I've always believed in fairy tales. Or, at least, I've always found them well worth the telling. Whether it's wizards and witches, unicorns, or even the Tooth Fairy - I can generally magic up a
story or two for the littl'uns.
I started my story-telling at the age of seven when, scared of the persistent nightmares which tormented my sleep, I tried every night to keep my little sister
awake with tales of something called Passepartout Polish. Poor Maggie never heard the end of a story - I think I may have bored her to sleep every night.
For several years now, it's been the
grandchildren who have been on the receiving end of my tale-telling - but these days I'm trying to get them to sleep, not keep them awake. I don't tell the same stories to each grandchild - oh no, that would be cheating.
"Hazel and the Enchanted Forest" came first, as I remember, followed by "Eleanor & Jerome" and, most recently, "Sam, James and the Jolly Boy."
Nobody in my stories ever lives a normal life
but then you probably guessed that. The fictional Hazel lives in a cottage in a forest of enchanted, and somewhat freaky, trees who can grant wishes but only if you hug them; Jerome is the horse who draws the caravan in which Eleanor lives
- except when he inexplicably turns into a unicorn and sets off to explore the universe, with Eleanor in tow (quite literally); while the Jolly Boy is a boat in which my little Welsh boys sail off to visit foreign lands - Elephantland, Giraffeland, Monkeyland
or whichever land animal-loving Sam directs me to conjure up for him and his little brothers.
I wish I could claim my stories have any literary merit whatsoever
but I can't. In my defence, my services as story-teller are generally called upon at the end of a manically busy day when we are all tired out after whatever fun and mischief we've been up to over the course of the previous twelve hours.
As a result it is not unknown for me to fall asleep in the middle of recounting a story, until a persistent voice drags me from slumber enquiring "And then what happens....?" Because I find it impossible to remember anything about
the story I was telling before my sleepy interlude, there is a certain lack of continuity in my tale. This does not escape my keen-eared listeners. "But I thought you said...." they argue. "Who's telling this story?" I demand. It usually
does the trick.
As they grow older, my listeners become more challenging. "We'll each give you three words," they suggest, with wicked glances at each other, "And you have to use them all in
the story." Charles Dickens himself would be hard put to it to weave the words they come up with into a coherent tale. Me - oh, yes, by hook or by crook, I do my very best to meet their Great Expectations.