“Come here!” she called excitedly to the other two, “what ever is this?” It looked like a rope but Toffee, who had seen many things in his life, hastily took a few paces backwards.
In my last article, I wrote about what it’s like being old and my own experience of it. Well, dear reader, I mentioned that I was helped in this by having a dog and two cats. Without these three animals, the brightness, the lightness, the fun would have gone out of my life. In this article, I’ll tell you a little about them and put them into a story for children; you’ll see what joy they and the writing bring me.
First, their names: the dog is called Toffee, and the two cats, sisters, are called Ginger and Dice. Toffee is old and pretty somnolent. He is not fazed by the antics of the cats. He moves slowly and often lies across a space, just where you need to go! He is quite satisfied, in fact, by his old age. Ginger and Dice are less than a year old. They are sleek and black but Ginger has a weeny patch of white fur on her chest. One of my daughters brought them to live here to help scare off the rats we had at the time. They are a curious mixture of shy and sociable. They love coming for walks but are not sitting-on-your-lap cats. Ginger is the adventurous one; Dice follows glumly.
So here is one of the stories I make up about them: it’s about the day they met a viper. You probably remember that I live in a very rural area: flowers and bright green plants around the house and a row of tall trees down a short drive with forests, hills and mountains beyond.
It was a Wednesday. As the children’s rhyme says “March brings breezes loud and shrill, stirs the dancing daffodil”. Ginger was bored. Action was immediately called for. She dug Dice in the ribs and said,
“When boredom sets in, it’s time to move.”
Outside the garage they saw Toffee, legs splayed out comfortably, fast asleep.
“We’re off for an adventure!” Ginger announced loudly.
Toffee opened one eye, “ I’d just got off to sleep. What’s the hurry?”
“Spring will soon be here” said Ginger “and we mustn’t miss it! Haven’t you noticed the birds in the trees singing in the morning?”
“Can’t say I have,” replied Toffee.
“Me neither, added Dice, hopefully.
“Come!” shouted Ginger “Round to the back of the house!”
This did wake Toffee up and he and Dice followed Ginger round to the back of the house. The whole house looked different round the back. Bushes up against the walls, windows looking out from the kitchen and the computer room and the upstairs bedroom windows. Beyond the house was the horses’ field - a long flat field stretching far, far away until it met spruce trees and then a forest.
“I like the horses’ field,” said Ginger “short green grass and soft on my paddy-paws.” The other two agreed.
“But why go further?” ventured Dice.
“Nice and comfortable to lie on,” added Toffee.
Ginger was becoming a bit exasperated with her friends.
“Because adventure is always waiting for you outside your comfort zone!”
“Do you mean the garden fence?” asked Dice. “Is that the edge of our comfort zone?”
And Dice was right, dear reader, wild boars sometimes come as far as the fence, but so far they haven’t come inside it.
“Exactly!” agreed Ginger, “you’ve hit the nail on the head, sister! Come on!”
So they flattened their tummies on the ground and squeezed under the fence.
“It’s bumpy on this side” said Dice grumpily. “The grass is sticking up between my toes.”
“Where is your sense of adventure?” asked Ginger, sniffing the fresh air and closing her eyes in delight. “It’s a bracing day, perfect for exploring!” And she marched steadily forward. Ginger had her sights on the far forest and before long the other two caught her enthusiasm. Up and down they went and then down, down into a gully with a silvery stream running through it. Toffee splashed manfully into the stream while Dice and Ginger skirted round and found a place where they could leap over it. Suddenly, Ginger spotted something in the tufts of grass.
“Come here!” she called excitedly to the other two, “what ever is this?”
It looked like a rope but Toffee, who had seen many things in his life, hastily took a few paces backwards.
“It’s a kind of snake,” he said “I’ve seen green snakes in the garden but this one is quite different. It’s short and brown and has a V on its head. Look you can see it’s little tongue shooting in and out!”
The viper, for that is what is was, lunged at Ginger who did a backwards leap into the air and shot off back towards the edge of the forest. Toffee and Dice followed, hot on her heels, and all three of them leapt over the stream, ran up and down the hills and then squeezed back under the fence. Then they fell about laughing and crying all at once.
“So much for going beyond your comfort zone!” teased Dice and they trotted off back towards the domesticated front of the house - patio chairs and sunshine and the possibility of a snack was suddenly so attractive!