16 Oct


citroen 2cv photo: Citroen 2CV 06aCitroen2CVEUJ995Vafterrespray199.jpgMiss Mollie Mulberry smiled benevolently at her class of seven year-old innocents in Swanspottle Village Primary School. She invariable smiled benevolently because she was basically a benevolent person.
It fell to her to teach all subjects on the National Curriculum, and whenever she could she invited an outdoor speaker for variety. She knew that her own voice did sometimes drone on a bit and that occasionally one or two children dozed off as a consequence. Outdoor speakers were the answer, and then if the odd child passed into a harmonious sleep she had someone else to blame.
This time the lesson was Religious Education and she had invited the oldest resident of Swanspottle to teach the children the blessings of a long and virtuous life.
Had she not been an “outsider” and travelled to school from twenty miles away every day (in her Citroen 2CV motor car of some considerable vintage) she might have met her speaker on the streets and avoided her like the plague.
But she was that “outsider” and had somehow managed to remain ignorant of the notorious Griselda Entwhistle.
The classroom door opened and an apparition walked in.
Regular inhabitants of Swanspottle would have recognised the 101 year-old Griselda Entwhistle immediately, and avoided her like the plague, for they knew her as the local witch and not one of them had any reason to doubt that she owned that well-earned position in local matters.
And the apparition that walked in looked every bit the witch.
The first thing that the class of innocents noticed was the smell. I dared say it wasn’t anywhere near the worst smell on the planet, but when your nose is young and tender it did represent an onslaught of sorts, being a subtle combination of the forest floor and fresh silage after it’s passed through the digestive system of a cow.
The second feature that attracted the class’s attention was the sight.
She was dressed in a flowing cloak that was shaded something between muddy brown and black, and on her head she was wearing a long, pointed headpiece that only ever appeared in story-book images of witches.
“Yes?” asked Miss Mulberry, finding it impossible to believe that this woman was anything to do with her invited speaker.
“Entwhistle!” rasped the newcomer, “Griselda Entwhistle!”
“The … speaker?” gaped Miss Mulberry. “The dear old lady?”
Griselda smiled so sweetly butter might have been curdled had there been any in the room.
“I have come!” rasped Griselda. “The little ones need Enlightenment,” she added, grandly. “They need words of wisdom. They need verification.”
“Oh dear…” spluttered Miss Mulberry, and she turned weakly to her class. “Now listen to what the lady has to say,” she almost whispered, “while I go out for a cig… for a word with the Headmistress…” And at that she scuttled out.
The class did a mass settling-down, which involved shuffling, muttering and slouching.
“It’s nearly Christmas!” began Griselda with a cackle, a statement that was not strictly true bearing in mind the school was on the cusp of breaking for the summer holiday.
“It’s not, miss,” ventured a small voice from the back of the classroom.
“The devil make it snow!” hissed the old witch to herself, and quite unexpectedly and out of the blue fat flakes of snow started descending from somewhere near the ceiling and landing like frozen petals on the class.
“There!” she grinned, her single tooth reflecting the whiteness of the snow. “It’s nearly Christmas,” she repeated.
“Cor!” gasped half the class whilst “mummy!” wailed the other half.
“There was this bloke with wings, or so an old book says,” continued Griselda, “a dirty old thing, to tell the truth. He grabbed hold of a woman and did naughties to her without so much as a by-your-leave! She screamed and hollered for help, but nobody heard…”
“That ain’t right…” said a bright child near the front.
“That’s right, Jacob Smallweed, it ain’t right. Why, when I was a lass, too many years ago for it to be worth counting, some fella did the same to me! Only I didn’t holler for help. No, my dears, I didn’t! Instead, I turned him into a toad. Like this!”
She said the last two words sharply, and a frog hopped across the front of the classroom, looking more confused than you’d expect any frog to look.
“That’s magic,” the entire class breathed.
“My magic,” nodded Griselda, the entire class now like putty in her hands. “Much more proper magic than a bloke with wings doing naughties to an innocent young child!”
“What happened?” asked another child.
“Well, Rosie Bagshaw, tales were told, nonsense to tell the truth, and a whole religion was invented. And Christmas came along…
“I tell you what, all of you, make me a snowman! A fat snowman with a carrot nose! That’d be a much better hero than a rapist’s brat!”
When Miss Mollie Mulberry returned to the room, smelling suspiciously of Woodbine Cigarettes, there was a huge white snowman sitting by her blackboard, and the smell of witch had almost completely gone away.
© Peter Rogerson 16.10.14



  1. slpsharon October 16, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    How come we never got speakers that interesting?

    • Peter Rogerson October 16, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

      A flurry of snow in a boring lecture would be most welcome, Sharon.

  2. barbod2014angusbelle October 16, 2014 at 7:55 pm #

    Loving this Peter. Who’d have thought – a snowman in August…. 🙂

    • Peter Rogerson October 17, 2014 at 8:05 am #

      There may be more oddities … if I can conjure them up! Thanks Barbara.

      • pambrittain October 19, 2014 at 8:38 pm #

        Conger or eel away. I’m looking forward to it.

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