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U3A Writing: Toby And The Gnomes

Marie Armstrong tells as delightful children's tale. Here's a story to be read aloud to all receptive ears of the right age.

It must have been a trick of the light, maybe the sun shining into his eyes, but Toby was sure that he saw the gnome wink at him. He stared hard. Yes, there it was again. It winked again, this time with the other eye.

"Hello young Toby," said the gnome. "Nice morning!"

Toby fell backward onto the grass and as he did so heard chuckling all around him.

When he sat up and looked around he saw that the other garden gnomes had all gathered around in a group and were looking at him. There was the fishing gnome, the one with a spade over his shoulder, one reading a book, another one playing a trumpet and a few others of assorted sizes and characters.

Toby stared. "I didn't know that you could move, and speak," he said, "I've never seen you do it before."

"That's because you have never been around on one of our Animation Days." replied the fishing gnome, laying his rod down by the pond and stretching his arms, "Makes one a bit achy sitting in the same position for a long time."

As if in agreement to that, all the others put down their various tools and stretched and yawned and began to move around on their wobbly legs looking very comical indeed.

Toby began to laugh and joined in with them. Soon they were all running and jumping and laughing until at last they all tired and sat down on the grass to rest. Toby looked anxiously over to his house where his parents and sister were, wondering if they had noticed anything, but all was quiet.

"Let me introduce our group." said the fishing gnome. "I am Fred, this is Basil." He pointed to the one with a book. "You won't get much conversation out of him, always got his head stuck in a book. This is George, he does the gardening and Cecil over there is the musician. The one with the green hat is Rupert, bit of a snob because he came from a posh shop in London and can speak French."

" And Italian and German," piped up Rupert haughtily.

Fred continued with the introductions ending with the youngest, whose name was Jamie and was the smallest. Toby remembered his mother buying him only last summer and Dad saying, "That's it! No more gnomes, we have enough." And mother agreeing saying, "Yes, we have quite a few I suppose."

After chatting to the strange group for what seemed like hours, Toby heard his sister call from the house telling him it was bedtime.

"I have to go in now. I must tell them about you, they will be excited, can they...."

Before he finished the sentence there was a shout from all the little men in unison. "No! No! No!"

"No, it is your secret," said Fred. "Grownups don't believe in magic and they will think that you have had too much sun, or something. Don't say a word or we shall have to cancel our Animation Day at once."

"OK!" Agreed

Toby, a bit disappointed that he couldn't share his exciting news, "but you will be here tomorrow, won't you?"

"Yes," they all nodded happily. "Goodnight. Sleep well."

Toby ran into the house. That night when Toby went up to bed he looked out of his window down into the garden; he could see some of the gnomes in the moonlight. They stood as they always had in the same places. Maybe he had dreamed it after all, but as he looked he heard a shrill whistle and saw Cecil and Rupert standing together and waving.

He waved back and climbed into bed and fell straight to sleep. The next morning he couldn't wait to get out into the garden again and was disappointed when his mother said that they had to go to town.

"Can't you go without me?" he pleaded, "I want to stay home."

"How can you stay home?" asked mother, "when I need you to try on some new shoes."

By the time they returned from town it was lunchtime and after lunch he finally managed to get into the garden to meet up with his little friends. They had a jolly time playing hide and seek and when they were all tired of that, they sat around in a circle and each one told a tale.

One of the younger ones produced a ball from under the hedge and they divided into two teams and played a game of football. Afterwards they sat around again and had a conversation discussing the game. All of the gnomes supported a different team, apart from Rupert, who said that he preferred rugby and Basil who said he wasn't too interested in sport.

When Toby had to go inside for bed he wondered whether he would see them the following day.

"That depends," replied Fred. "I have a feeling that your grownups have something lined up for us, in which case we will have to end our Animation Day, but we promise we will see you at the next one."

"What do you mean, something lined up for you?" asked Toby.

"Just a feeling I have," nodded Fred mysteriously. " We'll see. Don't worry, you will definitely be talking with us again. Goodnight, be a good boy. We will be keeping an eye on you." And they all nodded and smiled and waved happily to him.

Toby went to bed that night wondering what on earth the little people could have meant, and when he woke in the night he got out of bed and looked down into the garden. The gnomes were still there in their usual places and waved up to him, so he went back to bed satisfied.

The following morning he ran out into the garden and looked around in amazement. All the gnomes had gone! He searched all around, under the bushes and behind the trees expecting any moment that they would jump out and surprise him.

"What are you looking for?" called out Dad from the garden shed.

"Where have all the gnomes gone?" asked Toby running up to where his father was standing, holding a paintbrush in his hand.

"Just giving them a bit of a clean up," answered Dad. "Some of them are looking a bit faded and scruffy."

And there all in a row on the bench they stood, looking, Toby thought, a bit annoyed. Fred's hat was shining red from a coat of paint, and Basil's coat had been gone over with some yellow.

Rupert looked most upset. His lovely green hat had been painted an awful shade of purple. "Rupert won't like that colour," Toby blurted out forgetting himself for a moment.

"Rupert, who is Rupert?" asked his father laughing. "Don't tell me, you have given them all names."

That evening over supper Dad chuckled and told the others what Toby had said.

His sister giggled, "I've seen him in the garden talking to the gnomes." she said. "He even says goodnight to them."

"What do you speak to them about?" asked his mother kindly, after all he was only eight and had always had a vivid imagination.

"Oh! football and stuff," replied Toby.

"Do they play football?" teased ten-year -old sister Sophie.

"I suppose their team is called Gnomes United," added Dad laughing. "Oh dear, I hope I have painted their shirts the right colours."

With that everyone began to laugh and Toby thought that he had better join in. After all, he had a secret and knew that he would be seeing them again on the next Animation Day.

That night when he went to bed he looked out into the garden and over to where the shed was bathed in moonlight. As he looked at the window, he saw ten little faces smiling up at him from the shed window. He thought for a moment, and then decided he would do it. He would go down to see them all, to see if they were recovered from their ordeal.

He crept quietly down the stairs and out of the door, making sure before he left the house that no one had heard him. Everything was quiet. He remembered to pick up the shed key from the hook in the kitchen and went out into the garden.

As he neared the shed he could see the gnomes waving and smiling at him. As he opened the door they all horused. "Hello, thank you for coming to see us."

"Shsh" said Toby, "They'll hear you indoors."

"No, they won't," answered Fred. "No one but you can hear us."

"Are you all alright?" he asked anxiously, "I mean, are the colours OK?"

He looked over at Rupert when he said this, but Rupert look quite happy and ran a hand over his shining purple hat. "Actually, I quite like the colour. Purple is a royal colour you know." The other gnomes sniggered but Rupert didn't notice.

They all discussed their various new colours, and Jamie, the baby of the group, piped up. "I was so scared when he started on me, I thought it was going to hurt, but it only tickled," he giggled.

Toby spent a little while chatting to them and began to shiver.

"Better get back to bed, young Toby," said Fred "We will all be back in the garden tomorrow and will have a few hours of Animation Day left. See you tomorrow.”

The next morning the group had all been returned to the garden, all in different positions, except of course the fishing gnome, who had to sit by the pond.

“Thought they would like a change of scenery,” laughed Dad.

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