have gone too far to change to another, you find you have one with a wonky wheel). Fortunately for Morris, his father, Derrick, had given him a “Practical Wish Card” just in case. “Oh I wish I didn’t have a trolley with a wonky wheel,” he said holding up the card. The card disappeared and the wonky wheel was fixed. (Narrators note: technically this was a breach of the race rules. But it was not really a breach that would help him win. Just a breach that would help stop him from losing. However, there was a natural justice in that had it been wrong then the magic would not have worked so that settled it). Morris was delighted. Trolley number 2 was very happy too. He had been worrying about that wheel all morning.

As they started to climb the hill, Oliver in Trolley number 30 overtook Sothwik. But as soon as they reached the top Trolley number 121 retook the lead. Mister Badger in Trolly number 31 was in last place. Trolley number 31 was trying to be as gentle as possible with his older passenger.

All of the riders were loving the experience. Apart from the slow and steady ride on the Cable Bus they all only ever walked, galloped or hopped.

As they passed “the house where we live” the young Ostriches waved frantically to Mother and Father Ostrich who were standing at the garden gate. Father Ostrich had little Oliver sitting on his shoulders. (Narrator’s note: as you might imagine a young Ostrich sitting on a grown-up Ostriches shoulders is a thing to be seen and marvelled at but it was a reliable method of containing Oliver and preventing an accident).

Then they got to the Cable Bus, the hill became quite steep. Harry Halibut found himself right up against the front of the tank and had a bit of a tidal wave thing going on but Patrick had allowed for this in his selection of the tank. Harry was loving it anyway. It was a totally unique experience for a fish.

Sothwik and Trolley 121 were at the bottom of the hill way ahead of all the others. That extra weight, added to slow them down, had speeded them up going downhill.

Now they arrived at the Port. Outside the Port Emporium stood Norbuttley Rabbit wearing his Race Marshal sash. He ensured they didn’t cut any corners, even accidentally, doing the U-turn. There was much shrieking as the trollies u-turned and headed back up the hill. Harry Halibut finding himself stuck up against the side of the tank this time but still loving it.

As Trolley number 25 u-turned, Fluffy blew a kiss to Norbuttley which made him blush (but being a rabbit it didn’t show). All of the trollies were now going back up the hill. Norbuttley set off Dingily Dell to catch the end of the race.

The Trollies and riders, still with Mister Badger in last place, got to the top of the hill and again waved to the Ostriches in their front garden. Once all the trollies had passed and Norbuttley had walked up the hill, the Ostriches joined him to walk down to the town.

At the bottom of the hill, before they got to the edge of the town, they saw Mr Owl wearing a race marshal sash pointing to the farm track off to the left. Again with much shrieking (more than was necessary, and some coming from Mister Badger) they turned down the farm track. (Narrators note: The Trollies all knew the course perfectly. The need for race marshals was more for helping everyone feel part of the event than to actually direct anyone).

The course now got a lot more bumpy as they left the farm track and started along the path around the potato field. Right on the corner of the field stood ‘Marmaduke the Shire’ wearing his sash. He wasn’t really there to direct the racers but more to ensure no one rode over his potato seedlings.

At the far corner of the carrot field stood Derrick the Post, also wearing a sash, and making sure everyone was doing well. He too had a ‘Practical Wish Card’ just in case, but it wasn’t needed. Everyone was obviously enjoying themselves. Morris called and waved to his father as he passed. Even Harry Halibut, although splashing about in his tank, was having a good go at shrieking with joy (which is quite a feat for a fish).

They left the fields and headed down the track towards the sorting office. Outside the sorting office stood ‘Marshal Unicorn’ who was also wearing a sash. While he was a race marshal, it was also his name so he felt obliged to volunteer and wear the sash. He also worked in the sorting office and had been rather roped into it by Derrick. He didn’t have much to do. The course clearly returned to the main path back towards the town.

At this point, the race order was still with Sothwik clearly in front. Brian Rabbit was second and Morris third. The rest were all about even with the order changing frequently. Secondly from last was Harry Halibut in Trolley number 5 and trailing in last place was Mister Badger.

A little before the town the main path ran alongside the river. As the river split off to the left the course left the main path and followed the riverside path. All of the Trollies took extra care. Everyone knew how easy it was for trollies to end up in rivers.

They carried on along the riverside path until they reached the rear of the Sugar Mill with its beautiful, huge water wheel that was still turning, of course, as the Sugar Mill production, like the river, does not stop because it is a Wednesday.

Here the riverside path has to turn down the side of the Sugar Mill. If you walked the full length of the riverside path you would have to walk around to the front of the Mill and back down the other side to return to the river. Old Fletcher had considered building a bridge over the river on either side of the water wheel but then thought it would prevent walkers from having the opportunity of calling into the Sugar Mill Shop.

The trollies, now at full throt-troll (a word they invented for a trolley going fast, but fortunately for trollies, they never had to try to say it) they arrived back at the Market square. Obviously, Sothwik and Trolley number 121 had won, but no one really cared. The race had been such great fun. Mister Badger was last, but really he was glad as the younger ones would not have wanted to be last. Trolley number 31 was not bothered either as he has volunteered to be last during the Trolley only race planning meeting.

All the parents met the young riders. Patrick collected Harry and Oliver and Olivia Ostrich helped Mister Badger back down to solid ground.

Everyone had thoroughly enjoyed the whole event and were looking forward to the next one whenever that would be.

Chapter Ten: The Museum

Fluffy had been out picking carrots on the cooperative farm. For this work she had been given a nice little crop of carrots that she now presented to her mother in the kitchen. This would be ample for their dinner tomorrow and still have enough making more carrot cake that they knew always went down well with Derrick the Post.

“Thank you my darling”, said Mother Ostrich, “now I have something for you”. Mother Ostrich reached into her apron pocket and took out a note. “This came for you today”. 

Fluffy took the note and read it.

“Dear Fluffy, As you might have heard, Sothwik has opened a little Museum at the Town Hall. I wondered if you would like to go with me to see it? I thought it sounded interesting and that perhaps it would be nice to go together. With fond regards, Norbuttley”.

Fluffy looked up. Her mother was looking directly at her. “Fond Regards?”, said Mother Ostrich. Now it was Fluffy’s turn to blush.

“Well, I had heard about it. It might be nice to have someone to keep me company”, replied Fluffy. (Narrators note: In Dingley Dell it is almost impossible to not hear about anything that was going on).

“Actually, I do need some strawberry jam” said Mother Ostrich. “If you happen to be going to the Emporium any time soon”. Fluffy was already picking up some Moreofthems and was on her way out.

In no time at all she arrived at the Port Emporium. “Oh hello Norb”, she said. “Mother sent me for some Strawberry Jam”. “Certainly”, said Norbuttley, “You can have this on me. It’s from a fresh batch I prepared only this morning”. (Narrators note: Norbuttley made Jam as a hobby. He had seen Strawberries and other fruit arriving at the port and saw Sugar arriving too and thought someone ought to put these together).

Fluffy gave him the Moreofthems. “As I bought these with me anyway you may as well have them”, she said smiling. “Oh, and I saw your note. That sounds like a lovely idea. I would love to go with you. When were you thinking of going?”. 

“It’s opening on Sunday. I will have my assistant working here on Sunday so I am free to go. I’ll pick you up at 10 o’clock if that ok for you”.

“Sounds perfect” said Fluffy. “See you then”. 

Ostriches are flightless birds but she seemed to fly home.

The following Sunday, the Emporium’s assistant arrived early. This was Paula Rabbit. She was Norbuttley’s cousin and the Rabbit clan liked to keep it in the family. She was reliable and Norbuttley knew she could manage just fine in his absence. 

Norbuttley had thought long and hard about what to wear and had settled on his best waistcoat. On Saturday he had paid a visit to Patrick Bear and had his teeth polished and his fur groomed. 

Now he set off for ‘The House Where We Live’ at the top of the hill. He arrived just as the Town Hall clock struck ten. Fluffy was waiting by the door doing her best to look casual.

They set off together. “I am looking forward to see what he has found to put into a museum”, said Norbuttley. 

“Me too”, replied Fluffy.

They arrived at the Town Hall. It looked very different today. Apart from the huge sign saying ‘Dingley Dell Museum’, the biggest difference was that the main door was wide open.

They went in. It was the first time either of them had been inside the Town Hall. As a day out, just going into the Town Hall was almost interesting enough. Sothwik was standing next to a sign that read ‘This way’ below which there was a hand drawn arrow. It was pointing to the first room on the left at the front of the building. The room was very ornate and looked spectacular. 

Sothwik had followed them in. “All the exhibits in here were donated by Mrs Donkey and some lent to us by the Cribbins family”, he said. 

The most eye catching exhibit was a huge zebra shaped dummy that was wearing a heavily braided uniform and with a peaked hat. 

“Well that’s impressive”, said Norbuttley. 

Sothwik pointed to a display case below the dummy’s head. It had a long line of medals. “We are still working out how these were worn as there were clearly more medals that would fit on the dummy’s chest”. 

Fluffy was very impressed with the whole room. She found the dummy awe inspiring, the medals fascinating and the maps that were lining the walls were very interesting to study. She pointed to one map. “That’s where my house is”, she said but it wasn’t built back then”. Norbuttley looked at the same map. “The port’s not there either nor the Sorting Office” he said. The only thing they recognised was the path and the school house. “That’s the school” said Norbuttley. 

“It wasn’t a school back then. That’s where this fine gentleman lived”, said Sothwik gesturing to the uniformed dummy.

“What is this?”, asked Norbuttley, pointing to the strange shiny disk on a stand with dials and knobs on it. 

“Nobody knows” replied Sothwik. “Mrs Donkey found it in the attic at the school. We are hoping someone might recognise it and tell us”. 

“It’s a great museum Sothwik” said Fluffy. “You have done a great job here”. As they left the room they passed another map showing DINGLAND, OLDLAND and OFFERSLAND. 

“Captain Cribbins discovered OLDLAND and OFFERSLAND”. Sothwik recited from the writing on the map. 

They all walked through to the next room. This had an old Handcart as the main exhibit and around the room there were drawings of the Sugar Mill in various states of construction. 

“These exhibits were all donated by Old Fletcher of the Sugar Mill” said Sothwik.

Fluffy and Norbuttley walked around the room together looking at the drawings. Some were very interesting as they showed parts of inside the Mill they had never seen.

As they left the museum they thanked Sothwik for a very interesting visit. They signed the visitors book.

Norbuttley walked Fluffy home. 

“Thank you Norb for a lovely day out” she said. 

“The pleasure was all mine”, he replied.

At Fluffy’s front door Norbuttley said “We must do this again”,

“Yes soon” replied Fluffy.

Fluffy gave Norbuttley a quick peck on the cheek and went straight indoors. 

Norbuttley positively hopped home.