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Life Is Too Short To Drink Bad Wine: 4 - Fairy Stories

"Mrs Hansen continued her special visits to me and told and wrote for me the most amazing fairy stories...'' Gayle Woodward, continuing her story of growing up in New Zealand, tells of her determination not to take iron after having had her tonsils removed.

I had a very hard convalescence, and the doctor decided that I should take iron medicine to get my strength up. The only iron I knew of was the stuff that railway tracks were made of, and I just refused to take any of that!

However my mother was just as determined that if this was going to make me well, this is what I would be given. Mrs Hansen, an older lady who lived next door, was pressed into service to try to cajole and trick me to take the iron, because “It is going to make you better”. Mrs Hansen told me fairies would come to see me if I would be good and take the iron. She wrote,

Dear Gayle,
I hear you are not very well, now Gayle that won’t do, you will have to eat up all the nice things Mummy brings you, and heigh ho, you will be able to go back to school and see all your little friends again.

When I had my tonsils out, do you know what was the nicest thing to drink? Cocoa or Ovaltine made with milk and a spongy marshmallow popped on top. It is fun watching it melt and watching it bob round when one touches it with a spoon. The marshmallow makes it so smooth it feels just like a fairy drink.

You know the fairies always like the first two spoons of milk out of the bottles; of course the fairies have different ways of getting milk. But the first spoonfuls are the very best for making little girls feel better.

Of course you will have medicine to take, so did I, and although it did not taste very good, I used to quickly pop some sticky raisins in my mouth and I did not mind taking my medicine! You know Gayle; all the birds drink fairy medicine when they are sick. It might be the dew off a buttercup. That would be to make their feathers shine and if they had a cold it would be the dew from a flower on a lemon tree, but there is medicine for all people.

Of course the Fairy Queen makes a drink from the peach blossoms, plum blossoms and apple blossoms, but some must be pink and some must be white or else it does not mix properly.

There must have been some fairies and elves just outside our bedroom window last night, because there was a fairy toadstool, a fairy puff-clock and a daisy ring! This time of the year they are all busy making themselves new frocks from the blossoms on the trees.

One can always tell when the fairies are sewing, as when a gust of wind comes along, all the spare blossoms float and dance down to the ground. Sometimes there is so much blossom left under the trees that it is just like a flower carpet. Then fairies, elves, gnomes and pixies all have a party; that is when you see toadstools, mushrooms, fairy clocks and daisy rings. The pixies always dress in the golden moss from the fruit trees.

Mr and Mrs Thrush are outside and they have a nest in the hedge. I always walk quietly when I pass their nest as one must not frighten the Mummy Thrush or she might leave the eggs; then the little birds would not hatch. Now as you know Gayle, the pretty little eggshells which are left after the baby birds are out, well of course the fairies use them for cups. Just like Egg Shell china. (Don’t say it Joyce.)

Well dear, I think your mummy will be getting quite hoarse reading this long letter, so will close and write you again or perhaps I had better come and see you. How is Mary?

I hope all the medicine will be gone and you are eating all your meals. I think it is nice having a lunch off a tray in bed sometimes. So, for now my little one, bye bye.
Lots of love to you and Mary,
From Mr and Mrs Hansen

Nothing worked, I was determined that no iron would pass my lips. In the end I was held down forcefully, kicking and yelling, and the medicine was poured down my throat. I gagged, more from stubbornness than the awful taste it was. I did, however, slowly recover. I think the trauma of the whole affair was worse that the tonsillitis I must have suffered from.

Mrs Hansen continued her special visits to me and told and wrote for me the most amazing fairy stories. She explained that there was a fairy grove at the bottom of my garden, under the poormans’ orange tree. I knew that there were forget-me-nots and blue bells growing there, and when she said that if I crept down there and kept very quiet I would see one, I believed her.

I had learned that if you believed it could be true. And so it was. I sat for hours it seemed, and watched. I had to screw my eyes very tight but when I did there was a blue fairy with gauzy wings and a wand, sitting on a leaf, watching me watching her. She was gone in a flash and I stayed very still, entranced.

I didn’t want to tell anybody what I had seen straight away, but next when I saw Mrs Hansen I explained to her what I had seen and she said, “I knew you would”.


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