Monthly Archives: December 2014

Woodmice like to share

Mrs Turnstone has been using the garden shed as a cold store. It works well for celery, swedes, cheese in tins, beer, wines and spirits. But:

‘I’m afraid the Mouse has been helping herself to the pizza. I suppose I’ll leave it out there for her now.  I was going to serve it tonight’.

I’ll set the trap then’.

‘NO You Won’t!’

My Last School Trip 11: Scruffy’s Rescue Rangers

Scruffy’s Rescue Rangers

Ellis knew what he was doing, being one of the local mountain rescue team. He took control, clearing most of the students away, giving Dean his satellite phone to call for an ambulance, cutting the guy’s shoe laces and taking off his trainer to ease the swelling, sending Gemma for a wet towel to wrap the foot and relieve the pain. Once the patient was reasonably comfortable, Ellis and Nerys lifted him into the collapsible stretcher, wrapped him in foil, carried him down to the Land Rover and drove to meet the ambulance at the car park. We followed on foot, in time to see the paramedics closing the ambulance doors.

“Well done, you guys,” said the driver. “Is this the rescue dog? Scruffy is it? Good Boy! You’ve saved a life this afternoon, you have. A night on the mountain would have seen this fellow off, and no mistake. Thank God you people had the dog with you. Well. We’d best get our patient to hospital. We’ll be seeing you.”

After that we sat down to eat our sandwiches. Everyone was tired, muted by the thought of what might have happened. The geeks were too exhausted to film after the ambulance left, Suddenly Gemma got to her feet and stumbled away from the rest of us. We could hear her being very sick.

I was sitting with the other staff a little apart from the students. “I’ll go”, said Mrs Cockle, and she started telling Gemma to pull herself together and stop being a baby. Not the wisest thing to say. Stacey was on her feet and how I wish I’d had this speech on video. Top marks for speaking and listening here! Stacey knows how to insult politely. Mrs Cockle got both barrels: my brother-in-law won’t let me quote her exactly, so I précis: no-one was left in any doubt that the exertions of climbing the mountain and the humiliation of falling in the cold river had really shaken Gemma up, let alone that she’d helped the guy who was nearly dead; and she was away from home for the first time without her mother, having saved her Saturday job money to pay for the trip. Mrs Cockle was complacent, uncaring for either the poor man in the ambulance or for Gemma, but then she only ever had a good word for the girls who did well at sport, according to Stacey’s friends at Mrs Cockle’s school. That said, Stacey burst into tears, to be comforted by Gemma, while Nerys wrapped a foil blanket around the two of them.

Mrs Cockle said nothing. I had nothing to say except, “Stop whistling Darren, do you want it to rain?” At which point we all finished our sandwiches in silence, those of us who could eat. After a few minutes we returned to the minibuses and drove solemnly back to the Mill. It was once again too late to put Darren and Scruffy on the train at Abergavenny, but since neither Mr Cockle nor Mr Kipling mentioned the idea, I was not about to.

Hot showers helped restore aching bones and feelings and appetites, and everyone was ready to settle down in front of the wide screen television to watch the United game, which they lost 3-2. Cheers all round. There followed the BBC Wales News, with a report on how a man with a broken ankle was rescued on Pen-y-fan. There was another big cheer from everyone when the newsreader mentioned that the patient remembered how a dog called Scruffy had found him and brought help. His wife told the nation how grateful she was, and how Scruffy had surely saved a man’s life. “What a wonderful, intelligent dog he must be!” she said.

My Last School Trip 10: The Crossing of the Red Stream

Great Elms School Trip to Wales

Transcript of Scene 15

The Crossing of the Red Stream

Edited by Paul Thompson and Emily Miles

Camera: William Turnstone

Scene: half way down the mountain, by a stream. Mr Kipling on the far side, everyone else on the near side.

Mr K: Right then, listen all of you. You want sandwiches and hot drinks? You’ll have to cross this stream to get back to the car park. Just take a running jump, one at a time. It’s only two metres across, you won’t get your feet wet. You show them, Mr Cockle.

Mr Cockle: runs, jumps, slides down the bank on all fours.

All: Ragged cheers.

Mr K: Darren! Darren jumps, lands well up the bank; Scruffy runs through the stream, then shakes water all over Mr Cockle, who is not amused.


Mr Cockle: * bleep *.


Mr Turnstone: walks carefully across on boulders. I’d better keep the camera dry.

Mr K: continues calling students until all are over, bar Ollie and Gemma.

Mr K: Gemma, come on now, no holding back. You do want some lunch?


Gemma:  I don’t want to jump this stream. I can’t jump to save my life. Oh hell!

Gemma lands with a splash then falls backwards, and is wet to her waist.

Mr K: Up you get, Gemma, just get on with it. If you’d jumped properly, that wouldn’t have happened. Now this time you can pole vault back to the other side! Groans.


Gemma: That’s not fair! I could have stayed over here!

Mr K: Not if you want your lunch! Here we go! Dean!

Dean: Yes, Sir.

Mr K. You run up, plant your pole just there, by that red stone, and jump. Got it?

Dean: That red stone Sir, or that one, or that one? There’s more red stones than by the Red Sea, Sir.

Mr K: grabs the pole: Mr Cockle! How do you put up with this idiot? Give me that pole! That red stone, this red stone, any red stone, look, like this! Vaults over, commando style. Ragged applause. Returns same way. Got that Dean?

Dean: Yes sir. You did say that red stone, didn’t you Sir? Jumps quickly, punches air, pirouettes, tosses pole to Darren. Scruffy runs through the stream after Dean, then back to Darren, shakes himself dry over Mr K.


Mr K: Will someone control this * bleep * mongrel!

The rest of the students vault over without mishap.  Meanwhile Ellis and Nerys are busy with ropes and poles. They are constructing a zip rope bridge.

Mr K: Ollie! Thought we’d forgotten you? This is how you get across. You’ve got strong arms!  We put you in the harness and you pull yourself across. We’ll let Nerys go first.

 We admired Nerys’s first trip across the stream and back, then watched as Ollie was hoisted into the harness and shown how to haul himself over. We need not have worried.


Ellis: Right Ollie, that should be you balanced nicely. Comfortable? I’ve got the safety rope, but you won’t need it. You pull yourself along with this one. Ready?

Ollie: Here goes!  Wahay!

Ollie swung gleefully across the stream, then turned around to come back to us.

How was that, Nerys?

Nerys: Excellent! Trouble is, we need you on the other side now! Ellis has carried your chair over, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Ollie: panting Right, let me get my breath; ready, and off!

We eventually got everyone across by zip wire, and I had action shots from either side of the river, from the boulders in the middle of the river, from the base of the bridge, and facing the oncoming traffic. Whatever the Highway Code may say, this was not the best place to be when Dean was coming across. I was watching the viewfinder, not the view.

Dean: Oh Sir, Sorry. Is the camera all right?

Mr T: Don’t you mean, “Are you all right?”? Well, no broken bones, thankfully Dean, but the lens is pretty muddy.

Mr C: If you’ve messed my camera up, Dean, I’ll send you home with that dog. Come to think of it, where is the darned mongrel, Darren? If he’s chasing sheep!

Darren: I left him asleep by that tree. Scruffy! Scruffy! Come here! Oh, he never runs off like this! Scruffy!

Mr C: I’ll send you both home with him! I mean it.

Stacey: Shut up, Sir. Here he comes now, look!

Scruffy runs up to Darren, runs round, whining, then makes short dashes back the way he came.


Mr C: Get that animal on its lead! Now!

Darren: Something’s wrong! Scruffy, what is it? Show me.

Everyone ignores Mr C, as the students follow Scruffy.


Mr C: Where are you lot going? Come back here now, all of you!

The students continue to ignore him. Mr T and Ellis look at each other, then follow the students. Scruffy leads them to what looks like a bundle of clothes beside the stream. It is a man with a broken ankle, almost unconscious and very cold.


Darren: Well done, Scruffy! Good boy!

Written to Order

Mrs Turnstone came in from the railway bank where once I met the little girl with a ragdoll. Mrs T had been up there looking for greenery to renew the Advent wreath and decorate the house.

‘Here’s a story for your blog’, she said, as she unloaded branch after branch of holly, each one bearing berries as red as any blood. ‘I began harvesting at eye level’, she said, ‘then looked up and there were all these berries. I’ve never seen the like in all the years we’ve lived here.’ She suggested it was due to the mild winter we have had so far, but why then have the blackbirds stripped the pyracantha outside our window, which usually does not get harvested until into the new year? Are the two harvests, the unusually late and the unusually early, connected, or are there two separate populations of berry-eating birds just a couple of hundred metres apart, each going its own way?

One thing is sure: if the waxwings come looking for pyracantha berries chez Turnstone this winter, they will be disappointed!

Is Spring that far behind?

Making for Saddleworth by the East Coast line offers a ride through the Pennines. Even if the train from Huddersfield was creaky, the windows gave onto to the bleak hilltops, all dusted with snow.

Next morning the bus through Oldham passed families on their way uphill to the town shops, nine year old boys trying to slide on the film of frost over the shaded pavements, their mothers dragging them along regardless. Mr Pickwick would have sympathised with the little lads

A few more days, and the nights will be getting shorter but the days will get colder; be patient, boys of Oldham!

Mistletoe? No!


I must have had Christmas on my mind even to entertain the idea for a moment. Well, how could it be mistletoe, growing out of the brick arch just north of Peterborough? It looked the part at first sight: a spherical shrub, branching down as well as up, but it was our old friend Buddleia, beyond easy control above a railway track.

So what will take over the world when humans are gone? Buddleia, brambles, birch, briars? Rats, foxes, jackdaws, gulls, magpies? We’ll never know!