Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Ultra-Modern Nursery Rhymes No.1: Shadows Over Sunflower Valley

The ground was frozen over, the snow crisp as crystal, as Bob the Builder hoisted the heavy pack onto his back, grabbed a shovel from the front yard, and set off at a jog in the direction of the railway tracks.

Last night, as he'd downed his tools on Christmas Eve and headed home, he'd been full of cheer. A fortnight of lie-ins, long runs on the moors and evenings spent poring over the blogs of a multitude of high-profile US toy ultra-runners. Bliss!

A cold snap had arrived unannounced however, and trudging through the slush on the town's pavements had played havoc with his plastic feet. Passing 'Ye Olde Trumpet' public house, the temptation had been too great. Mind, a couple of pints at Christmas never did anyone any harm.

Christmas Day was still new as Bob settled into his run, the pack bouncing ungainly up and down. In the dawn light, Sunflower Valley looked like heaven. This is the way he'd like to remember it, he thought.

Before long, he was out of town, heading down the farm track through Shady Wood. In the clearing at the wood's edge, Bob the Builder shuffled to a stop. Leaning his shovel against a tree, he discarded the ruck-sack, took off his run-gloves and unzipped the left pocket of his waterproof jacket. He fumbled inside and took out a piece of lined paper and two safety pins. Unfolding the paper and carefully checking its message, he pinned it to the front of his coat. Then, grabbing the shovel, he spent a good deal of time digging a large hole. He whistled a familiar tune as he dug:

'Bob the Builder - can you fix it?
 Bob the Builder - yes, you can!'

When the hole was big enough, he placed the shovel once more against the tree, for a good tradesman always treats his tools with care. He wiped his brow, more out of habit than for any practical reason, since toys don't perspire, and pondered his predicament. A messy job this, but if anyone could fix it, he was sure he could.

Bob the Builder dragged the heavy back-pack towards the hole and pushed it in. It rolled over the frozen ground and landed at the bottom of the hole with a thump! Grabbing his shovel again, he quickly filled it in. And as he worked, he whistled a familiar tune:

'Bob the Builder - can you fix it?
 Bob the Builder- yes, you can!'

A good tradesman never leaves a job half-done. So, after tossing the shovel aside - he wouldn't need it again - Bob stood beside the hole, and placed his little plastic hands around his little plastic ears. With a grunt, he pulled and pulled with all his might.

After what seemed like an eternity, his head came off with a pop! Bob the Builder's little arms shook and shook, and, from the hole at the base of his plastic head, memories started to trickle out like drops of water from a leaking bottle.

A lifetime of memories drip-drip-dripping out of the bottom of that cute little head.

And what memories!

... a glorious childhood in the country,

... lessons in woodworking from a helpful and loving grandfather,

... his and Uncle Peter's 'special secret,'

... his HND (Hons) in building and brickwork,

... the first time he set eyes on the beautiful Wendy.

On and on, drip, drip, the night before Christmas:

... a couple of pints in 'Ye Olde Trumpet',

... double rum and coke, and a few shots,

...the way JJ's daughter, the delicious young Molly, eyed him up,

... back home to Wendy - Wendy and her incessant bloody moaning. Going on the way she always went on. Why couldn't she ever bloody let it lie?

... the first push had been out of frustration. It had sent Wendy skittling over the back of the kitchen table.

... but now the floodgates had opened. The guilt of a thousand botched jobs, hundreds of over-inflated quotations, prosecutions for breaches of Health and Safety regulations - it all came out. The way Wendy looked on him with such disappointment. His drinking at work. His unhealthy addiction to certain web-sites. That little whore Molly's words earlier in the night in response to his clumsy advances - 'No way, you pervert - you're old enough to be my dad!'

It all came out.

Unfortunate for Wendy.

The drip-drip-drip of memories show it all, even the hours Bob the Builder couldn't remember. The blind fury, the drunken rage, the hidden side of our friendly hero.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

... Bob the Builder wakes in the morning with an horrendous hangover. He's lying on the kitchen floor. Broken tables. Broken chairs. Broken Wendy - her little plastic body scattered in little plastic pieces.

... Bob the Builder takes a slug from a bottle of The Famous Grouse and considers his options. A messy job this, but he can fix it. He finds his big back-pack in the cupboard under the stairs and stuffs all that remains of Wendy's doll life into it.

... he laces up his favourite fell shoes, hoists the heavy bag onto his back, grabs a shovel from the front yard, and sets off at a jog in the direction of the railway tracks.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

Memories trickling out of the bottom of his cute little head, like drops of water from a leaking bottle.

Until there's no more left.

Bob the Builder replaces the head onto his little plastic doll body. His eyes open. He looks around, startled, new eyes on a new world.

Poor old Bob. Doesn't even know who he is!
Poor old Bob. Hasn't a clue where he is!

He looks down and sees a small, crumpled piece of paper pinned to the front of his waterproof coat. He undoes the pins, takes the paper and looks at its message. 'LIE DOWN ON THE RAILWAY TRACKS,' it says.

Never leave a job half-done. Nearly fixed.

Bob spots the railway siding in the distance and heads that way.

As he walks, a tune from a past he can't remember flitters through his empty little plastic head, and he starts to whistle a tune he doesn't know:

'Bob the Builder- can you fix it?
 Bob the Builder - yes, you can!'

The railway tracks are cold, but Bob the Builder's smiling as he lies down and gently closes his eyes.

A locomotive's whistle down the line tells us that Thomas The Tank Engine's on his way, laden with Christmas gifts for the boys and girls at the Sunflower Valley Juvenile Detention Centre.

It won't be long now and Bob's job will be done.

A very merry Christmas from The SJC!

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