BEYOND THE RIVER by Rosie Bristow

The young man had no idea how deceptive that tranquil stretch of the river could be, how deep the water, how fast the current. Had he known would he have hesitated? He knew that the sea had its sirens that lured men to their deaths. The river had its nymphs but one in particular, more beautiful than all the others, had seen the young man and she had forgotten the rules that governed the river.

‘I want to be with him. Give me permission to leave,’ she said.

‘You know that’s not possible,’ said the wise crayfish whose job it was to keep the nymphs safe and happy. ‘You cannot survive beyond the river. Let him join you here.’

‘But he can’t survive beneath the water,’ she pleaded. ‘He needs air to breathe.’

‘And you need the river. You must forget him.’

Even as he spoke the wise crayfish knew he was wasting his breath. Nothing he could say would make her change her mind. Every day at dusk, the young man lay on the bank of the river staring down into the water while she lifted her face towards him, the strands of her long golden hair tangled amongst the reeds and together they spoke of their love. Sometimes she sang to him. The young man was so enchanted he could think of nothing except being with her.

‘Join me in the river and you will die,’ she said.

‘Join me on land and your life will end. What shall we do?’ said the young man.

The crayfish was listening. He sighed. He took pity on them.

‘There is a way,’ he said to the nymph. ‘It will take great courage and your time together will be brief. Ten days at the most. But it will be joyous and sweet.’

‘Tell me what we must do,’ said the nymph.

She listened as he told her his plan and when he’d finished, she smiled and thanked him. In her heart there was just the tiniest doubt. Could she ask the young man to do this for her? Could she ask him to risk all, give up everything for those few days together? Was it even fair to ask him to make that sacrifice?

But the young man didn’t hesitate. Not for a second. They held hands as she led him beneath the water, down to the muddy river bed. And when he could hold his breath no longer, they rose back to the surface. A vivid flash of blue and green sprang from the water. A magnificent pair of dragon flies hovered together then danced and darted through the reeds and the crayfish watched and marvelled at the power of their love.



'We have always known that one day we would have to undertake The Great Mission.'

Titania, Queen of all Faeries, looked down upon the thousands of faces.

'Sadly,' she continued 'I have to tell you the time has come.'

A gasp went up in the Great Hall, flickering the flames of the candles and gentle sobs broke out amongst the countless ranks of faeries.

'One thousand of you have been selected to come with me. The rest will stay behind and prepare for our return. We leave tonight.'

That evening, like specks of golden dust, they took to the air against the backdrop of the huge faerie moon and, following the Star of Spells, began their long journey.

In time, they came to a forest. Unerringly, Titania led them to the darkest depths and gently came to a halt. Below, waiting in a clearing, was a little, red-hooded girl carrying a basket. She rose and joined them without a murmur as they changed direction and continued on to open farmland. Above a remote village a duckling, ugly and uncoordinated in flight, struggled up from a tiny pond and settled in with them, his wings flapping frantically.

Through the window of a Gothic castle a beautiful young girl, pretty as a Princess, ascended on a luxurious mattress with a tiny pea stuck underneath it and up from a grimy, industrial town a scruffy, street-urchin of a child, a tray of matches hanging around her neck, attached herself to them.

As the journey progressed the flying Armada was joined by countless children and characters of every description; an Emperor, resplendent in a new set of clothes, a little, pretty mermaid, her silvery tail propelling her along with easy strokes, even a pair of exquisite, shiny red shoes which skittered along beside them.

When they crossed a frozen, snowbound land a magnificent horse pulling a chariot of ice and driven by a handsome, crowned woman, swept up, taking its place beside and just behind Queen Titania.

They now numbered in the thousands as they journeyed on in silence, and then they began to descend; down, down, like soundless snow falling for what seemed a thousand centuries until, at last, they came into The Land of Men and in through the candle-lit window of a large, dark house.

The people in the room, gathered around an elderly man laying in a bed, knew nothing of their arrival as a priest, rosary in hand, began to say, 'I think the time has come ........' but stopped as the old man's eyes slowly opened and a sweet smile spread across his face.

'My children,' he whispered. 'You have come.'

'Yes, father,' said Titania. 'We are taking you home.'

'That makes me so happy,' he said and closed his eyes for the last time.

As the spirit and soul of Hans Christian Andersen was taken up and away by the faeries the priest said, 'He has gone to meet his maker.'

But we know differently.


LAST STOP by Penelope Rowland

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful little station. One dark night, long after the last train, voices could be heard.

“So are we just going to be left here to rust away? No more journeys up to London?” The gleaming railway carriage had already lost her vigour and enthusiasm. Her usually smart modern appearance seemed dulled.

“Oh I think they plan to use us on the new route, the one which is going to Vicarage Road and then to Watford Junction.” Her companion seemed to know more about it than she did.

“But I won’t like all those noisy football fans,” she protested sadly.

“They probably won’t be any worse than the Grammar School boys,” he tried to be cheerful. “Hundreds of them each morning and afternoon can be pretty tiring.”

“But I have always loved bringing people to Cassiobury Park, with their picnics and swimming costumes, especially in the school summer holidays. Now the park has got that green flag award, I’m sure more and more people will want to come. It would be too far for them to walk all the way from one of the new stations. And such busy roads to cross.” She could always see it from someone else’s point of view.

“And what about our lovely little station? Grade Two listed you know. At least that means they can’t turn it into another block of flats like they do with most places in Watford.” He was as sad as she was although he tried to put a brave face on it.

The little station at Cassiobury Park had been under threat for a few years. From his office far away in London, Horace, the blond Fit Controller, who mostly travelled by bicycle had made a decision - The last stop on the Metropolitan Line out to Watford was not economic to run.

“It’s used less than any other station on the whole underground network,” he had declared without ever visiting the place.

Commuters, local residents and ambitious politicians had all met frequently trying to prevent the station’s closure. All seemed to be lost.

And now it was the turn of the carriages to weep. They usually had little control over their lives, pushed and pulled in every direction as they always were. Shunted that night into a siding beside the main tracks, they remembered the recorded announcement, which they had recently heard. “The next stop is Watford where this train terminates.”

Terminate – how could this lovely stretch of railway be allowed to close?

“Well, we have always done our very best,” the two carriages rattled against each other in agreement. “Passengers have always loved this line.”

Leaving the hard work to the politicians and protesters, they settled down for a few hours rest before the 5.20 a.m. train left Watford for Baker Street.

“Don’t let it be for the last time,” they sighed.



Let’s pretend we’re fairies
Let’s spread our wings and fly
Across the field, over the trees
Into the summer sky
And as we go we’ll sprinkle magic dust among the flowers
We’ll make ourselves invisible to hide our special powers
But then we’ll turn and head back home
Just in time for tea
We’ll play this game again one day
My fairy friend and me

Let’s pretend we’re beautiful
And glamorous and smart
Let’s pretend that we could have any boy’s heart
Handsome ones and clever ones
Boys who’d never guess…………
They wouldn’t stand a chance with us
If only they would dance with us……
Let’s pretend we’re wonderful
Let’s pretend we’re great
But we’d better catch the last bus home
Before it gets too late

Let’s pretend we’re confident
Let’s pretend we know
All about this brand new job
Let’s put on a show
We’ll soon find our way around
We’ll soon work it out
We’ll get the job done and on time
Of that there is no doubt
And soon things will be crystal clear
But just until they are
On us you know you can depend
In the meantime let’s pretend

Let’s pretend that we don’t care
When he breaks the news
Let’s pretend it’s fine with us
In fact it’s what we’d choose
And when he says –“This is the end”
He only wants to be a friend
And you feel the darkest deepest pain
That tells you not to love again.
What do you do that dreadful night,
When there is not a hope in sight?
You make some tea, you ring a friend
You’ll be OK if you just pretend.

Let’s pretend that we don’t mind
That time is flying by
When there are still so many things
That we would like to try
And anyway we’re not that old
We still have stories to be told
Let’s pretend “mature” is “cool”
While trying not to look a fool
Let’s enjoy the days ahead
For after all it must be said
We know for sure with one good friend
There is no need for “let’s pretend”.


ONE WISH by Carol Mathews

Have you heard about the unicorn who lives in Cassiobury Park? He's been around before the Earls of Essex owned the land: before, even, the Saxons and the Romans came.

One spring day, as he was grazing by the canal bridge, two young people stopped to admire him.

'He must be from the film studios,' said Grace, reaching out to stroke his neck.

But the unicorn tossed his head, his silver mane quivering as he backed away.

'I've been on the Harry Potter tour but I didn't see a unicorn,' said her brother, marvelling at his dazzling white coat, diamond-bright horn, the deep purple of his magnificent eyes and hooves.

'I am a true unicorn,' said the beast, in a voice which made their hearts tingle. 'Only those with second sight can see me.'

'We get that from our grandmother,' said Huw.

Grace whispered something to her brother.

'My sister says anyone who touches your horn gets a wish.'

The unicorn snorted.

'I can grant one wish but you have to bring me three feathers: from India, Africa and China. Then come to the bridge and call my name.'

'Which is?'

'Perseus. My friends call me Percy. You have twenty-four hours.'

And with a flare of his nostrils, he was gone.

On the way to their narrow boat, they were racking their brains, when they passed a gnome.

'I wonder if he knows where to find the feathers, Huw.'

Two enormous ears pricked up at her words.

'I might do, but what's in it for me?'

'My Dad's best fishhook.' But the gnome dismissed him with a disdainful hand.

'Time to ring Grandma,' Huw muttered.

Grandma was on the towpath in ten minutes. From her bike basket, she took a bird encyclopedia.

'Parakeet, little egret and pheasant, all seen in this park.'

'Oh, now we get it,' they chorused.

Grandma looked around.

'Where's that gnome? He owes me a favour. I bailed him out of fairy jail for fishing out of season.'

'Down by the lock.'

Grandma returned with a green parakeet feather and one from a white egret.

'How did he get them so quickly?'

'From his feather collection. He's gone to get the last one from the pheasant who hangs out by the birdwatching hide.'

Kissing Grandma, Grace went off for a swimming lesson and Huw for a kickabout.

* At four o'clock the next day, Huw was wondering where his sister was. With the deadline looming, they still hadn't agreed a wish.

Unable to wait another second, he called the unicorn's name, showing him the feathers the moment he appeared.

'You've done well, boy. What is your wish? Be quick.'

'That the Hornets get promoted!'

At that moment, Grace arrived, gasping about a broken-down bus. Knocking Huw's hand away, she seized the spiral horn.

'A swimming pool for my school!'

Percy bowed.

'Your wish is my command.'

'Which wish?' cried Huw.

But Perseus had vanished, leaving a beautiful question mark of silver light in his wake.


THE STORYTELLER by Cynthia Marsh

He slipped unobserved through a side gate in the blistering heat of the desert noon. But within a few short minutes the news was sweeping through the city like flames licking through dry straw.

‘He has come,’ they cried on the market stalls, in the workshops of the artisans, the hovels of the poor and the cool marble halls of the palace.

By the time the sun began to sink behind the distant mountains, they had gathered in the main square to wait for him.

The warm dusk air was fragrant with the delicious aroma of food being cooked on the many fires that had been lit. Babies were soothed, children were hushed as the huge crowd continued to wait in patient silence.

The first stars were beginning to prick the night with cold, diamond light when a diminutive figure wrapped in a snowy, crisp robe and leaning on an intricately carved cane padded through the squatting crowd and sat on the cushion which had been placed there for him.

The crowd sighed their relief as he carefully composed himself and arranged the folds of his robe around him.

He was here at last. Many had thought he was a myth; like one of his tales. Not a real man but a story; such as the ones he had once weaved at the feet of the mighty Sikunder as he led his conquering armies through the mountains of the north.

It seemed hours before the Storyteller began to speak, but as soon as the words started flowing from his mouth they were caught. His voice rose and fell, snaking through the crowd like a fine silk scarf brushing their cheeks and lightly ruffling their hair.

The crowd listened silently; spellbound by what they were hearing. They laughed, they cried. They felt the pain and were swept by feelings of love. The Storyteller led them into the tale with the skill of a master chess player, each word carefully chosen and enunciated until it became their story, their life, and their emotions.

‘As the Prince rode into the courtyard, he looked up to the top of the tower where he could see his beloved sitting before her mirror. Her hand was reaching for the golden comb dipped in poison that her step-mother had given her.’ The Storyteller paused to look at the spellbound faces of the crowd.

‘He called her name, but she did not hear him. She lifted the comb and pulled it through her glossy, ebony tresses. She was so beautiful, so perfect, in that moment before her mirror, but seconds later she collapsed on the couch and his love was dead. The only comfort the Prince had was the promise she would be placed in the heavens as a star, so her beauty could shine on the world below for eternity.’ The listeners cheered their appreciation, but when they looked again the Storyteller’s cushion was empty.

He was gone and nobody saw him go.