21 Mar

Summer was quite clearly just round the corner. The sun was highish is a bright blue sky and a songbird was tweeting away as if there was going to be no tomorrow, no doubt in search of a feathery mate.
And Griselda felt an unusual (for her) wanderlust starting to suffuse her body.
It started inside her head when she spotted an obviously very foreign gentleman driving a very foreign car on the wrong side of the road as if he were used to driving on the wrong side of the road, which he probably was.
“That’s a foreigner,” she told herself. “That’s why he hasn’t a clue about driving on the left side of the road, which everyone knows is right.”
Then another thought poked its way through the cobwebs that normally inhabited the part of her brain to do with empathy and the understanding of her fellow creature. “I wonder where he comes from, what clime he enjoys when he’s at home, what he eats and drinks instead of fish and chips and cold beer?”
And that got her to wondering what it would be like living anywhere but where she actually did live, in her little cottage in Swanspottle, a decent broomstick flight from the local pub.
And before she could tell such thoughts to go away and trouble her no longer a young woman dressed most flamboyantly in colourful cottons breezed by her, singing a catchy little calypso song and smiling at the entire world from brightly lipsticked lips.
“What a happy soul,” muttered Griselda darkly. “She’s clearly another foreigner! What has become of the world with there being more foreigners around than Swanspottle natives? And I wonder what it’s like to be like them?”
And no sooner had she thought that than she got the idea, from nowhere, that she really should find out.
“I know,” she decided in a very croaky hundred and one year old voice, “I’ll go abroad for my holidays! I’ve never been abroad before, and there’s got to be a first for everything…”
She happened to know that there was a company that owned rather a lot of bright and sparkly coaches not far from her cottage and before you could mention Jack Robinson she was climbing aboard her ironing board and issuing brusque commandments to it under her breath. She usually rode a broomstick, either her best one or her second best one, but today she was in too much of a hurry to unlock the shed where she kept them both so she grabbed the nearest thing which was longer than it was wide, and that happened to be her ironing board.
The staff at Greenfern Coaches were wonderfully helpful when she told them she had a surplus of pension that she felt like disposing of. The two ladies sitting behind important-looking desks both thrust a catalogue into her hands and started enthusing about alpine regions of half the world.
“Mountains,” she sighed, elaborately. “Yes … I think I’d like to see mountains before I peg it, though I’m not planning to do anything quite so exasperating just yet.”
“You’d like Austria,” smiled the blonde lady assistant.
And that was all it took. Three little words, and Griselda was hooked. Within half an hour she’d used her best spell to produce enough money to pay for the entire trip plus accessories – when the two ladies weren’t looking, obviously – and was given labels for her luggage and warned that she would definitely need a passport.
“It’s quite soon and most of the coach is fully booked, so you’ll have a seat near the back,” she was told.
“I’ll see to that when we go,” she grinned back at them.
Griselda felt the tingle of excitement mixed with anticipation rising inside her as she prepared for her holiday. She used her most powerful spell in order to get a passport that would pass muster under official scrutiny, she packed her best thermals and, at the appointed (and very early) hour made her way back to Greenfern’s bus depot where a shiny coach was waiting for her, its engine whispering with the promise of untold power.
The driver was a cheerful man who was clearly looking forward to driving the many miles that lay ahead of them. He pointed Griselda’s seat at the back of the coach out to her and the first thing she did was mutter something darkly magical that made a passenger on the front seat offer to swap seats with her. Griselda wasn’t particularly fond of seats at the backs of coaches, and to her there were always ways and means of getting what she wanted.
She found herself sitting next to an extremely fat man who really ought to have had two seats to himself.
“It’s a good job you’re a skinny old bird,” boomed her travelling companion in a deep and smoky voice. “I need my space to be comfortable,” he added. “It’s a condition I’ve got, being so big. The doctors can’t explain it.”
“I can,” warbled Griselda.
“You can?” His fat smudgy eyebrows raised through a sea of salty grease that was forming on his head.
“Pies,” said Griselda. “Meat pies, fruit pies, fish pies, pastry pies, potato pies, all sorts of pies.”
He glared at her. “That’s offensive!” he snapped. “I’ve never been so insulted in all my life! I’ve got a medical condition!”
Griselda fixed him with her eyes at their most piercing and incisive. “By the devil let this man’s excess body fat and cellulite be changed into waste!” she whispered to herself. Well, almost to herself. A satanic power heard it, and so did the huge man sitting next to her.
“What are you… help!” shrieked her overweight companion. She smiled grimly to herself as she noticed how his body started to be seemingly rippling under his skin.
“Stop the bus!” he shouted.
“Just a minute!” barked the driver. “I can’t stop here on the motorway! It’s against the law!”
“I’m melting! I’m dissolving!” he blabbered.
“He’s stinking,” added Griselda, wondering if she’d overdone the spell.
“I can smell it!” growled the driver. “Heaven help me! I’ll pull up on the hard shoulder! Just you keep that inside you…”
“Help!” wept the man.
“Come on! Behind that tree!” urged Griselda as the coach screeched to a halt.
The large man wibbled and wobbled off the coach and had his trousers round his ankles before he reached the tree that Griselda had pointed out.
“Oh, mercy me… oh I’m dying… the Heavens take me…” wept the man and the sounds that emanated from him together with the accompanying stench were enough to make the driver shut the door.
“Oh dear,” murmured Griselda. “Maybe it was a little extreme of me…”
And she could see just how extreme it had been as a very thin man with vastly oversized trousers hanging from a bony backside eventually staggered back from a very smelly tree and clambered back onto the bus when the driver had opened the door.
“My, you look better,” quipped Griselda as he settled back down next to her.
© Peter Rogerson 21.03.16


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