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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 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”.