childrens stories

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Freda’s Almanac

Published August 9, 2014 by Annie Oliver

old diary

Some predictions for the week ahead from my trusty almanac. Pay heed, my dears.

Tomorrow is an excellent day for weaving dreams. Take ten long spiderweb strands, some common garden mint and infuse with the wind of moth wing (best captured in tupperware). Shake ten times anti-clockwise and inhale the resulting vapour before bedtime, whilst thinking of the thing or person you wish to dream about. Note that I say anti-clockwise. Failure to adhere to this will result in night time incontinence, which is most inconvenient.

Wednesday is a terrible day. Stay at home. If you must go out, say, to work, do so with great care and don’t speak to anyone if you can help it.

Thursday, however, is an excellent day for casting hexes on those who have wronged you. Hexes are always best carried out by a professional, but if you must DIY, then speak the hex into the north facing end of your garden for truly excellent results.

Good days for Glaring: Tuesday, Thursday and Friday

Good days for wish granting: This is not a good week for granting wishes. Wish at your peril!

Good days for hexing: Thursday. I shall be working late for a small surcharge should you wish your hex to be handled by a professional.

 

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Short story – Harry the Hipster Spider

Published July 22, 2014 by Annie Oliver

Harry the Hipster Spider.

Harry was bored.

All of the other spiders in the library were spinning their conventional webs and trapping flies. Harry didn’t want to join in. They were so tedious. Harry was spinning a web, yes, but not because the other spiders were. It was only because he had to get to the floor from a high bookshelf. He liked to hang out among the obscure books where no one bothered him.  He didn’t pay any particular attention to the pattern he weaved; rather, he just nonchalantly let the web slide out in a crooked atypical pattern.  And flies…flies had feelings too, you know. Harry preferred to let the humans deal with the flies. They swatted – he prospered.  Harry liked to yawn near a swatting human or an electric fly zapper – that way the flies would accidentally drop into his mouth like he hadn’t planned it.

As Harry landed on the floor, a spider called Mick scuttled over in the darting, panicked way that most spiders like to move. “The other spiders are talking, Harry,” Mick had said. “You haven’t graced a bathtub in months. I saw a human walk past you the other day and you didn’t even do that crouchy-thing like spiderman…and when was the last time you scuttled?”

Harry shrugged one of his eight shoulders. “Look at you,” he said, “with your webs and your scuttling and your crouchy-moves. I’m sick of being hyper-vigilant to danger all the time. If a human is gong to squash us, believe me they’ll squash us. The crouchy thing makes no difference. In fact, i would say that crouching and staying perfectly still puts us at a disadvantage.” He blinked seven of his eight spider eyes, which in human terms is the equivalent of a snort. “I refuse to conform to societies view of what a spider is or isn’t.”

“What you need,” said Mick, “is to join in with the other spiders. No one likes a smart-arse. We’re spiders. We spin pretty webs. We trap flies. We do what our spider-wives tell us. You haven’t even got a wife. You’re nearly three days old and you haven’t even left your mothers web yet.”

“I don’t believe in conforming to traditional spiderships,” said Harry, “and I don’t live in my Mum’s web, we web-share.”

Mick’s wife, Sharon scuttled across at that point. “Ooooh, look at that web,” she said, pointing to the straggling strands that trailed behind Harry . “look how it shines in the sun. Mick why can’t you make me a web like that? It would look lovely in that spot in the window by the encyclopaedias. The human just dusted my last one away.”

“It’s a mess, Shaz,” said Mick. “Look at it, it’s all bobbly and uneven. Why would you want a web like that?”

“It’s all the rage though, Mick. All the spiders are doing it. Look.”

Harry and Mick looked over to the journals and newspapers section. A group of spiders were weaving webs which were as odd-looking as Harry’s. Although, weaving wasn’t really the word you would use; instead they seemed to be doing a nonchalant shuffle across the shelves, of which web just happened to be a by-product of. Great strands of bobbly, misshapen silk languished over the daily papers.

Harry couldn’t help himself. For the first time in almost seven hours (which is several years in spider time) he scuttled. He scuttled over to the weaving spiders, quite forgetting to be detached and blasé. “Hey,” said one of the spiders, “what’s the rush?”

“Who is this dude?” said another spider, widening only two of its spider eyes, which in spider body language is an expression of severe disdain.

Harry quickly remembered himself, slouched three of his legs over the Daily Star and tried to look as disinterested as possible. “What’s all this,” he said, (without any need for a question mark, so indifferent was the tone.)

“This, dude, is webbing and it’s something you can’t explain or teach. If you have to ask…” he said.

“But…” said Harry, desperate to tell them he’d been weaving like this for days. Webbing? They’d given it a name?

“…You definitely don’t know,” butted in the other spider.

A young girl spider walked across, taking care to use only four of her eight legs. “Have you hurt your legs?” said Harry.

“Who is this dude?” she said, ignoring him.

“Yeah mate,” said the first spider, “don’t be negative just because Sally chooses not to conform to traditional spider ways of walking. We saw how you scuttled over here. Go back with your friends and your nice symmetrical webbery. Fancy joining us Sal?” he said to the girl spider.

“I only web on vinyl…if I feel like it that is. I mean, half the time I don’t even mean to web I just kind of think about nothing and it happens,” said Sally, doing her lop sided shuffle over to the antique record display.

“She is soooo cool,” said both the spiders together.

“But you don’t understand,” said Harry. “I’ve been doing this ‘webbing’ thing for ages, this was my thing! I mean I didn’t call it anything but it was definitely mine.” Harry felt his third and fourth pupils dilate in panic, which is about the most embarrassing thing that could ever happen to a hipster spider.

“Arachnoid,” said the second spider, “hold yourself back, you look desperate.”

“But…but…I did it before it was popular.”Harry felt his world slipping away from him. He tried again, swallowing his pride, “Look. I’ve been er…webbing over by the electric fly zapper. We could go yawn. It’s over by the obscure books section.”

The two spiders began to laugh. “Yawning?” said the first spider. “That is the very definition of trying too hard. No-one eats house flies anymore. We only eat organic green fly that just happens to fall off the rose bush by the window. The second spider glared at him with his second and third eyes and he quickly added. “Er…If we are passing and they fall while we are making a particularly big vowel sound, that is.”

“I’ll just go then,” said Harry.

“You do that,” said the first spider.

“Grandad,” said the second, sniggering.

Harry scuttled – because he didn’t care anymore – back to his shelf and sat and moped. His once-original skeins of frayed silken web just looked dirty and tainted now. The worst of it all was that they had given it a name. He glanced over the shelf with one of his eyes and saw Shaz berating Mick for not making their web look vintage enough. What would he do now? His whole life purpose was to operate outside of the spiderstream. Where would he go? If he wasn’t original, then who was he at all?

Harry was having his first existential crisis.

But then it came to him. Like a searing flash of inspiration.

As the sun rose that morning, all the little hipster spiders sat webbing and accidentally catching greenfly by the window. Harry scuttled down the shelf. He scuttled like he’d never scuttled before. He threw webs from his front legs in great curves and arcs, spinning the most symmetrical perfect webs you’ve ever seen. A human walked through the door and Harry was the picture of hypervigilance. He crouched, he stayed perfectly still. He made an exaggerated face of pure danger-sensing, even though the human was at the other end of the room. He was the very essence of Spider.

“Who is that dude?” said the spider who had called Harry ‘Grandad’, “and what is his problem?”

“Yeah,” said Sally. “You’re so conformist and misled”

“Oh,” said Harry, “still ‘webbing’ I see”

“Yes,” said Sally, looking nervous. “Er…what’s wrong with that.”

Harry laughed. “Webbing is ok, but I was doing that last day. It didn’t even have a name yet when I started doing it. It was okay back then but now it’s so spiderstream that the webs don’t even look like the original webbing-webs-before-it-was-called-webbing.”

“What do you know?” said the first spider. “Look at you, with your crouching and your weaving and your scuttling. Get back to the spiderstream!”

Harry laughed. “Ah my friend, I’m not crouching and weaving and scuttling because I feel I have to because it represents what society expects of me as a spider. I’m doing it in an ironic sense to illuminate that I can choose to do it because I have transcended those societal roles. In a sense, I’m making a mockery of the spiderness of it all. Not because I have to or want to, but because I can.”

“That’s cool,” said Sally.

“That’s retro,” said Harry.

The gathered spiders made a cooing sound and gathered around in a huddle.

Harry scuttled back to his shelf and waited. Waited for the next day when ironic crouching and weaving and scuttling were the next big thing so that he could start ironically shuffling and webbing and accidentally catching…well, he would decide that tomorrow.

Such is the angst of a hipster spider.

 

 

 

Freda’s Almanac

Published April 5, 2014 by Annie Oliver

magic-book.jpg

I told my writer friend Annie not to get her hair cut on a Friday in March but did she listen to me? No. Now she has the locks of a forest elf and only herself to blame. Hmph. The almanac never lies. So here are my predictions for fortuitous and unlucky events over the next week. Ignore them and you shall suffer my withering glare.

– ‘Tis a Waxing Crescent moon tonight. On no account look at yourself in the mirror while combing your hair, lest you want to wake in the morn with twice as much hair as you went to bed with. Unless you need more hair, then that is exactly what you should do.

– Tonight is also a perilous night for hexing. All hexes will bounce back on you three-fold, and that goes for ill-wishing too. Save your hexes for tomorrow, when they will have ultimate potency. Especially vomitous ones.

– Beware men with curly beards on Tuesday unless they carry a ferret, in which case they will bring you great luck.

– Wednesday is particularly fortuitous for anyone with red hair to win pointless arguments.

– Friday is a good day for wish granting, however I am only working a half day so please do not be disappointed if I am not able to manage your request. Godmothers need a work-life balance too, you know. And if you send me any more wishes with the words ‘true love’, ‘money’ or ‘marriage’ in it I swear I shall vomit myself into next week. I yearn a good smiting, so if there is anyone you know who truly deserves a really good hex I shall be only too pleased to oblige. Genuine cases only.

Good days for hexing – Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday.

Good days for Glaring – There is no unfortuitous day to Glare this week.

 

Freda’s Journal – A pox on my house!

Published March 29, 2014 by Annie Oliver

old diary

Well you may have noticed that this old godmother has been quiet of late. I’m almost ashamed to say it but I’ve been most dastardly hexed! It all started when I stopped to help a bonny young maiden. She was a-struggling with bags of shopping up the winding hill which leads to Thistle Cottage, where I live. As I reached to take some of the bags from her, quick as a flash, she leaped out and grabbed my wand, which was tucked neatly into my best checked apron. The liberty!

No-one steals Freda’s wand, though many have tried. We had a tremendous tussle – let me tell you, just because I’m old doesn’t mean I can’t pull some wrestling moves –  and the wand snapped clean in half. I grabbed the two halves and held tight and she knew she was beat.  I was weakened, though and she slapped a hex right on me before running off, cackling.  I can’t believe I was fooled by a stinking witch! Either I’m losing my touch or those witches are getting more and more crafty because there wasn’t so much as the slightest scent about her. Usually, witches smell of sour milk and cat fur. Usually, witches are thin and pale and have the look of a nurse. You can tell them a mile away. Not this witch. She was plump and pretty, with red lips and long curling locks. The cheek of it!

The wand-breaking alone cost me a weeks worth of wish-granting, which was no good for my reputation. Of course, the wizard I sent it to for fixing gave me a courtesy wand, but it was an obnoxious thing and not at all used to my crooked finger, so the hex was unleashed. First, the gum-boils sprouted. I couldn’t even get my false teeth in and enjoy a nice bit of toffee. The two days following, the whole house was laid up with the galloping vomits. However, my nose was also hexed to grow another quarter inch and form a sharper point, so every cloud has a silver lining. ‘Tis a useful weapon, my pointed nose.

I tried to get the courtesy wand to unhex us, but I might as well have used a twig from the garden as tried to get any magic out of that useless thing. My sister Edna had a try at unhexing us, but she often gets her words mixed up. She ended up chanting ‘re-live us of this curse’ instead of ‘relieve us of this curse’ and the whole thing started again with a vengeance. Anyhow, I eventually got my wand back and unhexed us all and then I went about counter-hexing the cheeky young bint. Strange thing is, I could not find her to hex. Our magic mirror searched through the Earth, Shade and beyond for her, but there was no sign. As the mirror is a haughty, obnoxious creature who must always be right, of course he would say that she does not exist, but I saw her with my own eyes! Edna suggested that I fell over and knocked myself out, accidentally hexing myself and snapping my wand. I told her not to judge my daftness by her own.

Either what Edna says is true, or there is a new breed of witch on the loose. A witch who can hide in plain daylight and can’t be sniffed out by the nose of a fairy godmother with hundreds of years experience. I can tell you plain that this has unsettled me.  There is either something dark afoot or I’ve finally turned as fruity as my daft sister. Either way, I’m sleeping with my wand under my pillow this eve…

Freda’s Journal

Published February 28, 2014 by Annie Oliver

old diary

Today I have mostly been gadding about and tending to my garden. My garden is most important because ’tis there I grow the herbs and plants that I need for my spells and hexes. Let me tell you a little about the garden of Thistle Cottage…

A creaking gate leads to a twisted path which is surrounded by the largest, pinkest thistles you ever saw. They wave in the wind as though to greet you, which is quite pleasant when you return from a busy day godmothering to spoilt brats. However, just lately they have been taking liberties and creeping out over the path. Growing like wildfire, they are. So, this morning I simply took out the garden shears and waved them at the Thistles while Glaring. By tea time they were in their rightful place again. Even gardening can be done with the right kind of Glare and a threat.

From the front path, Thistle Cottage gives you a crooked smile, with its oversized front door and lopsided windows. It is made of stone which Edna and I collected ourselves from the Enchanted Mountains of Aurelia. ‘Tis no normal stone, as it moves and changes according to the mood of the house. You see, my dearies, Thistle Cottage is as alive as you or I. But more of that later…

Around the back of Thistle Cottage the garden really comes alive. The garden is not a wide one; rather it winds and turns like a crack in the Earth which has been filled with flowers and grass. A tunnel of whispering trees leads to stifling darkness. Beyond the tunnel has never yet been explored. ‘Tis rumoured that dark enchantments lie there. Folks that have journeyed there have never returned and ’tis rumoured that one tree grows for every person that has been lost there. If you look closely at the trees they do appear to have faces, and they do seem to sigh a little… All I know is that standing at the edge is like facing a dark abyss. It makes my head itchy. There are some secrets that even Thistle Cottage cannot share and I am not about to start being all nosey about them. That would be asking for trouble.

Mind, I can’t keep my goddaughter Scarlett away from the tunnel of trees lately. What with the night-time whispering I am hearing from her room and the strange atmosphere around Thistle Cottage I am fair worried about her. I have told her to stay away from the trees but something keeps drawing her there. Three times this week I found her at the bottom of the garden, staring into the darkness. I shall have to watch out for her. One day I might have to find out what lies beyond, but for now I have far too much to do to be ending up a tree if it doesn’t work out.  I don’t trust Edna to unhex me, either. She couldn’t even unhex her way out of  the mobile phone contract that some smarmy salesman signed her up to. There are worse hexes in this world than in mine and they are called ‘contracts’. From what I have seen, they are used to perform great evils and place people in never-ending binds.

To the left side lies my snail farm, which I have to feed with leaves once a day. Snails are a rare creature in my homeland of the Shade so imagine my delight when I came here and saw all the snails slithering around in broad daylight. ‘Tis wondrous for trade and I often slip into the secret portal that lies beside the snail farm to my own land, to barter the precious snail silk I collect.  You call them snail trails and find them fairly worthless, but they are an essential ingredient in many potent spells.

We also have a spider farm in an old lean-to. Cobwebs are most useful for spinning into a fabric we in The Shade call spingleweb. ‘Tis the fabric used in many a magic cloak or fancy ball gown but it only lasts a few hours before turning to dust. This is why a certain spoilt princess should have listened to her fairy godmother when she told her to be home by midnight…

Well, I’ve rambled quite enough for today and the frogs feet won’t pickle themselves…

Freda x