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A Tale for Children and Seadogs

(with large pinches of salt)



Sagbag was sad. Once, he had been a brave swashbuckling pirate chief, sailing the seven seas on his ship, 'The Jolly Jack Tar', in search of buried treasure. In those days, he was full of beans; braving the elements and steering his ship into safe anchorage at his home port of Orlando. Many is the time he had spotted his arch enemy, Dirty Dan, heading towards him, in his scruffy clipper, 'Pieces of Skate'; and he would give the orders, 'All hands on deck!' and 'Man the guns!', before they engaged in mortal combat. The final battle had been Sagbag's downfall. He had lost all his beans and was now a sad empty shell of a pirate, with only his skull-and-crossbones hat and his cutlass to show that he had once been the most terrifying beanbag in the universe.

Tabitha was batting a ping-pong ball around the nursery. Over and under and round and through. All of a sudden, the ball bounced, and would have hit Sagbag on the nose - if his nose had still been the impressive size it once was. Sagbag's face sagged even lower. Tabitha had a kind heart, and she tiptoed up to Sagbag, purring and rubbing her face against his.

'What's the matter?' she purred. 'Can I help?' Sagbag tried to ignore her, but she was so kind and appealing, with her little white paws and her pink nose.

'Nobody can help.' moaned Sagbag.

'My career is over.'

'Nothing is as bad as it seems.' Tabitha pripped. 'If you tell me what the problem is, perhaps I can help?'

As Sagbag told her why he was so unhappy, Tabitha sat listening with her head on one side. She was so quiet for so long that Sagbag thought she had fallen asleep. But she was thinking. She had remembered the pile of newspapers down by the bin in the kitchen. She jumped down from the pirate ship, 'The Jolly Jack Tar', and disappeared round the nursery door.

'Just as I thought.' Sagbag sighed to himself. 'She wasn't listening. Nobody cares about me anymore.'

Suddenly Tabitha reappeared in the nursery doorway. Sagbag could hardly see her behind the massive newspaper, which she was holding in her mouth and dragging across the floor. She pounced on it and started to tear strips off with her teeth.

Despite himself, Sagbag was fascinated.

'What are you doing?' he asked her.

'I've had this wonderful idea. If we can squeeze some of this newspaper.....' Tabitha waved at it with her paw, '..into the gaps where your stuffing has come out, we will soon have you on your feet again.' As she spoke, she was rolling strips of newspaper up and pushing it into the gaps in his stuffing.

'There you are! Now stand up and let me look at you!'

Sagbag stood up and, as he did so, it was obvious that Tabitha's plan had not worked. The newspaper was stiff and uncomfortable and, every time Sagbag moved, he grimaced.

'Ouch! I can' t move. My legs are all the wrong size and shape, and there is so much stuffing in my neck and head that I can only look up at the ceiling. I can't hold my cutlass, let alone battle with Dirty Dan. Hurry up and pull it all out again - quickly!'

Tabitha was so disappointed that her plan had not worked. It was obvious that Sagbag did not want to talk to her. With heavy head and tail, she left the nursery.

Later that afternoon, while chasing butterflies in the garden, Tabitha fell over something. The bundle moved, and she jumped back in alarm. A striped face looked up at her, whiskers akimbo, and two bleary green eyes blinked.

'Oh! Hello, Lionel!' Tabitha mewed a greeting at her twin. 'Sorry I woke you. I was just trying to cheer myself up.'

'Why? What happened?' asked Lionel still half asleep.

'Well, Sagbag has lost all his stuffing, and I can't think of any way to help him.' She explained what had happened.

Lionel started to wash himself - always a good strategy when one needed to think.

'I've been watching Mr Simms cut the back hedge.' he said finally.' Those hedge clippings would make perfect stuffing.'

Together , they gathered up mouthfuls of leaves and carried them up the stairs to the nursery.

Sagbag was asleep. In his dreams he was on his pirate ship, 'The Jolly Jack Tar', sailing into harbour. The waves were rattling over the pebbles on the beach; the seagulls were screeching; the leaves were rustling in the trees. The rattling and screeching and rustling went on and on, for so long that Sagbag shook his head in annoyance, and opened his eyes. Two kittens, one tabby and one ginger, stood in front of him. Two pairs of eyes, one pair green and one pair orange, looked up at him. It was Tabitha back to pester him again, and she had brought Lionel with her! They seemed to be wearing green beards, and were having difficulty in speaking.

Sagbag shook himself to make sure that he was not still asleep; then he realised where the strange noises in his dream had come from.

'I can't understand what you're saying!' Sagbag shouted. 'Is this a new game?'

He didn't feel much like joining in. Tabitha dropped her bundle carefully on the floor. 'No, silly!' We've brought you some new stuffing.' Sagbag looked at the piles of leaves doubtfully.

'I can't use that! It's got jaggy bits in it!'

'Oh, you mean the holly? Yes, I suppose it would be too prickly.' Once again, Tabitha was disappointed. It seemed there was no pleasing Sagbag.

The rattling noise from Sagbag's dream seemed to be getting louder and louder. Thomas the hamster was running round and round on his wheel.

'Do you mind?' Sagbag screamed. 'I'm not having a very good day, and I can't think with all that noise!' Thomas peered towards Sagbag, as he was very short-sighted.

'Perhaps I can help?'

'I think I've heard enough helpful suggestions for one day!' Sagbag retorted rudely. Thomas was undaunted.

'I have some new bedding. Jack changed it only this morning. You can use it for stuffing, if you like?' Sagbag was unconvinced. After all, dried beans were what he had been made of before his terrible injury so, surely, dried beans were what he really needed? He looked across at Tabitha and Lionel, who were already helping Thomas to push the bedding out through the bars of his cage. Sagbag just watched and grumbled under his breath, as the kittens carefully stuffed him with Thomas's bedding. Finally, they were finished, and sat back to admire their handiwork, preening their whiskers with pleasure.

'My, you do look smart!' said Lionel.

'You look as good as new.' agreed Tabitha

'Thank you, Thomas.'

But Thomas was busy on his wheel, again. Sagbag cautiously moved his arms and legs, turning his head from side to side, and up and down. He could see everything in the nursery! Wait - yes! He could lift his cutlass again!

Joyfully, he strutted up and down his pirate ship, 'The Jolly Jack Tar'.

'Just let Dirty Dan come anywhere near me now!' he said happily. He'll be asking for trouble!'



Mrs Purple was head of the nursery: at least, that is what she liked to think. She was a beetroot-coloured hippopotamus with a temper to match. She liked to see her nursery kept in apple-pie order. A place for everything and everything in its place, she liked to say. The afternoon of Sagbag's recovery, she had been out in the playroom with Jack, watching her favourite children's programme, 'Stoppit and Tidyup' with her favourite characters - 'Wipe-your-feet', 'Blow-your-nose', 'Brush-your-teeth' and - her particular favourite - 'I-said-NO!' The programme had left her with a lovely warm feeling inside. As she entered the nursery, she was singing her favourite song.

' The sun has got his hat on, hip-hip-hip-hooray! The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out to play!' There was another song which hippos were supposed to like:- 'Mud! Mud! Glorious mud!' - but she did not approve of that one at all. It gave hippos a bad name. Suddenly she stopped her singing with a gasp -

'Well, really!' she breathed. The nursery floor was littered with torn-up strips of newspaper, twigs and holly leaves. Mrs Purple stared at the floor in horror and disbelief.

'Who is responsible for this mess?' she bellowed. She waited for an answer from the toys, who were looking at her innocently. Suddenly, she heard voices outside.

'I've come to see your new kittens.'

'Oh my!' she thought.

It was a girl's voice. Then she heard Jack's voice, 'Hello, Gemma-Louise! I think I saw them in the garden - let's go and check. We'll cut through the nursery - it's quicker.' Mrs Purple sat perfectly still, trying to calm her temper, as the children entered the nursery. Jack was still speaking, 'Tabitha is a tabby cat, of course, and Lionel is sort of a ginger tom, and ..... wow! What a mess!'

Both children stared at the nursery floor. 'I can't understand it.' Jack was stunned. 'I helped Gran tidy up in here after breakfast this morning. She'll have a blue fit!'

'You have been busy.' laughed Gemma-Louise.

'It's not my fault!' protested Jack. 'The kittens were in here earlier and...'

'Well, never mind,' soothed Gemma-Louise. 'We'll just have to do something about it, and quickly, before your Gran sees it!' As they hurried about, picking up bits of newspaper and hedge-clippings, Mrs Purple looked at them fondly.

'Such nice, well-mannered children.' she said to herself.

'Look, that's the floor clear again now.' Jack said. 'Thanks for your help. There's loads of space - shall I get the electric train set out and show you how it works?'

Jack and Gemma-Louise were soon engrossed in building tracks and sidings.



Dirty Dan was on his scruffy clipper, 'Pieces of Skate'. It had come all the way from Cornwall with Big Jack, Jack's Grandad, when he was the same age as Jack was now. Dirty Dan did not remember much about that time. Well, he had been too young to remember by himself. He had listened to Big Jack tell his grandson many tales of when he had sailed the 'Pieces of Skate' in the rock pools, on holiday; down by the harbour, where they were unloading vast cargoes of fish - cod and skate, haddock and plaice - all caught way out at sea.

One of the fishermen was very old - like the statue in Gran's kitchen; with his blue oilskin hat, his Guernsey sweater and his big, shiny black boots, which came all the way up to the top of his trousers. The old fisherman had a kind face, with lots of wrinkles and a grey beard. He had given Big Jack some pieces of skate from his catch, so that Big Jack could pretend that Dirty Dan and his clipper,' Pieces of Skate', had been to sea, as well.

Sometimes, Big Jack and his grandson would take the clipper, 'Pieces of Skate', down to the duck pond in the park, and sail it on the water. Dirty Dan didn't like this. He was frightened by the huge ducks chasing the clipper, 'Pieces of Skate', and the loud quacking they made. He was quite relieved when, last Christmas, the electric train set had arrived and Big Jack and his grandson would play at 'trains'. instead. The train was racing round and round the nursery, at the moment.

Dirty Dan loved the noise of the train, chuffing happily round the track, with its lights blazing and steam puffing out of its stack.

'Tea's ready!' Jack's Gran shouted from the kitchen.

'Would you like to stay to tea?' Jack asked Gemma-Louise.

'Then we can play with the train set again afterwards.'

Jack turned the engine off, and they left the nursery. Dirty Dan couldn't believe his luck. The train was sitting still and quiet, as if waiting for him to drive it. He jumped down from the clipper, 'Pieces of Skate', and strolled across to the train. Immediately, the toys started talking amongst themselves, and the nursery was buzzing with excitement.

'You'll get into trouble!' Sagbag leered at Dirty Dan.

'You're just jealous!' Dirty Dan sneered back as he climbed into the cab, looking all round him at the toys. He smiled regally at them, and flicked the switch. Immediately, the train shot off around the track. It was going much faster than Dirty Dan had imagined it would. As it swerved round the corners at top speed, he yelled 'Help!'

He tried to climb out of the cab, but the train was shooting round the bends at terrifying speed. As Dirty Dan leaned outwards, the train jolted and jumped the tracks. It started speeding across the carpet.

'Help! Sagbag!'

Dirty Dan could not bear to look where he was going. Each time he peeked out of one eye, the nursery wall seemed to be racing towards him. He waved his arms about in desperation, 'Help, anybody!'

Sagbag knew that there was not a moment to lose. He leaned forward in his pirate ship, 'The Jolly Jack Tar', and threw himself off on to the floor, in the path of the oncoming train. At the same time, Dirty Dan's arm, waving about madly in the air (the other arm was gripping onto the tinderbox of the train in panic), accidentally knocked the train's control switch to off.

The train braked sharply, and everything went quiet. Dirty Dan opened his eyes. Sagbag was lying on the carpet, directly in front of the train.

'Sagbag, Are you all right?' Dirty Dan was crying. 'I'm so sorry! I should have listened to you in the first place.'

Sagbag just lay on the floor, still and silent. Dirty Dan knelt beside him.

'I promise I'll never fight with you again. Let's be friends, Sagbag. Only tell me that you're all right. Please!' Sagbag sat up and straightened his cocked hat.

'That was a close shave!' He grinned at Dirty Dan.

'Of course you can be my friend. I was just jealous of you because I have never been taken out to the duckpond - or to the beach, for that matter!'

It's no big deal!' Dirty Dan pulled a funny face. 'I always got wet and frightened at the duckpond' he admitted,' and, every time I came back from the beach, I stank of fish!' They both laughed.

We're better off in the nursery.' They agreed.


thar she blows

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