Monday, September 05, 2011

Give me just a little more time

No, not another entry on the music list but out of place. More than that.

Frank Knowles, Head Teacher at Walter Halls Primary School in Mapperley, Nottingham, had a great assembly. It was an old folk tale but it worked well and I've used it a lot. It also helps me from time to time. You probably know it so I've updated it.

It concerns a man who lived in a small house with his wife and three children. Once he had lived there alone, but now there were five. Concerned at how to cope with his loss of personal space he was fortunate that he lived in a village where all such problems were taken to the wise old lady at the end of the street. Mrs Wise was her name. Which was great as Mrs Rubbish would have been rubbish.

She scratched her beard, or would have done if she had had one, and said. 'Hmm. You need to get a cat.'

He got a cat. It delighted his small children who had a new playmate. They teased it, chased it and stroked it. It purred on their laps when they sat down for a story. However the man, who we didn't give a name to so we shall call Edna, found all his furniture scratched and little gifts in the house plants rather than the cat litter tray.

He went back to see Mrs Wise. After another moment of imaginary beard stroking she said, 'You need a dog.'

So Edna got a lovely little puppy. The children fed it and petted it and laughed as it chased the now terrified cat round the house. It was a great pet, although Edna now had to get up half an hour earlier to walk the dog before work, had to spend money on cat food and dog food and vets' bills, and found many of his prized ornaments broken on the floor after a chasing scenario.

'Mrs Wise,' he said, relaxing at her house with a vodka and tonic (another reason why her advice was highly sought-after was her copious supply of fine spirits and wines) 'You have not solved my problem.'

'Chicken,' She said.

'I'm not,' replied Edna.

'No', she said, 'You need to get chickens.'

So Edna got chickens and they laid beautiful eggs for breakfast which made everyone happier and healthier. But the cock made a lot of noise when it woke up and so the dog woke up early and needed a wee earlier because, unlike the cat, it didn't pee in the bathroom orchids and asked nicely to be let out, and so Edna became more and more tired.

'Last go,' said Mrs Wise, admitting she was coming up short in the wisdom department of late perhaps it was all the gin, 'Get a cow.'

Several days later, at a family emergency meeting, Edna wondered why Mrs Wise had been so poor at advice. Granted they were drinking fresh milk and eating scrambled eggs at breakfast, and everyone seemed fitter and happier because laughter and exercise produce endorphins and that's good, but they were all sleeping in the corner of one room and often woke up with a cat in the mouth.

'Go and see her one more time,' said Edna's wife Bill.

So he did.

As he arrived at Mrs Wise's house he saw the ambulance. She was on a stretcher and being taken to hospital with liver failure. She croaked. No, not that sort of croaked. She croaked a sentence at Edna. 'Normally I'd advise you to sell all the animals and then you'd enjoy living in the same space as you had before on the you-don't-know-what-you've-got-'til-it's-gone principle but in this case I'm not so sure so I think you should buy a bigger house.' She was good at croaking.

So Edna went back and told Bill and they got out their savings and applied for a mortgage and bought a bigger house.

Which gives us a slightly more complex morality tale than we bargained for, but to summarise:

Don't go and get help if there is an obvious answer staring you in the face.
Try and avoid taking advice off drunken old women.
Never, under any circumstances, get a cat.

Diesel the labrador has gone home this morning at the end of his holidays and that gives me time, having taken him for a walk at 5.45 a.m. in the dark and he could still retrieve, amazing, to appreciate the space in my lovely house and write a story. Thanks Diesel. It's been a blast. Thanks Frank, and probably a Brother Grimm lurking in the background somewhere.

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