Category Archives: Story

Chapter Eleven: The Visitor

Tourism was totally unheard of in Dingley Dell. It was totally unheard of in the whole of DINGLAND. This is not to say there was no travelling. Old Fletcher often went to OFFERSLAND on business. But that was about it. In the past there had been builders, construction engineers and specialists on contracts who came from OFFERSLAND. For example, they had to have a Clockmaker from OFFERSLAND to set up the Town Hall clock. However, nobody came for a holiday or just to have a look round. Even Sothwik’s new Museum was not going to inspire international tourism.

It was then a great surprise when Norbuttley and Paula saw Mr Badger disembarking from the ship that had just arrived from OFFERSLAND with a suitcase in hand. He saw them both and walked directly over to them.

Norbuttley greeted him, “Hello Mr Badger, I didn’t know you had been away”.  Mr Badger looked confused and there was an awkward silence. 

“I wondered if you could direct me to Dingley Dell?” Mr Badger asked. 

There was another awkward silence.

“I’m sorry?”, replied Norbuttley sounding astonished, “you want me to direct you to Dingley Dell?”.

“Yes, please” said Mr Badger, “if its not too much trouble”.

Norbuttley pointed towards the path. “It’s that way. Up the hill”.

“Do you have such a thing as a map in your Emporium?”, asked Mr Badger. 

“Sorry but we don’t” replied Norbuttley, “No one ever needed one. You just follow the path. Its a straight…em, sorry, I am confused. Why are you asking?”.

“I am visiting my brother in Dingley Dell”, said Mr Badger. “He lives there”.

“Ah!”, exclaimed Norbuttley “You are not Mr Badger”.

“I am Mr Badger” retorted Mr Badger, but then with a sudden expression of realisation he added “I think I see the source of our confusion. Let me start again. Hello, my name is Mr Ebenezer Badger. I am here to visit my brother, Mister Badger”.

“Oh, I see. I beg you pardon Mr Badger”. Norbuttley turned to Paula Rabbit, “Paula, please would you mind the store while I take Mr Badger to Dingley Dell?”.

“Sure, no problem” she answered.

Norbuttley led Mr Ebenezer Badger out of the Emporium to the path. Mr Badger was most interested in the Cable Bus. Norbuttley did consider running up the hill and demonstrating how it works but Mr Badger would have to walk up anyway as Mr Badger was heavier than Norbuttley. So they walked up together. They discussed the Cable Bus, the Port and the Emporium. When they arrived at the top of the hill and walked past the ‘The House Where We Live’, Norbuttley insisted in introducing Mr Badger to the Ostrich family. (Narrators note: Maybe just being polite and knowing that Mr and Mrs Ostrich would be pleased to meet the brother of their dear Mr Badger, but also any excuse to meet Fluffy again),

Fluffy insisted in joining them on their journey to Dingley Dell. (Narrators note: No surprise there either).

As often happened, they met Mrs Twinkle. They introduced her to Mr Badger. Of course, Mrs Twinkle knew who he was already although they had never met. Mrs Twinkle joined them as they went down the hill and into Dingley Dell.

Upon arrival they headed straight for Mr Badger’s house. As they approached they were first spotted at some distance by the Proper Door Bell (narrators note: I have to explain here. One of the problems with using magic, even accidentally, as Mr Badger had done when he wished he had a proper door bell, is that the object being brought into existence, in this case the door bell, is likely to become a magical entity itself. While it is unlikely to be able to use magic, It is likely to be sentient and self aware and capable of emotions not usually associated with such on object. For example, the Sugar Mill Trollies or, in this case, the Proper Door Bell. But I digress, back to the story).

“DING DING DINGALING DONG” cried the Proper Door Bell excitedly. It was very unusual for Mr Badger to have so many visitors all at once.

Mr Badger opened his door. On seeing who his caller was even though they had barely got to the house, he rushed out to greet them.

He threw his arms around his brother. “Oh Benny, Benny, Welcome, most Welcome”. They hugged. 

“I am so pleased to see you again Mister”, exclaimed Ebenezer “Benny” Badger.

The small entourage who had accompanied “Benny” saw the unspoken need to leave these two brothers in some privacy to catch up with each other and so they made their excuses to depart. Apparently Sothwik had opened another room in his Museum and they all really must go and take a look. And with that they departed leaving Mr Badger to invite his brother in for long overdue chat.

Mrs Twinkle headed off to the Sorting Office. She didn’t want to play gooseberry. 

This left Fluffy and Norbuttley to visit the Museum together once again. (Narrators note: You might think this would cause folk to start to talk. This is not the case. They were already talking. News travels very fast in a small community like Dingley Dell).

The Museum was open every day now. Sothwik was a full time, weekly clock winder, who still lived with him mum so it wasn’t like he had better things to be doing. Besides there was more to be done at the Town Hall now, such as cleaning smutty paw prints off the display cases.

He showed Fluffy and Norbuttley to the new exhibit room but decided to leave them to it this time. He had a feeling that one display in particular might be interesting to them.

Fluffy and Norbuttley went in. The main exhibit was huge loom. There were spinning wheels and “carding” devices (with a long explanation of what “carding” was for those who cared, but in short, it was for getting the sheep shaped wool into a suitable state for spinning).

On the walls there were various drapes of woollen material showing the result of all this processing.

Then there was a painting of Mr and Mrs Cutter. Fluffy stared at them for a long time. Sothwik’s feeling had been proved correct. Norbuttley joined her. They both stared at the painting of this couple in silence but thinking the same thought.

Mr and Mrs Cutter had been the owners and founders of the Dingley Dell Woollen Mill. The Mill was long gone now but had once been the centre of the woollen textile industry. It was not Mr and Mrs Cutter’s business acumen that fascinated Fluffy. Mr Cutter was a fine looking Sheep. Mrs Cutter was an Owl.

They heard the voice of Mr Badger in the Town hall entrance. He was explaining to Benny how the town’s folk had all contributed to it being built and how much everyone admired and relied on its very accurate clock. 

Moments later the Badger brothers entered the Woollen exhibit room. Benny was very interested in everything on display. 

“We really don’t have anything like this in OFFERSLAND. Old things just get replaced and forgotten about”, he said.

“It was the same here until Sothwik opened this Museum”, replied Mr Badger.

They browsed through all the woollen exhibits and then went over to the Cribbins room. Fluffy and Norbuttley joined them. It was quite interesting to see what their visitor would make of it all. One thing Benny mentioned certainly caught Sothwik’s attention, He had seen a painting of Captain Cribbins at the Metrotown dock’s cargo office.

After they had been around all the exhibits in the Museum and after Sothwik had also taken Benny up to see the clock mechanism and bell, they crossed the market square to visit the Grand Sugar Mill. Old Fletcher was happy for them to have a look round. It turned out that they had once met in Metrotown some years ago when Fletcher was acquiring his Trollies.

Their next visit was to the Tea Rooms for tea and cake. Benny invited Fluffy and Norbuttley to join them and it would all be his treat. The Tea and Cakes were served by the latest generation of the Rabbits who had taken up the tea-strainer after Rebecca Rabbit had passed on. This was Samantha Rabbit, Rebecca’s daughter.

After Tea, Norbuttley walked Fluffy home and then he returned to the Emporium and his very patient assistant, cousin Paula. It helped that he had saved her a slice of Carrot Cake from the Tea Rooms.

The Badger brothers continued their tour of Dingley Dell. There was a sad but necessary visit to the Town cemetery where the Brothers parents were laid to rest. The cemetery was very well kept. It was tended to by Mackelroy, the odd-job goat. (Narrators Note: it was always very good to know an odd-job goat. There are always odd jobs that need doing that don’t really fit into any particular trade or occupation. I mean, how do you dispose of an old mattress? or obtain a significant quantity of manure?”. Mackelroy is just who you needed for both of these odd jobs, possibly performed simultaneously). The brothers has stood by the graves just as they had done so many years before. Both of them had wished and wished for more time with their parents but magic doesn’t work like that. On their way back to Mr Badgers house, they called in on Mackelroy, where they thanked him for his fine work and both gave him a “Practical Wish Card”.

Benny stayed for three days with Mr Badger. They had been for long walks by the river and all around the farm fields where they used to play when they were young. 

But then it was time for Benny to return to OFFERSLAND and return to being “Mr Ebenezer Badger” (Narrators Note: No one in OFFERSLAND ever called him “Benny”. Only his twin brother ever called him that). 

Chapter Twelve: Wool

Oswald Sheep had been mowing lawns for years. As a youngster he had mowed the stately gardens for the great Captain Cribbins. Though he said it himself, he was an expert at mowing. If asked to cut at two inches all over then that’s what they got. Not a blade of grass over or under. But this is not a story about his undeniable skill in mowing. It’s about his fleece. It’s one thing to have a perfectly smooth, well cut, lawn. It’s another to have a perfectly groomed short fleece. You see fleeces grow in winter which is great, It keeps you warm and cosy. But in the spring it takes a bit of work to remove it. Some of it sheds naturally but it doesn’t necessarily leave. You end up with great tuffs of it sticking up all over the place, He had once been mistaken for a small camel such was the huge hump of it on his back.

The solution was usually to take a walk through the brambles or hedges. It wasn’t a good look. Folk would say he looked like he had been dragged through a hedge backwards. This was not far from the truth.

All this excess fleece was not entirely wasted. You see in spring there is quite a demand for it for nest lining, One day, he was wandering through the thicket trying to remove a particularly stubborn lump of wool that was hanging down from his hip (and looking frankly ridiculous) when he met Agatha Owl. She was out looking for wool. Not for her own nest, oh, no. Her flock had long since, literally, flown the nest. She was helping some of her friends and neighbours from the local “knit and natter” (Narrators note: these are social groups in the bird community. It’s all about nest building and nattering. If you listen in the early mornings you can often hear the nattering).

Agatha Owl, being quite a forthright sort of bird, asked Oswald if she might assist him with that unsightly lump of wool he had dangling. He agreed and so began a mutually beneficial relationship. Using her feet and beak she was able to tidy him up. In the process they managed to get to know each other quite well. 

Now everyone would compliment Oswald on how well he was turned out. Other sheep would ask him what his secret was.

Agatha and Oswald decided to set up a grooming business together. This grew and soon they were employing a large number of birds with many eager Ovine customers.  A byproduct of all this grooming was a huge amount of wool. The local birds just didn’t need so much. It was great to start with. They had lovely warm nests. Then they had crocheted hats for eggs and nest covers. But then demand had fallen.

So the “Flocks for Flocks Wool Company” had started. Oswald and Agatha got married and moved into a quaint cottage by the river, Next to it they had built a small mill (narrators note: this was nothing compared to the huge Sugar Mill but it was big enough for running the wool processing and looms.

(Further Narrators note on naming conventions: Agatha Owl was a widow. Her much older husband had passed on a while ago but as  a couple they had been known as Mr and Mrs Owl. Now she had married Oswald, it would be awkward to call them Mr Sheep and Mrs Owl. So they had the option choosing a joint name. The origin of some of the older family names like “Cribbins” have been lost to history but chosen surnames always have been on option. Agatha and Oswald, between them, had come up with a suitable name that fitted well with Oswald’s previous profession cutting grass and their new joint business cutting fleeces. They would furthermore be known as Mr and Mrs Cutter).

The “Flocks for Flocks Wool Company” was doing very well. The Cutters had learned a lot of new skills in carding and spinning wool. There was a great deal of interest in the woollen products they were producing. There was a huge demand for balls of wool from folk taking up knitting. Others were mainly interested in the woollen blankets made on the companies Mill loom.

After a while they were starting to see a problem in the company growth. Now the Cutters were not greedy. The company didn’t really need to grow. They are doing quite nicely. However, as they had seen in the early days, once everyone had all the woollen items they needed and the items they had were good quality and lasted, they just didn’t need any more. The local market was saturated.

The difference between this little wool company and the giant Sugar Mill was that Old Fletcher had built his company in preparation for when Dingley Dell becomes a City. Sugar Gnomes have a much longer term plan than most (Narrators note: and he would probably be there to see it).

They were still getting lots of enquiries from OFFERSLAND. Particularly from North OFFERSLAND where is was a lot colder. They also were having a supply issues (not enough sheep needing grooming). 

The obvious solution was to relocate to OFFERSLAND where there was the demand and the supply. And so it was that Mr and Mrs Cutter had packed up migrated. They settled in Metrotown, OFFERSLAND where the “Flocks for Flocks Wool Company” had positively bloomed. These days almost everyone had woollen blankets, hats or scarfs labelled “F4FWC”. 

Chapter Thirteen: Putting a Face to a name

Sothwik had written a letter on Dingley Dell Museum headed paper. (Narrators note: he also wrote the headed paper but using a different coloured pen). He was not a great one for letter writing.

He wrote the following,

Dear Sir/Madam, 

My name is Sothwik Sloth. I am the curator of Dingley Dell Museum. I have heard that you have a painting of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins. I wondered if we might be able to have a loan of this painting or if you know anyone who might be able to make a copy of it. I have an exhibition room dedicated to the great captain but I do not have any pictures of him. I would really appreciate any help you could offer. Thanking you in advance,

Yours sincerely 

Sothwik Sloth.

Sothwik folded the letter and put it in an envelope. On the front he wrote, “To the person in charge, Metrotown Docks Cargo Office, Metrotown, OFFERSLAND”.

He then went to the Town Hall entrance to wait for the post. As he approached the door he heard a clutter of hooves and the familiar cry of “POST!”…except this time it was not so familiar. It was a female cry of “POST!”. Sothwik opened the door. Before him stood the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. She was simultaneously gorgeous, magnificent, amazing, lovely, elegant and ….Sothwik’s vocabulary ran out of words. She was a Postal Unicorn. She was looking at him. She was waiting for some sort of response from him. Sothwik’s brain seemed to have fused.

“Flaming Ada” he said (accidentally out loud). 

“Flaming Yula actually”, she replied. “But the ‘Flaming’ is optional. So just Yula”.

“Em, er,  post”, he muttered, “please”. His brain caught up with events. He handed her the letter with trembling hand. She took the letter and popped it into her post bag.

She was still looking at him. Waiting for something. Sothwik’s brain had turned to mush. 

“Em, th..thank you” Sothwik managed to stutter.

Yula still stood there looking at him a few minutes longer.

“Thank you” Sothwik repeated.

“OK, I’ll take that” she replied smiling. With that she galloped off to the next house on her round.

Sothwik stood on the Town Hall doorstep softly banging his head on the door post. “Idiot” he said to himself. He went in and closed the door.

A short while later, Yula had deposited her post bag at the Sorting Office and Mrs Twinkle was sorting the Mail into “LOCAL” and “OVERSEAS”. Almost all of it was OVERSEAS as local post could simply be delivered by the sender. When she came across Sothwik’s letter she ran her finger over the words “To the person in charge” and it changed to “To Superintendent Reginald Rhino”. While she would not dream of reading the senders private letter, the “Dear Sir/Madam,” changed to “Dear Sir,” and “have a loan of” changed to “borrow”.

Later that day the OVERSEAS letters would be collected and taken to the Port by Marshal Unicorn. 

Upon arrival at the Metrotown Docks all the overseas post was taken to the Metrotown Sorting Office. There it was sorted into LOCAL and OVERSEAS again. This time most of the post was local. Sothwik’s letter was carried by an OFFERSLAND Postal Unicorn back to the docks where in finally ended its journey in the in-tray of Reggie Rhino. 

Reggie read the letter and looked up, straight into the face of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins. (Narrators note: Not the actual face of Captain Arbuthnot Cribbins, but the painting of him on the wall opposite his desk). Reggie was great admirer of Captain Cribbins. Reggie took out his pen and wrote a reply.

The very next day Sothwik arrived at the Sorting Office door and knocked. The door was opened by trainee Postal Unicorn, Morris.

“I forgot to give this to Yula when she collected my letter”, he said, “it’s a box of sugar cubes”.

A few days later Sothwik heard hoof beats outside and the cry of “POST!”. He dashed to the Town Hall door. This time she was not alone. Yula and Derrick were carrying a very large parcel between them. They carefully put in down in front of Sothwik. Yula then took out a letter and passed it to him. 

“Its all PostPaid”, she said, “and thank you for the Sugar cubes”.

“You are welcome”, said Sothwik, instantly wishing he had something cool to have said. 

The Postal Unicorns went on their way.

Sothwik carefully carried the huge parcel inside. He started to tear open the wrapping. The more he removed the faster he unwrapped. It was a painting. It was a painting of a very distinguished looking Zebra in full regalia. 

He opened the letter. It was from Reginald Rhino of the cargo office in Metrotown. It read: 

“Dear Sothwik Sloth,

Thank you so much for your letter. It is such a pleasure to know someone else who appreciates our fine Captain Cribbins. I have sent you these two paintings of the great captain. We have several such paintings and we are more than pleased to donate these to your Museum. I must visit in person one day.

I also have a further surprise for you. We have been restoring the Captain’s ship, “The Explorer” and it will shortly be going on its sea trials. While we cannot let you keep it, we have added the DINGLAND Port to its itinerary so once a month it will be calling in, if you would like to come on board and see it. We will send you its sailing dates nearer the time so you can invite locals who might like to see it too.

Yours Cordially,

Reggie.

Sothwik said out loud, “Wow!”

Then suddenly it registered what the letter had said. “Two paintings”. Sothwik removed the final wrappings of the parcel. There were two paintings. One was the Captain in uniform. The other was in much plainer attire standing in a bedroom with a huge window alongside him. Through the window you could see the sea and his ship, “the Explorer”. Behind him was a bed and a table with the the strange disk thing. The painting clearly showed a beam of sunlight hitting the disk and reflecting onto the bed.

Sothwik grabbed the painting and was about to rush over to show Mrs Donkey, but he stopped. He should wait until 12, school dinner time. He also had an important job to do. He had a painting to hang.

Just after the clock struck 12, Sothwik arrived at the schoolhouse with the other painting. Mrs Donkey was in her office sipping tea when he knocked on her door.

“Come in”, she called.

“Hello Mrs Donkey”, said Sothwik. “I have been sent a painting of Captain Cribbins. It came from Reginald Rhino in OFFERSLAND. Here, take a look”,

Mrs Donkey looked at the painting.

“Where would this room be?”, asked Sothwik. “It must be somewhere near the sea”, he added.

“Oh, not necessarily” replied Mrs Donkey, “Its artistic license. The painting is made to show the things that were important to Captain Cribbins”.

A moment later, put on her reading glasses. She leaned in closer to it.

“Oh my, Oh my”, she said. “Goodness gracious me. Well I never did”. She moved towards the door.

“One minute Sothwik”, she added. She rushed out of the office and Sothwik heard her hooves clutter up the stairs. She returned shortly afterwards. 

“There!”, she exclaimed and she handed Sothwik a teddy bear. 

“This bear has been in our soft toys play box since the school first  opened” she said. 

“I don’t think I follow you” Sothwik said. “What’s this bear got to do with this?”.

Mrs Donkey pointed to the bed in the painting behind Captain Cribbins. 

“Look here”,

Sothwik looked closely and there it was. On the bed was a small but clearly painted Teddy Bear. It was quite a unique looking bear and clearly was the one Sothwik was now holding.

“There is another donation for your museum”, said Mrs Donkey. “Captain Cribbin’s Teddy Bear. A great day for your collection”.

Chapter Fourteen: Jam Tomorrow

Fluffy woke up early on Wednesday morning and walked down to the Port as arranged.

She had arranged to meet Norbuttley on the north beach as he wanted to talk to her about a big change he was planning,

There was a path that ran along the coast. At the Port if you go south it takes you to the Fisherman’s cottage. If you go north it opens up into a wide beach of soft sand. On the inland side there is a row of beach huts, each painted a different colour. The beach huts were built by the Dingley Dell Farm Co-operative for the use of everybody. In the summer they were frequently used by the families of the town. Today, and this early, the beach was empty.

As Fluffy arrived at the Port she saw Norbuttley was waiting for her. They walk north up the coastal path to the beach. The tide had been going out and so the beach looked even wider. 

As they walked across the sand they could see they were not the first to come this way this morning, There were two sets of footprints on the sand ahead of them but no one was to be seen. (Narrators note: to be precise the ‘two sets of footprints’ were actually one set of footprints and one set of hoofprints).

“So, what’s the big change you are planning?”, asked Fluffy, “not emigrating to OFFERSLAND I hope?”.

“Oh no, not that far” replied Norbuttley, “but I am leaving the Emporium. I am moving into the town. My plan is to start a new business making jam”.

“Is there enough demand for jam in Dingley Dell?”, asked Fluffy.

The pair of earlier footprints had turned towards the beach huts. Fluffy and Norbuttley continued on making fresh footprints. 

“My plan is not to just make Jam. I am thinking of making cakes as well and Jam Donuts and chocolate coated jam pastries”. 

“Wow, that sounds lovely!”, Fluffy exclaimed. “But you would need quite a substantial premises to make these in. At least as big as my mother’s kitchen. You are not thinking of using my mother’s kitchen are you?”, she added smiling.

“No, I will need to show you.”, he said. “Lets go into town”. 

They turned back towards the Port. As they passed a pink beach hut they heard a giggle and what sounded like a whinny. 

Fluffy and Norbuttley arrived at the Port and turned up the path to town and over the hill. Norbuttley was asking about the older Oliver’s. He knew they were both involved in importing and that they had been able to get flour.

“Yes, my mother has been getting flour for a while now. She uses it to make carrot cake for the Unicorns. She also makes a few cakes for the Tea Rooms”, said Fluffy. 

“Do you think she’ll mind if I make cakes?”, asked Norbuttley. 

“Let’s ask her”, said Fluffy as they were passing ‘The House Where We Live’.

“OK”, said Norbuttley, “I wouldn’t want to set up in competition with her. For a start I would lose. I was thinking I would need to ask her for advice anyway. I haven’t baked with flour before”.

They went in. Mother Ostrich was in the kitchen as usual. 

They explained the whole plan to Mother Ostrich and she was most interested. She even offered her kitchen, at least until he got set up. Better still she would supply the cakes to start with as well as she remembered how hard it was to start up her confectionary business.

Mother Ostrich had asked the same question of where he was going to set up his kitchen. He explained that they were on their way to town and he was going to show Fluffy what he had planned.

At this point they heard the clutter of hooves galloping down the path towards town. Fluffy was sure she also heard a “Yee-Haa” too.

“Thats early for the Post”, said Mother Ostrich, “Ah, but they are not stopping”. 

“Well it sounds like you have a plan”, said Mother, “I’m sure I will hear all about it later”. (Mother Ostrich’s note: Probably endlessly).

Ostrich and Rabbit, Arm in Wing, continued on the path down to Dingley Dell. 

When they got to the Sugar Mill, Norbuttley lead Fluffy down the path alongside the Mill and down to the river where they headed up the riverside path a short distance. Here Norbuttley stopped. He pointed to some large stones on the bank. 

“This is the remains of a foot bridge that used to cross the river here”, he said. He pointed over the other side where there were similar stones. 

“You see the other side?”, he asked.

“Yes”, said Fluffy.

“See that densely overgrown clump of trees and bushes?”.

“Yes”, repeated Fluffy, wondering where this was going.

“Well, look very closely. Do you see the brickwork amongst it?”.

Fluffy looked hard. “Yes, I see them”.

“Well”, said Norbuttley, That is the ruins of the old Woollen Mill and Mr and Mrs Cutters cottage. My plan is to clear the vegetation and rebuild the cottage. That’s where I will live eventually. Then I will do the same to rebuild the Mill next to it. That will be the kitchen and Jam factory”. 

Fluffy was amazed. “I didn’t even know it was here”. How did you find it?”.

“I saw it on an old map in the museum”. Norbuttley said.

“Its going to take a lot of work”, Fluffy said warily. “Are you sure you can do it?”.

“Only one way to find out”, Norbuttley replied. “Besides I have a lot of friends who I am sure will help”.