I’ve been thinking about how I have always had a fascination with people who can write really small. I once wrote my name in exceptionally tiny writing, in the hopes that my teacher (the same one with the non-existent present) would think I had forgotten to label my work. As it happened, she did think I had forgotten and I took great pleasure in pointing out my genius.
A few years later, during a school trip to Paris I was captivated by street vendors writing names on grains of rice. I promptly bought a piece of rice with my name on and wore it proudly in a tube round my neck. I thought it was the most amazing thing in the world, until somebody told me about a grain of rice in a museum in America which contains the entire Lord’s Prayer.
This, I decided, was exactly the sort of thing I needed to do in order to set myself apart from all those who are happy with average-sized writing. As soon as I got home I grabbed a handful of rice and a thin black pen certain that I was on the cusp of something remarkable. With hindsight, I should have been content with simply trying to get my name on one, but instead I spent several grumpy hours trying to replicate the one with the Lord’s Prayer. After many tears (and a pile of contaminated rice) I had got no further than a massive smudged ‘Our’. So I gave up with a miserable sigh, admitting sadly that I wasn’t a genius after all.
So here we have the results of our first poll and with 41% of the vote, the chosen location to begin our story is in an Apple Tree. ‘Other’ suggestions included ‘in a forest’, ‘in a kitchen’ and ‘down a well’. I will keep these locations in mind— keep your eyes peeled as they may feature in later chapters! I also liked somebody’s suggestion to start ‘at the end’… so let’s see if we end up back here… Oh, and Rachel was the first person to comment so she had the honour of naming our main character, and she chose the name Gregory Bedcarrots, so let’s meet him!
Tune in for the next instalment later in the week. If you want to keep up with the blog, don’t forget to subscribe using the links at the top left. All suggestions are welcome; any arty types amongst you are most welcome to submit visual suggestions or inspiration to the Story Soup Facebook page!
Gregory Bedcarrots is hiding in a tree.
Once upon a time there lived a boy called Gregory Bedcarrots. He was probably cute as a baby but at the age of twelve, Gregory was short and podgy with orange hair and beady grey eyes that stuck out like pips in the middle of his face. On the morning of this story, Gregory was red faced and panting. He had just run for several minutes and was now wedged firmly in the trunk of an old apple tree. He looked something like this, but without the bow and arrow, sense of adventure, or boyish charm. He was thoroughly dejected and miserable.
To begin to understand what Gregory was doing in this apple tree we need to go back to his roots.
At some point during the thirteenth century when every second man was named Tom or John or Harry and most women were named Alice, it was decreed that each person should take a second name to help tax collectors distinguish between them. These surnames were generally based upon one of four things: occupation, location, one’s father’s name, or some personal characteristic, such as Short, Strong, or Wagglebottom. If Gregory’s ancestors, Tom and Alice, had been a little brighter, they would have named themselves Mr and Mrs Farmer or Hill or Johnson. But Gregory’s ancestors were rather daft and merry and prided themselves on growing the largest carrots in the whole of Yorkshire. They requested the name ‘Bigcarrots’ but this was misspelt by the inept registrar and from that day onwards they were known as Mr and Mrs Bedcarrots. Their neighbour, a so-called Farmer Sweetpotato, took no time at all in composing this short ditty:
Their hands are soiled and their cheeks are red,
They grow their carrots in an unmade bed!
This resulted in a steep decline in trade for poor Tom and Alice who then had to work very hard to make anything of their once prosperous livelihood. With money tight, the fourteen Bedcarrots children were always very hungry and all the family could afford to eat were their own carrots, which of course did not help their reputation. The youngest children, who had learnt nothing of pride or keeping a stiff upper lip, would stand and peer over the wall at the sumptuous summer banquets enjoyed by the Sweetpotato family. And the triumphant Farmer Sweetpotato would bellow raucously and hum his cruel rhyme.
Tom Bedcarrots vowed to get his own back on Farmer Sweetpotato. He sneaked into his neighbour’s field one night and created a monstrous scarecrow out of many sacks of new potato. He had in his mind that Farmer Sweetpotato would rush at the scarecrow with an axe, believing it to be an intruder, and inadvertently destroy his own produce. But one thing led to another and both men were killed. That, however, is another story. Let us return to poor Gregory.
All his life, Gregory had suffered for the mistake of his ancestors. If only he was Gregory Johnson he would have had a normal life. He would have been average at maths, and normally proportioned, and good at sports, and reasonably well adjusted socially. But a boy named Gregory Bedcarrots can never be expected to amount to much. Gregory was simple, ugly, and rotten to the core. On this particular day he had broken a plate and told three large lies before breakfast. This tree was his hiding place; the place he stored his grubby homework, his sacred packed lunches, and his heart wrenching secrets. He came here most days and contemplated his pitiful existence. Sometimes Gregory wished that he was a tree. He wished this because he was under the sorry delusion that trees are content. But this is a lie; trees, on the whole, are neither content nor discontent. They are like cars; they might look happy but they are not. They were just made that way.
So when poor Gregory said to the apple tree, “Thank you for looking after me,” he was very much speaking in vain. The apple tree could not hear him. It is not that kind of story. Poor Gregory was very much alone. However, he wasn’t going to stay alone for much longer for somebody was following him.