The Advent Adventure – the Black and White Christmas (4 – 10 December)(All) (1928 words)

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The man who had had the argument with William had reached his house.  It was a wooden cabin, deep in the woods – or rather, it looked like it was a wooden cabin. The stranger walked up the wooden steps and across the front porch to the door.  He pressed 07734 onto the keypad, and the door opened outwards. As he stepped in, the door closed behind him.  If you had a very keen sense of hearing, you would have heard the sound of lift motors coming into life as the false floor dropped to the sub basement and a false floor covered the hole where the platform had been.

Cameo stepped from the lift platform.  He was furious that yet again people had shown themselves to not follow clear rules.  They were so straightforward, weren’t they?  You queue to get on the ski lift and you wait for the same people to ski down if they were ahead of you (no matter how long they took to clip into their skis) and they certainly did not take shortcuts at the end of the ski run.  Just another example of the breakdown of society.  And what was it with the pastel colours of Heartlake?  Colours should be red, blue, black, white, green – not “puce” or “Tarragon Glory 4”… and certainly not “Pantone 306C”.  He grumbled all the way down the corridor until a small robotic dog click-clacked out from a side room.

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“Hello K9” said Cameo. “At least you understand that things are better when they are clear cut.  But not to worry, I have a machine that will sort all that out.”  He eventually arrived at the end of a long corridor and slid the doors open, which revealed a giant hangar-sized enclosed room.  All around the edges the computers whirred, whizzed and pinged and the monitors all gave out varying information.

“There it is K9, my solution” Cameo explained. “Soon, this machine will make everything straightforward – life will be simple, just Black and White.” He walked over to each of the monitors, looked at them, nodded and went “hmm, uh-huh” a few times, the said “good, it’s ready.”

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He walked back to K9 and picked it up. “You need to be somewhere safe” he explained. “I don’t want you getting caught up when I set this machine off.”  He carefully put K9 back into the side room that it had originally came from and closed the door.  Then he walked back to the hangar and up to the machine.  He pressed the big red button and the white screen flashed briefly, before it started to display its start up code.  Cameo watched for a short while, before walking over to a small console and flicking the switch on the panel.  The platform that the machine was on started to rise up towards the ceiling, which opened up to allow the machine to rise up into the woodland near to the wooden cabin – in full view of Heartlake.  There was a small click when the platform stopped rising, and a faint hum.  The white screen of the machine went black briefly, before the display showed the message “WHAM!”

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Outside the Heartlake cinema, William’s older sister Stephanie was talking with Mike from the “Capes and Cowls” café.  “That film was brilliant” she said, “thank you for suggesting we go and see it.”  Mike smiled. “No problem” he said. “What bloke doesn’t like seeing a romantic comedy that has no action scenes and leaves most of the audience in tears?  By the way, that’s a lovely top you’re wearing – it’s so … grey?”  Stephanie looked down.  It was definitely a pink top earlier – but Mike was right, it was definitely now a grey colour.  As was her shoes.  As was the Cinema!

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“What’s happening Mike?” she asked “If I didn’t know better I’d say we’ve slipped into an old black and white movie!”  “Well as long we don’t get visited by Clarence Odbody* we’ll be fine!”

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William was also equally confused.  He’d gone round to see how Granny Smith was – he always tried to get round to see her once a week and she made lovely cakes and cookies. This time of year he would also go round and clear Granny’s path of snow.  He was talking to her about her garden and she offered freshly baked cookies.  William had smelled that lovely smell as soon as he had entered the house – and had been waiting for what felt like ages before she had offered them.  As he picked one off the tray, the smell seemed to go.  He looked at the cookies, which had just gone a grey colour and took a bite.  They tasted of… well, nothing really.  He finished the first and tried another – it tasted the same, that was, it tasted of nothing!  Granny Smith was equally confused.  “Perhaps I didn’t put enough sugar in them” she said “but that’s the first time I’ve ever made such disappointing cookies.  I’ll have to make some more fresh tomorrow – come round on your way home from school.”  William agreed that he would; after all it was likely that he would have to clear the snow again from the drive and pavement anyway.

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As William left the house, he went to push off on his sledge (much more fun than just walking) and it just made a horrible scraping sound – the sound when metal is scrapped across concrete paving slabs.  It certainly didn’t glide.  William realised that he couldn’t tell if there was ice or not – it was all the same shade of grey.  Which meant it was equally likely that he wouldn’t spot the ice on the ground either.  It was going to take a long time to get home.

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Obviously, I was alerted to the fact that something was wrong when my little marshmallows went grey, as did my hot chocolate.  Sitting in the café, I couldn’t tell what it was I ordered – and neither could any of the other customers either.  “Is this an Americano, or a Flat White?” they asked.  I had to do something, so I carefully made my way back to the hotel and got out the drone plane from my case.  I then headed back to the playing field and set the camera up and launched the plane.

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Once I got the little plane up to the right height I could see that something was up – although Heartlake was a fairly standard grey, to the distance I could still see colour of greens, browns.  This was obviously caused by some very complicated and clever machinery.  I turned the plane and took it higher into the sky.  Once at the right height, I could see that the grey colour was slowly expanding out where it could –  it stopped when it got to mountains or hills.  I took a couple of images before the warning light flashed on my controls. Low battery! Because I’d taken the plane so high it was using more power than usual, so I needed to act quickly.  I pushed the little lever forward to get the plane to descend to a lower level, all the while looking for somewhere I could land almost safely (or at least with minimal damage to the plane)… when I saw a road, winding its way through the trees.  There was a clearing that I could aim for, which I did.  If I could get the plane to land on the road, I could try and taxi it to one side, then get a taxi to go and pick it up.

The battery light was now flashing rapidly – I didn’t have long, but I was nearly there now.  From my monitor I could see that I was running just a metre above the road, so slowly lower it, nearly, nearly, careful for touch down… and… what?!!!  The plane landed on the road, but there was a spray and then nothing. My controls flashed the message “LOST CONNECTION”.  Well, I knew roughly where it was, so I would see if I could get a lift.  As I walked back across the field, I saw Stephanie and Mike. Much as we SH5 operatives try to keep to ourselves, in this little town everyone knows everyone – there are very few secrets.

“Hi Wodge!” called Mike. “Do you know anything about all this?  One minute we’re in technicolour and now everything’s in Black and White!”

“Actually, it is a bit of a mystery – and probably why I’m here.  Actually Mike, can you help me?  I need to pick up my drone plane – it ran out of battery power so I had to make an emergency landing.  I need to get here.”  I pointed at the monitor that had a map of the plane’s last known location.  Stephanie looked over the monitor.

“That’s not a road” she said. “That’s the Brickville river!”  Mike smiled.  “It’s a fairly fast moving river too, with plenty of rocks in it. I’ve broken many kayaks paddling down that – I reckon your plane is lost now.”

“Blast” I said. “That was a really good plane with a really good camera on it. And I reckon I’ve got a pretty good idea where to look next to find where all this is coming from.”

“Do you have a spare camera?” asked Mike. “I’ve built a seaplane that you could use – because of its shape we can land it almost anywhere!”

Luckily I did have a spare camera, so I agreed to meet Mike back on the field in an hour.  I apologised to Stephanie for ruining her evening with Mike – she smiled and said that this sounded like fun, so she’d come along anyway if that was okay.

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We went off in our separate ways and returned to the field.  It took us a few moments to fix the camera to the plane and soon the plane was in the air.  I could point out everything that I could see – Stephanie could see that the colour fading wasn’t as strong at the edges.  She got out her tablet, opened up an app and started to make some calculations.  In a few moments, she was able to estimate where Mike should redirect the plane.

“It’s easy” she said. “I could see that on the flat the grey only went so far, so let’s assume that is the outer radius.  Now, this gives us a couple of edges to work with, but it’s not exact.  But look at the mountains – it only goes up the mountain so far, so I can calculate how far it would have gone if the mountains weren’t there.  So I reckon the centre is in the Heartlake forest, probably on a hill itself.  Looking at the map, best guess is this area here. And if I zoom in… look there’s a little cabin there.”

I looked at Stephanie. “I can see that the Christmas presents you got last year came in useful!”

Mike was studying the monitor.  “We’re nearly there” he said. “I can see the cabin… but what’s that machine?  That’s unusual, I can’t quite make out what it is.”  I looked at the monitor, then advised Mike to return the plane to us.  “No point in getting too close – but I think it’s where I’m going to find one of the people I need to look into.”

“who ever did this” said Stephanie “it’s like they want the world to be black and white… like a cameo.”

I nodded.  Definitely on the trail of one of the two characters.

 

 

 

Author note:

Clarence Odbody (played by Henry Travers) was the Angel (2nd class) in the 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” also starring James Stewart.  No I didn’t expect you to get it, but Mike’s a bit of a film buff.

 

 

 

 

Advent Toys

So this week we had:

Chair and lamp

Toy Gingerbread house

Airplane

Sled

Granny Smith with her cookies

Snow Blower

Model Sea plane

 

See you next week!

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A week in creativity (week ending 10 December)(all)

Hello everyone!

I guess it’s that time of year when other things take priority over creative things.    For me, the last week has been filled with meeting up with family and friends and it’s been wonderful.  I often talk about inhaling and exhaling in regard to creativity… I guess this week has mostly been the pause between the two!

The “photo a day” challenge on Instagram continued and I managed to meet the brief for each of them, but looking back this morning I would say that there was little that I felt was exceptional – probably because of all that “going out and having a good time” stuff I think in truth I did the barest minimum.  Consequently, the picture collection is quite light.

However, even if it was a “shallow breath” I still managed some creativity – both creating and seeing.  The christmas lights are now lit in London and I managed to see a little of them and take a couple of pictures – I may even take a few more before the year is out!

Anyway, as always, enjoy and keep creating!

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For “opposites”. Not everyone was King Fu Fighting as the song suggests

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Breakfast – happy side up!

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“They warned of localised snowing”

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“smelling carrots”

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I really must colour this one!!

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For “Art” – but this was such fun to do!

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“Skate” at Somerset House, London. One of the reasons why I didn’t create much art this week!

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“Simpsons-in-the-Strand” is a famous London restaurant, which started trading back in 1828. The “chess” motifs highlight that in the 19th century it was an important chess venue!

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The Selfridges Christmas display.

The Advent Adventure – The Black and White Christmas (1st-3rd December)(all)(1703 words)

Authors note: welcome to another advent story!  Back in 2012 I started to write an annual story, using the presents from the LEGO City advent calendar as “seeds” for the stories, where the daily story had to feature the present in some way.  Due to a whole number of things (see my earlier post) this year will be a weekly story but will feature all the items for that week.  I hope you enjoy the story.

 

December 1 – December 3

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Come in, please sit down and warm yourself by the fire.  Yes, it is a bit chilly out, isn’t it?  I’ll get one of my colleagues to go and get us some hot chocolates – you’re OK if we put little marshmallows on the top? It’s a bit of a seasonal treat for me, you see.

So, now you’re nice and settled, I’ll begin, and I don’t think we’ve met before.  My name is Edgar Lance Taylor Boothready – but I’m only ever called that by my mother when I’ve been a little naughty – most people just call me Wodge. The room that we are in is a very important part of Father Christmas’ Records Office; this is commonly called SH5 by the elves. Now you may have heard of the British spy departments of MI5 and MI6 and we’re a little like that.  You see, whilst the popular song says that Santa will check the Naughty List twice the truth is that he doesn’t really have time to go through the whole list – and certainly not enough to maintain it.  So, he has these “Santa Helper” departments who will look into everybody’s records and determine whether they will appear on the Naughty or Nice list.  Some are easy, others are more complicated, and these may get passed onto special SH departments, such as SH5, to investigate.  With our experience we can check, investigate and… sorry – I do tend to ramble a bit.  What you need is an example from our archives and I’ll tell you that in a moment; but I guess it’s worth knowing that we have many of these departments for things such as “politicians”, “liking Marmite and not liking Timbits”, “colouring outside the lines when drawing”, “stepping on the cracks in the pavement” and the like.

But let’s get down to the story.  It happened in one of the loveliest places to visit, Heartlake in Legoland.  I got to hear about it when an investigation form was put on my desk. It said:

Location: Heartlake, Legoland

Person(s) to be investigated:  Cameo; Doodlefig

Reason: Possible transfer to the Naughty List

 

And that was it.  No further explanation of who they were, where I would find them, or if they had been bad before (we don’t rollover people onto the Naughty List; everyone starts on the Nice List at the start of the year and then the SH departments will then get alerts and take the appropriate actions.  Of course, some might get moved across instantly the clock chimes midnight – but that’s the responsibility of SH1)

With nothing else to go on, I decided to go to Heartlake.  Besides, I needed some mini-marshmallows for my hot chocolate…

 

William was out in the snow.  He loved this time of year – it was the perfect opportunity to get out his snowboard and head to the slopes.  Fortunately, the Heartlake hills were a short walk from his house, and even better the ski lift was close too, so he could finish school, get home and be on the slopes before his dad got home from work and they had tea.  Last Christmas he had been given a new board – it was a lovely colourful board and it stood out on the snow as he carved his way down the slope.  He made his way up to the top of the slope and clipped his boots into the board.  He was about to push off and start to slide down when a man just skied straight over the end of his board.

“Hey” said William.

“I was here first, you pushed in” said the man.

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William didn’t realise that there was a queue and as he looked round, he could see that everyone else hadn’t realised there was a queue either.  They all shrugged their shoulders and carried on.  William enjoyed this slope – about a third of the way down there was a section that allowed him to do some very simple tricks – and get a little air too, which was always fun.  As he headed down, he carefully made sure that he kept out of the way of anyone else, especially those who were still learning or going slowly, so that everyone could enjoy the slope.  Because he knew the slope so well, he also knew the little dog leg through the trees that would bring him out close by the entrance to the ski lift – something that those who followed the marked path would be away from. He came to a stop and started to walk towards the lift.

“Hey, get behind me – I was here first!” This was shouted from a way behind William.  It was that man again.

“I finished by following the proper route.  You took a short cut.  You should get the lift after me.”

William was now very confused – and a little worried as this man was definitely strange.  He looked at his watch and decided that it would just be easier to go home.  With a cheeky bow, he waved the man through and onto the lift.  The stranger got onto the ski lift without a word of thanks.

By the time William had got home, he had forgotten all about it.  At the top of the lift, the man got off.  He had not forgotten – and for him it was another reason for what he had planned.

 

At the other end of Heartlake, in a house that had definitely seen better days, Steven laid out the train track for his model toy train.  Like the house, the train was old, made from old tin and bent roughly into the shape of a train.  The paint on the train was chipped and faded and the train tracks were a dark stained brown from years of use.  This was a train set that had been passed down through generations.  Steven wound up the train and the clockwork motor started to pull the train round.  In his mind, Steven was on board the train.  For him, the track didn’t go around in a loop – it went off and away from here.  Whilst the train went around the tracks taking Steven’s mind off to faraway places, he doodled absent-mindedly on his sketch pad. The clockwork soon ran out, bringing him back to that worn out living room and the threadbare carpet.  He looked at the sketch pad and saw he’d drawn a tunnel.  “Wouldn’t it be fun if it worked” he thought.  He wound the train up and it started round the track.  With a mischievous smile, Steven stood the sketch pad on the tracks.  The train got closer to the sketch paper… the clockwork motor already sounding like it was running out of power… closer… slower… closer… slower… and… then… It went into the tunnel!  Or rather, it HALF went into the tunnel – the clockwork motor stopped with the last of the train still sticking out.  Steven’s mouth dropped open.  He looked at the paper – and the train – and then looked at the other side of the paper, which was just a blank piece of paper!  Steven carefully pulled the train out and then carefully put his hand up to… into… the tunnel.  Then his arm – right up to the shoulder.  He pulled his hand out and looked inside.  It was pitch black.

“Of course – I’ve not drawn the other end of the tunnel!” he exclaimed.  A few minutes later he had drawn the entrance to a second tunnel on another piece of paper.  He propped the paper up on the train tracks, then carefully propped the first one up.  He looked down the tunnel – he could see a light at the other end!  He wound up the train and let it run.  It went into the tunnel… there was a pause… and then it came out of the other entrance!

For the next few hours, Steven tried various railway set ups – he even broke the loop of the train tracks but made sure the tunnel was on the lines.  He worked out that it was always just three seconds from something going in to the tunnel to coming out.

The next day Steven could not think of anything else except for this new-found trick.  He started to think about all the things he could do with this – but as he thought about this, he started to wonder; how big could he make the hole?  Where did it go – and did it always need a tunnel at the other end?  That evening was going to be exciting!

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For me, I had arrived at Heartlake.  We had a standard agreement with the hotel and always had a room on standby – every year something seems to happen around here that requires one of us to come and visit.  We’ve often thought about opening a little shop here rather than relying on the post delivering the Santa Wish lists.  I decided to take the opportunity to do a little skiing – whilst we do have snow in Lapland, it is quite flat where we are and it’s quite nice to let the slope do the work.  I watched a strange man tell a boy off for something – I didn’t pay too much attention as that was the sort of thing that SH8 would be told about and investigate.  But about an hour later I received a Santatext from SH8 that the incident may be linked to my own investigation.  Could one of them be somehow connected to my two persons of interest?  Something to investigate I thought… but first, time for hot chocolate.

 

Advent Toys

This week we only had three days – and those were the Toy Train, William the Snowboarding boy and this lovely brick fireplace.

See you next week!

A week in creativity (ending 2nd Feb)(pg)

Hello everyone!

This week I have been working on two things mostly – my online courses in Symbology and Meditation, and also the Advent stories, which will start TOMORROW! I am a little excited about this – and worried too – because unlike the last few years I have changed the approach and rather than doing a day at a time (which is really challenging) I am doing a week at a time, so I have all the pieces for that week.  What it has meant is that I have been able to keep to the story arc – but the counter to that is that it is more of a story than the pun-a-minute versions I have produced in previous years.  You’ll have to let me know what you think.

But what that pre-amble means is that this week has been quite light on creative outputs – thank heavens for the Photo-a-day challenge or I would have had nothing this week!  Anyway, here’s this week’s outputs.  Keep creating and I’ll see you next week.

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Day 27 – hole. Where I have to plug the audio lead

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Day 28 (1) – triangle

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Day 28 (2) – triangles

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Day 29 – sun flare. Probably the first “fail” as I actively try to avoid sun flare in my pictures

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Day 30 – cool

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Day 1 – I love doing this: collecting and photographing toys!

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Day 2 – free choice. A deep thought

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How to live your life (“Carpe Diem” is Latin for “Seize the day”)

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“Carrotunalia” – a fun short story

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I created this “album art” after day 30

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seasonal top tip!

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Ooh, an exciting teaser image!!!

Shades of Grey (all)

Pick ‘n Chew’s attempt at ambient acoustic techno dubstep.

Track listing

1. Oontz Oontz Oontz

2. Wicky wicky wa wa

3. Doof doof tsss (Oontz remix)

4. Woop (feat.  Dr Eggbox)

5. Errr

6. Oontz Oontz Oontz (wicky remix)
(not a real album)

Carrotunalia! (all) (694 words)

Roger came running into the room.  He looked around then ran up to Jessica and Millicent. “Do you know what today is?” he asked.

Millicent knew what every day was. Today was Sunday. But this seemed like a trick question. “No Roger, what day is it?”

“It’s Carrotunalia Eve!”

Jessica looked at Roger. “It’s what? there’s no such thing – the big rabbits have been teasing you again, like they did when they told you it was Paint Your Head Green day and you looked like a furry brussel sprout for two weeks because you bought a permanent colour!”

Roger looked a little disheartened.  “But it seemed like such a brilliant day” he said.  “It’s the day that we give the gift of a carrot to someone that we felt deserved it.  I thought we could give Colin a carrot to say thank you.”

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Jessica felt a little bad for Roger.  Even if it was a made-up day, Roger’s idea of giving a thank you present to Colin was a lovely one – and one that she wanted to support.  She looked at Millicent, then at Roger, and said

“Oh, Carotunalia Day! It had slipped my mind!  Of course, and yes, Colin would be a wonderful person to give the present to. Do you have the carrot and any wrapping paper?”

Millicent went to spoke. “Carrotunalia Day isn’t….” but Jessica cut across her “… isn’t often celebrated here, so it will be nice to do this; that’s what you were going to say, wasn’t it Jessica?  Now Roger, go and get the paper, carrot and tape and we can wrap the present.”

With a happy skip, Roger ran off.  Jessica explained to Millicent that she didn’t think it was a real day either, but for once this would be a nice thing that Roger was unlikely to be told off for.

Shortly, Roger returned and they set everything up.

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Millicent looked at the paper – and the carrot.  She wondered how they would wrap it – without thumbs it all looked very difficult.  As usual, Roger wasn’t deterred by such challenges.  “I can do it” he said.  He set to with his usual enthusiasm and soon the carrot was … well…

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“Oh dear” said Millicent, “Well the carrot is certainly well wrapped up”.

“So is Roger” said Jessica.

“MMMm-mm mm-mmm” said Roger, who had tape across his face.

“It’s going to hurt a bit” said Jessica “but we do need to take that bit off you.”

“But he’ll be able to talk again” said Millicent. “Do we have to?”

“As I said, it’s going to hurt a bit… for us and him” teased Jessica.

“Mmm mmmm mmm OWWWW!!” cried Roger. “I’m sure that’s taken whiskers off too!”

 

Colin walked into the room. “What are you children doing?” he asked.  “What’s that… and why is Roger… OK, I don’t need to know that and it’s probably best that I don’t!”.

“HAPPY CARROTUNALIA DAY!!” exclaimed Roger.

“Umm, isn’t that tomorrow?” asked Millicent. Jessica shrugged.  If it was a made up day, then it was a real one now.

“Carrotunalia Day?” asked Colin. “Don’t think I’ve heard of that one!”.  Roger explained the day and what it meant – and why they were giving the gift to Colin.

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Colin thought for a moment.  “Well, I think it’s a lovely day – and do you know what, I DO remember the older rabbits telling me about it once. I don’t think it is fixed to any particular date or time, so today can be Carrotunalia day!”

“Hurrah!” exclaimed Roger.  “Here’s your present!”

“Not sure how you’ll open it though” added Millicent.

Colin looked at the package.  “Actually, it’s quite simple” he said.  “If I unfold here…” The parcel unwrapped itself with no unsticking at all.  “Roger got so much tape on himself that he didn’t actually stick the tape to anything but itself!”

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Colin looked at the Carrot.  “It’s a lovely carrot though” he said “thank you all of you for this present.”  Everyone smiled.  “But”, Colin added, “I came down here for a particular reason.  I was going to ask why there was a large hole in the wallpaper in the living room…”

 

The End.