“It’s for the best,” explained their mother, stifling her true emotions. “Make sure you look after your brother and sister Bert, they will need you to be strong in the coming months”.
I won’t let you down, I promise”, Bert replied softly, aware that he was on the verge of tears too.
The platform at Paddington Station was overcrowded. The throng of children awaiting evacuation from the capital covered every inch of damp, grey floor the pitiful sound of sobbing filled the foggy air. The brown carriages of the train were barely visible and lay empty, ready for their unwilling passengers. This was to be no holiday or trip to the seaside, thought Bert. He turned to face his mum and opened his mouth to speak but no sound came. Instead, the shrill piercing call of a whistle cut through the dense air. It was time for the children to release their grip on their loved ones and board the train, destination uncertainty.
“Shall we sit here?” suggested Madge, trying to bring some positivity. The carriage window, blurred through condensation, faced the platform. Peter used the sleeve of his coat to clear it so that they could see their mother’s face once more.
“She’s saying something!” exclaimed Madge.
“What? What is she trying to say? Asked Peter, desperately trying to read her lips. It was too late. The train jolted forwards, knocking the siblings off their feet. The train stuttered into a rhythm and began to pick up pace. The faces outside merged into one vast sea of emotion, the crest of the waves were the handkerchiefs. They lost sight of their mother.
It was some time before the children settled down, exhausted from the final encounter with mother and the gravity of the situation that lay ahead. Towns and industry gave way to rolling fields, open spaces and green, wooded valleys. The children all slipped into some form of sleep at stages on the long, arduous journey. The sky turned even darker and it was the reflection of the pale moonlight, on the sea, that told them they were nearing their destination. Cornwall-One and All. They were all that they had now.
The train screeched and slowed to a halt. After gathering their belongings, the children made their way from the carriages. On alighting the train, the children huddled together – the cool, clear night air a complete contrast to the thick, polluted atmosphere at home.
“Peter? Madge and Bert?” enquired a small, friendly-looking old lady. She approached them and smiled warmly.
The children said very little as they trudged down the hedge-lined country lane. They were exhausted and were a million miles from where they wanted to be – even if that meant being at risk from night-time air raids.
“My home, your home, is just around the next corner,” explained Ethel” please take off your shoes when you get inside and make yourselves at home.
Peter and Bert were to share a large room, while Madge was given a smaller, single room which had views over the coast. If that was meant to be some kind of deal breaker, it didn’t work. The children settled into their new home, but each of them secretly vowed that it wouldn’t be for long. As her head rested on the fluffy, clean pillow, a salty tear rolled down Madge’s cheek.
“Night mother, I love you” she whispered.
It was the bright shafts of sunlight that woke Peter the following morning. He blinked and stared for a fleeting moment. Then it dawned on him, he was far from home.
“How did you sleep Bert?” No answer, Bert’s tidy bed was empty and there was no sign of him. Peter threw on his clothes and dashed downstairs to find his brother and Madge in the cottage kitchen. Their eyes were fixated on an iron catch underneath the table. It was a trapdoor and it was unlocked.
“Let’s open it!” said Madge excitedly.
“No – we can’t!” said Bert firmly “there could be anything down there. There could be a disgusting smelly sewer full of flea infested rats. Cornwall is full of tin mines… there could be a never ending, pitch black mineshaft and it could be unstable and collapse on top of us. There could be…”
“Don’t be a scaredy cat!” Madge interrupted, as she barged past him and tugged at the trap door. “There’s only one way to find out for sure – lets open it!”
She slowly opened it and it creaked like a chalk on a blackboard.
“It’s a long time since anyone opened that trap door! It needs oiling!” Peter chuckled as dust and debris was dislodged all over the floor.
Slowly and carefully Madge opened the trap door, making sure she didn’t disturb anything or anyone, especially Ethel!
They expected a waft of cold air to hit their faces, and a damp smell to fill the room… but neither happened.
Instead a warm sweet smell greeted them. All three of them peered into the mysterious but oddly inviting passage to who knew where. The smell was drawing them in, almost calling them, to explore.
The children spotted a ladder going down into the dark blue light.
“Let’s go now!” said Madge as she started to quickly climb down the ladder. Her brothers followed her slowly because they were feeling a little bit scared. “Don’t be such scaredy-cats” called Madge to her brothers. Bert and Peter quickly climbed down to meet her.
As they turned around they saw an amazing forest but it was made of sweets. The trees and the flowers were all sweets! The air smelt of chocolate. Floating above them were candy floss clouds.
In the highest tree, they saw 3 sparkly, red haribo sweets.
“Let’s go and eat them” said Bert.
“I know” said Madge “Let’s use the ladder to reach them.”
So the 3 children climbed the ladder and together they reached for the sweets.
As they touched the sweets a bird cage dropped down and trapped them inside.
“Help!” screamed Peter loudly, hoping somebody would hear him.
Year 1: Holly Class – Resolution
The children were shaking and cold inside the giant cage. They could hear the cackling of a witch and suddenly realised that they had been tricked and trapped.
“Let’s try and lift it up” said Bert bravely. They worked as a team using all their strength but it just wouldn’t move! Peter started to cry again… even louder than before. “We can’t give up” said Madge. One by one they try to squeeze out of the cage between the metal bars. Bert and Madge got stuck but luckily, as Peter was a thin, tall boy for his age, he managed to escape. “I’m out”, he cried as his small body slipped through the trap.
“Go and look for something to get us out” shouted Madge frantically looking to see if the witch was coming back.
Peter was busy hunting for a key or something to open the cage when he noticed some numbers made out of jelly sweets on a tree trunk. 3 0 4. He shouted to Bert there are numbers here. Bert spotted a key pad on the lock on the cage, entered the numbers and the cage door creaked open.
All three children now found themselves free in the sweet forest.
Once Bert, Peter and Madge had escaped from the cage trap, which had been created by Ethel, the War guardian of rationed sweets, to protect the hoard and to test the children's determination, they searched for a way out.
As they ventured through the colourful world of candy, they fought against the darker side of this magical place. Ethel, who was their wartime host, tested their strengths as future guardians after the battles had been won. In the enchanted sky above their heads they heard a muffled humming and recognised the silhouettes of Messerschmitt's as they searched for their
enemy. Like bombs, dropped to immobilize their progress, toffee, liquid capsules tumbled from the sky and covered them in a sweet sticky mess. Popping candy exploded at their feet and sent clouds of icing sugar dust into their faces and mouths. Using shields of dark chocolate and hard hats carved from bon-bons, the children ran dodging all enemy attacks. Chewit sweets, which flanked the track through the battlefield, were used to protect their limbs from the shrapnel of wine gums. Candy canes were used to jab at an army of sniper jelly babies armed with whips of
strawberry laces and skittle hand grenades covered them in sherbet on contact with their victims.
Reaching the end of the candy battlefield, the soldiers discovered a train track through the trap door that they had entered from the kitchen. A short walk along the tracks of liquorice, lead them to a train made entirely of gingerbread; they boarded the carriages.
Silence filled the journey as the children muttered prayers for their survival. Where were they being taken? Were they journeying to another world of destruction and misery?
The journey seemed to last an eternity unlike the battle day which they had just survived. Sweets filled the pockets of the doors and seats so they quietly filled their weary, battle scarred bodies with sugar. As time passed, the children muttered words to each other. Mostly questions about the day's alarming events and their possible destination.
During this incredible journey which began under the table of the kitchen, the new world around the children began to transform. Where once there had been candyfloss clouds from the engine of the train, there were now clouds of sooty smoke. The gingerbread, lining the insides of the train, were now cold plates of steel. The sweets had disappeared and were replaced with buttons.
The train eventually arrived at a station decorated with bunting and filled with the sound of cheering and brass bands. As the train paused at the side of the platform, from which they had departed what seemed only the day before, the doors were flung open and arms reached in to grab the three tired figures.
The war was over! Years of fighting had been ended. Cars filled with the sounds of
laughter and love. Houses filled with cheers of return. Beds filled with the bodies of the three confused soldiers. Deep within their pockets, hidden inside handkerchiefs waved days before to say goodbye, the three children discovered the most colourful sweet wrappers they had ever seen. These had been their tickets of escapism for the duration of the war and their tickets to a world of sweets for them to protect for the future's children.