Featured post
Crafty Dog Cymru, Food Awards, Welsh Food, Welsh Jam

Crafty Dog Cymru Have Passed Our Food Safety Checks again!

Crafty Dog Cymru has passed our third consecutive Food Safety check by The City & County of Swansea’s Environmental Health section – with our third set of 5 Stars! These certify that our food manufacturing procedures and production premises meet the highest standard as Very Good.

Crafty Dog Cymru, Food Awards, Welsh Food, Welsh Jam
Five Stars again!

Finn’s Story

During this dark period I am trying to post some short pieces to amuse, inform or generally give people a distraction – read and enjoy!

Finn – Photo copyright and courtesy of K & S Standing

The following short story explains how the Mighty Finn, hero of the “Largest Rabbit” books came to the farmhouse and his “magic” garden, and came to be Lord of the Glen. Finn is based on a real hound, who had a real Maid and Butler, and this isn’t too far from his real story. Please post a comment, like or review on this or the Crafty Dog Books page, especially if you would like another short piece.

The smell of cooking bacon drifted through the kitchen doorway, across the patio and on down the long garden, towards the green door in the wall that led to the woods.  As it floated past it was intercepted by the nostrils of two hungry hounds and an even hungrier ancient marmalade cat.  Lying on the chaise longue were a young brindle greyhound and a fawn lurcher, cuddled up together.   Across from them, Jeffrey, the said ancient cat, lay back, warming his striped (in places) tummy in the sun.  They were all dreaming about bacon sandwiches, or at least that’s what Rubbish the greyhound and Jeffrey were thinking about.  Flower the lurcher, whose coat was almost as golden as the paving slabs the chairs stood on, was pondering on other things.  “Jeffrey?” she asked.

The old cat’s left eye creaked open, “Yes, my dear?”

“What’s Mr Finn’s story?”

Jeffrey sat upright, “Finn’s story?”

“Yes.  Was he born here in the house, and has he always been the Lord of the Glen?”

Finn the noble deerhound, Lord of the Glen, Master of the Hills and Forests, was the hound who looked after everyone in this, his “magic” garden.  He lived here in the old farmhouse with Cath and Sam, whom he called The Maid and The Butler, and they in turn felt that this actually was their role, looking after this wonderful hound.  Tall, regal, with a quick mind and a sparkle in his eye, gentle but with a power and authority that meant that all the animals, and many of the humans around the area, saw him as the Lord of the Glen.  Animals in trouble came to him, and the occasional human, and he ensured that things were carried out fairly and any trouble was soon sorted.  It was he who had helped Rubbish, the abandoned greyhound pup, brought up by rabbits, to find his true identity.  (The pup had called himself Rubbish  as that’s what the humans had said he was.)  It was Finn that had helped Rubbish and Jeffrey thwart the plans of a fox to capture Rubbish’s rabbit family, and who’d declared Rubbish to be a Rabbit hound who would protect the rabbits like a sheepdog protects his sheep.   Finn, Rubbish and Jeffrey had helped to save Eira, the Winter Hare, from hunters who were after her skin (literally) and rescued the quiet and gentle Flower from their clutches.  There were many other adventures, involving ghost hounds, witches and even Father Christmas (that particular adventure had resulted in them being given the gift of understanding, and being understood by, humans.  Rubbish had found that most useful, as now he could order his meals from the Maid and she could understand what his exact requirements were)!

“Ah.  Finn wasn’t always the Lord of the Glen.”  Jeffrey pulled himself upright and looked across at the dogs.  Flower’s ears pricked up and the young greyhound’s did too, as they listened to what the old cat had to say.  “As you know, I am quite old now.  I was here before Finn, and I can remember his coming here. 

Cath and Sam were talking in the kitchen and I was sitting up on the window sill,” he pointed to the long sandstone sill below the window next to the yellow back door. “Cath was very upset.  A group of travellers were camping in the fields outside the village.  This was not unusual, as the villagers round here get on well with the travelling folk who often stay on the old fair field during the winter.”

“Why was she upset?” asked Rubbish.

            “I was just coming to that,” the old cat added. “Now, this group were not the usual families and were more than a little troublesome.  The villagers tried to ‘cut them some slack’ as they say, but they went too far.  Some houses were broken into, cars and vehicles damaged but worst of all, livestock were taken.  All in all, they created a lot of very bad feeling.  One of the travelling families was seen hunting rabbits [Rubbish was shocked by this, as they could have been his own rabbit-family].  Cath was in the village when there had been a confrontation between the local policeman and the men of this family.  They had a number of dogs, of various types but mostly greyhound crosses, or as they call them, Lurchers, (no offence young Flower), and amongst them were a few deerhounds.  It was said that they had used them to hunt the deer that roam in the woodland around the village.  Anyway, after this confrontation the travellers started to pack up, and during the evening they all left.  When the sun came up the next morning, they were gone.  They had left a fair bit of mess behind, and Cath and Sam had gone to help the villagers with the clear up.  Behind the camp they found tied to a post, next to a bramble hedge, a very thin and scabby deerhound pup.  He was in a very sorry state, and the local animal rescue people had come to see him.  They didn’t think anyone would give him a home but Cath and Sam had begged to let them take this pup in.

Driving back in the car he was given the name of Finn, after the giant from Irish and Scottish legends.  They knew that with love and care this little pup would grow up to be as large as any giant.

I can see that scrawny little pup now – his coat was dirty and matted, and they had to clip all his fur off.  He wasn’t house-trained, and even though he was now bald he still had fleas!  I’ll be honest, I never thought that pup would ever amount to much!

Still, as he grew – and by heck, he didn’t half grow fast – he began to show his personality.  He was very quick to learn the rules of the house, and even more he came to listen to me and some of the older animals, and he began to understand the rules of the animals too.”

“So then he was Lord of the Glen?” asked Rubbish.

“Bless my soul, not at that stage.  That came later!” Jeffrey chuckled. “Within a couple of years he had grown very large and powerful – no other animal would stand against him.  He began to get a little big-headed, as the humans say, and throw his weight around.  He even growled at Sam once or twice.  Finn could have become difficult to handle.

That winter when Finn must have been 3 years old, he had a terrible illness.  dog flu, I think they called it.  Cath and Sam watched over him day and night, taking it in turns to keep him clean, give him medicine, and food, and watch his temperature.  Even the animals from the woods would come to the garden gate each day to see how he was, and I would keep them updated.  Finn nearly died, but he came through it. 

Over the next few months he gradually got stronger.  He would sit on this settee on the patio, one that Sam had brought out from the house for him to use, where he could feel the warmth of the sun and recover.  Cath would look out the window and there was always some animal or other from the fields or woods sitting with Finn, talking to him and he to them.  I would be there to ensure they didn’t tire him, and to give him the benefit of my vast knowledge too [at this the dogs looked at each other and Rubbish smiled].  By the time he had recovered fully he and I had become firm friends.

Not long after he was better, we had a message from one of the forest animals.  The two badger families were in dispute over an ancient badger sett.  Both claimed it as theirs, and they were on the verge of war between them.  Now you’ve seen how formidable the Bills can be when roused.  It was Brian’s family that called Finn for him to intervene.  Finn stood right between the two armies and put both of the family chiefs in their place, there and then.  Anyone else would have been terrified to have been there, standing between the two battling families, but Finn was calm and collected.  I can see him now, tall, and oozing confidence and, yes, nobility.  Both families were satisfied with his decision and that he had been fair.  It was Brian the Badger Chieftain that had first called him “Lord”, and that has stuck.  Since then, if there has been any quarrel, or if animals have needed help, it’s to Finn that they’ve come.”

            “So…that’s why he helped me.  Because I was an abandoned puppy too?” the greyhound suggested.

Jeffrey nodded, “He would have done so anyway, but he has said to me many times that he felt especially for you, as he had once been that very pup.”

Rubbish didn’t know what to say.  He felt very proud of his friend and mentor, the mighty Finn, and he felt so very sad that he too had had that awful upbringing.

Flower also wiped a tear from her eye.  She could see how the story had affected her dear Rubbish, and she too knew what it was to have been abandoned and rescued.

“Good afternoon all!” a deep deerhound voice called from the kitchen doorway. “I have been told by the Maid that bacon sandwiches are ready.”

The three animals on the patio turned towards the old deerhound and cheered.  Finn thought it had been because of the bacon but that wasn’t the real reason that they’d cheered.  Hail to the Lord of the Glen!

(Story & characters copyright Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Cymru. Finn the Deerhound is courtesy of Kate & Sean Standing. Feel free to share but please credit the author & K&S Standing.)

Finn, Rubbish and the Corned Beef Virus

A short story to raise a smile in these perilous times.

The Mighty Finn, Lord of the Glen and deerhound of great repute, was sitting on his chaise longue on the patio in the late morning sun – wishy-washy though the sunshine was.  He’d been listening to the experts on the radio talking about the virus, which was making him tut-tut and shake his huge and hairy head.  “Grim days indeed,” the old dog said to himself.

            “Mr Finn!” a young voice called.  He turned to see the brindle greyhound called Rubbish running up the garden towards him.  “Have you heard?  There’s something wrong with the tinned food!”

            Finn looked puzzled.  “Tinned food?”

            “Yes.  It’s making people ill – the corned beef’s got a virus!”

In spite of everything, this did make the old hound smile. “My dear Rubbish, you mean the Corona Virus!”

            “Yeah.  That’s what I said.  It’s in the tinned food!” Rubbish insisted.  “And it’s making people go to the loo so much their toilet paper is running out!”

            At this point Finn laughed out loud.  “My boy, I’ve been listening to the radio, reading the papers too and speaking to Cath and Sam about it.”

            “Ooh, I feel ill…” Rubbish said, sitting on his haunches.

            Finn sighed.  “Firstly, it’s not in the food and definitely not the corned beef!  Secondly, young Rubbish, we non-humans can’t catch it.  It’s just a thing for people.”

            “Oh no – are Cath and Sam ok?” Rubbish looked worried.

            “We live in the country so can self-isolate – which means not come face to face with other humans until things calm down,” Finn explained.

            “What Ho!” a plummy voice called from the doorway which opened into the garden next door.  A very round and scruffy marmalade cat sauntered along the red-brick path towards them. 

            “Any news?” asked Finn.

            Jeffrey, that ancient cat, sighed, “Yes, fortunately The Colonel is safe in his hotel and apparently showing no symptoms.”  His owner, The Colonel, was quite elderly and had been on a hiking holiday in Italy when the virus had arrived.  Jeffrey’d been worried, but he seemed much calmer now that he’d spoken to the Colonel and he was safe and well.  “He’ll be home as soon as all this calms down.  It may be a few weeks or even some months.”

            “But he’s safe,” Finn replied.

            “Thank Dog I have you fellows to look after me!” smiled the old cat.  Rubbish could feel the sting of muscle-rub and arthritis gel wafting from the moggie, making his eyes water.  Worse than that was the prevailing aroma of anchovies!

            “So how’s everyone here?  Are the Maid and the Butler coping?” the cat asked.

            Finn nodded.  “They are fine.  I’ve never seen people wash their paws – I mean hands – as much in their lives.  I know they’re getting on a bit but I am sure they will be ok.”  (From the kitchen a female voice announced, “I heard that!).

            “Wonderful!  What’s for luncheon?” the cat asked.  He was also known as The Professor for his vast knowledge (or at least, he had an opinion on any subject under the sun and moon).  He was also well known for his appetite, which usually involved soft foods (as he had so few teeth nowadays due to his advanced age), largely fish.  And cake – he particularly fond of Victoria sponge, with raspberry jam.

            Cath called out of the kitchen door, “Roast chicken with vegetables and in your case, pilchards!”

            Finn raised a hairy eyebrow, “You can always rely on the Maid!”

            “So is everyone going to be really ill?” asked Rubbish.

            Both the old moggie and the deerhound shook their heads. “Apparently it isn’t as bad as first thought; it just bounces off most little humans, and those who are fit and well.  They might have a cough and sneezes and a slight temperature,” Finn told him.

            “Ah, like the awful Man flu that Sam had last year,” Rubbish suggested.  There was a very loud laugh from the Maid in the kitchen.

            “Well, sort of,” Jeffrey chuckled. “But if you’re already ill, with a bad heart, or weak chest, then it is more serious.”

            “Oh.”  The greyhound thought for a second. “So where has all the toilet paper gone then?”

            Finn turned to Jeffrey, “Professor?” he asked.

            At this point Jeffrey put his hand into his furry chest, to that invisible pocket where he kept useful items.  He rummaged round (a sight to behold!) and out came a fountain pen, a small jar of liniment and, finally, a pair of spectacles which he balanced precariously on his nose.  They didn’t help him see, but he felt that they made him look studious, and was a sign that he was doing some serious deep thinking.  “Now that is a great mystery!”

            “Manky corned beef,” muttered Rubbish, still convinced that tinned meat had something to do with it.

            “I think it has more to do with people acting in a very strange way due to stress and buying lots and lots of things they think might be essential,” Finn told him.

            “Like flour,” the Maid shouted from the house.

            “Indeed,” Finn chuckled, “Because everyone out there does so much baking these days!”

            “I blame Mary Berry,” mumbled Jeffrey. “And that Hollywood chap.”

            “Humans are such strange things,” the deerhound said, leaning over the back of the couch to look into the kitchen (to check on the progress of the roast chicken which by now they could smell cooking).

            “I hear that the villages around here are deserted,” Jeffrey told the others.

            “Have they all been beamed up into space ships by little grey aliens?” asked Rubbish, aghast (he had a thing for science fiction programmes on TV).

            Finn laughed again, “No you daft puppy!  Everyone has been told to stay inside their houses unless they have to go and buy food or medicine.”

            “Or 30 rolls of toilet paper and 20 bags of frozen chips,” chuckled Jeffrey.

            “How long for?  Will everyone just stay inside forever?” the young greyhound was wide-eyed.

            Finn shook his head, “Fortunately no.  It’s expected that it will get worse for a month or so then gradually go back to normal.”

            Jeffrey said, “I reckon 6 months or thereabouts and we’ll all wonder what the fuss was about.”

            “Yes,” Finn stared down the garden to the old door in the red brick wall that led into the meadow and on to the woods where the rabbits lived.  “We’ll just keep our heads down, eat chicken (and pilchards of course) and wait it out here in our garden.”

            Rubbish smiled and lay on the warm patio, “Yes.  There are a lot worse places to be.”

(All characters copyright Chris Dignam & Crafty Dog Cymru.  Any resemblance by the Maid and the Butler to real characters who live in Letterkenny, Donegal is purely on purpose).

If you liked this, don’t forget that all the children’s books are available as digital download or paperback via the Crafty Dog Cymru Shop.

World Book Week 2020

Welsh books, Welsh Author, Welsh writer, children's books, childrens author, Crafty Dog Books, Crafty Dog
Chris Dignam’s Books, 2020

How I Far I Have Travelled

I enjoy writing, and have done as long as I can remember. I have written academic articles and numerous (boring) reports and even Emergency Plans and training exercises (the latter helped hone my skills creating fictional plots and characters!). After many requests and much nagging I wrote A Hound in the House in 2013 which was about Sally, our first greyhound, and Sammy and the others that followed. Even now I still find parts of that book touch me deeply, as I think about the times we shared together.

In 2014 I published The Largest Rabbit, my first children’s book, and we even took it to schools (along with Penny) to read extracts. It’s such a pleasure to see children’s faces light up as they listen, laughing at the stories, or gasping at the description of the villainous fox. I love that I was able to bring the character of Finn the Deerhound into the books, a dear soul who was a real hound who lived with friends of ours in Donegal.

Whilst working on the sequel, I started writing short stories with those same characters, Hallowe’en and Christmas tales of tails, just something that I hoped would interest and amuse my readers until the next full book came out. The Winter Hare, when it emerged, was a slightly darker tale of hairy heroes and Celtic magic, once again with wicked villains. (I think that this one has proved to be our best-seller.)

When I began writing Found a Penny, the story of life with our Penny, the first draft just read like A Hound in the House 2. I scrapped it after a year or more’s work and went back to the drawing – or writing – board. I started again, but turned it into Penny’s story from her point of view, in her words, through her eyes. I think its worked, as I have seen and heard some wonderful reviews from readers.

I had a lovely review this week from a pupil at a local primary school who read and enjoyed The Largest Rabbit. They suggested that with this book I would make millions. Well, not so far. But to make one person happy by reading one of my books and stories is good enough for me.
Just don’t tell our accountant that.


Don’t Forget – Penny Day is tomorrow!

September 21st is Penny Day – the day her book is launched at the Greyhound Rescue Wales Shop in Swansea. “Found a Penny; The Memoirs of a Crafty Dog” will be released, and you can meet Chris Dignam, and Penny the star of the title. A real ex-racing greyhound who made the journey from race-track to sofa via a farmers field in mid Wales. Chris will talk about how the book came about, sign copies, and you can give The Crafty Dog herself a cuddle.

For further details contact Chris at; Info@crafty-dog-cymru.co.uk

Chris Dignam, Penny Dignam, Book Launch, Found a Penny, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Books, Penny Book, Greyhound Book.

New Book by Chris Dignam – “Found a Penny; The Memoirs of a Crafty Dog”

21st September 2019 saw the launch of Chris Dignam’s latest book. This time it’s the true story of Penny, greyhound and Crafty Dog of the title, in her very own words. She has worked with Chris to dictate her life-story, from being born in Ireland, to her successful racing career in England, then the sudden change in her fortunes; abandoned in a field in Mid-Wales and left to fate. Fortunately, Mr Jones and his collie found this starving, cold ex-athlete and handed her over to Greyhound Rescue Wales.

Chris Dignam, Penny Dignam, Book Launch, Found a Penny, Crafty Dog, Crafty Dog Books, Penny Book, Greyhound Book.
Penny & Chris at the Book Launch

This is where Penny’s life really began as she found a home with Chris and his wife Armelle. She found this all very strange, what with stairs, beds, and, best of all, smoked salmon! A hound with a gourmet’s palate, she takes part in an incredible fund-raising event for the rescue charity, travels across Europe in the motorhome to aid international relations (even attending the service at the Menin Gate), and helps publicise the plight of ex-racers. She talks of her mental demons, as even her life has its dark side, but hers is a positive story.

Penny also describes how she helps out at Chris and Armelle’s Craft business, and becomes known as The Crafty Dog. It’s a lovely journey, with its ups and downs but you will emerge at the end with a big smile on your face.

The books are available by clicking here.

A Word from the Managing Director

Crafty Dog, Penny Dignam, The Penster
Lady Penelope Dignam, Managing Director of Crafty Dog Cymru

A message from our Managing Director, Miss Penny Dignam;
“I’d like to thank my staff for carrying the Crafty Dog Cymru flag and representing us at the #Cywain Meet the Producers event at Port Talbot last Thursday, hosted by Tourism Swansea Bay. Apparently people were surprised to hear that I am a rescued greyhound but here I am! I look forward to meeting our new customers at future events and hope that you enjoy our wonderful jams, chutneys and marmalades. They are very good, you know.”

The Giant Bat – Hallowe’en Story 2018 All in One Bite!

The Crafty Dog Cymru Hallowe’en Story for 2018

 

Rubbish the Rabbit Hound and The Giant Bat

 

Or

Is It a Bird?  Is it a Plane?  Or is it…Nigel?

 

(Age range  5 – 95)

 

Bob the father rabbit shook his head. “It’s too bad.  These Witches are becoming such a nuisance.”

Bluebell, his wife, agreed, “I know. They are frightening all the kits.  They won’t even listen to Finn!”

She was talking about the local coven of witches who, as the weeks drew closer towards Hallowe’en were getting more and more rowdy – screeching and cackling, swooping low over the trees and scaring the baby rabbits, birds and other animals.  Finn the deerhound had gone to pay these hags a visit, and he had politely asked them not to be quite so loud but they had just sent him off with a flea in his ear. It was a real flea too and he was not amused.

“I’m not amused,” he growled at Rubbish the rabbit hound.  The young hound couldn’t help smiling even though it was not funny.  Jeffrey the old marmalade cat grinned gummily as he stared over the top of his round spectacles at the two of them, “Frightful nuisance,” he harrumphed in agreement.

Finn was, after all, the Lord of the Glen and Warden of the Great Forest and so senior animal of the area.  From the kitchen the Maid watched the three friends discussing the problem in the woods.   She leaned towards the open window and called out, “Bacon roll anyone?”

Three animal heads swivelled as one, and nodded in unison.  “That would be marvellous,” Finn replied.

Three chopped up bacon rolls arrived in three bowls. They had continued talking amongst themselves, and still did so even as they munched on their mid-morning snacks.  The brindle greyhound could not understand why the witches would not listen to Finn.  He shook his head and dropped a small piece of bacon onto the patio, from which it was quickly snapped up by a hungry blackbird that appeared to have just been passing by.

“Bless my soul!   That was a bit of bad luck, young sir,” Jeffrey consoled the stunned Rubbish.

“I was just going to finish that,” the pup said.

Finn laughed out loud, “At last!  Something that is faster than our speeding greyhound’s ravenous appetite!”

The blackbird had landed on the roof of the outhouse, scoffing his ill-gotten gains and appeared to be listening to the three animals talking.

As the bacon rolls were finally mopped up, there came a sound from the bottom of the garden as a little rabbit pushed through the gap in the garden door and scurried up the red brick path towards them.  It was Scutter.  He skidded to a halt, scattering chippings as he stopped.  He was puffing heavily.  “Mr Finn!  It was terrible and frightening!” The rabbit’s eyes were wide with excitement as he spoke.

“Really?  Take a breath young rabbit,” he patted the rabbit on the shoulder.

“And start at the beginning,” added the ancient cat.

Scutter took a deep breath and began his story.  “It was late last night.  The witches were dancing and singing in the clearing where they have their parties.  You know what they’re like,” the rabbit made a drinking sign with his paw.  “They had their brooms and everything, and then….” he paused for dramatic effect, “as the full moon shone over the trees, a huge black bat appeared and flew over them.”

The dogs looked at each other and Jeffrey pushed his glasses back up his nose.

Scutter continued, “They were terrified!  They all packed up and went home sharpish.  Most of them walked – they were too scared to fly.”

Jeffrey laughed out loud and rolled back onto his rather large bottom.  Rubbish smiled too.  Finn however, though he was amused by the thought of something disrupting the coven’s antics, was also concerned about what this flying thing could be.  “Young Scutter – did anyone else see this?” he asked.

The rabbit nodded, Yes, the squirrel family saw it all.  It was a giant bat that made a terrible screeching noise as it flew.”

Jeffrey gave the deerhound a nudge, “Let’s go and see then.”

Finn stretched.  “Come on – I sense an adventure.”

Off the three friends went, following Scutter through the woods to the clearing where the squirrels lived, in a tree next to the witches’ party venue.

Finn and Rubbish looked around the clearing; in the centre were the remains of a huge bonfire, still smouldering slightly.  There were a couple of abandoned broomsticks, broken glasses that had held witches potions (or more likely gin and tonic). There was even one witch’s shoe (like some sort of evil Cinderella!).

“Something definitely spooked them,” Rubbish said.

Finn had to agree, “And they left in rather a hurry.”

Jeffrey was questioning the two squirrels.  He had his notebook and pencil (the ones he kept in a mysterious pocket somewhere in his fur, which so puzzled Rubbish) and was writing down what the squirrels said.

There were no obvious signs of any flying monsters.  No signs of anything in the trees; all in all, very strange.

Back at the house over a bowl of kibble and smoked salmon, (Jeffrey just had the smoked salmon) they ran through what they had found.

“What is big enough to scare off a coven of hardened witches?”  mused the deerhound.

“Can’t have been an owl or a nightjar as they see them all the time,” Rubbish answered.

Jeffrey stopped chewing to add, “And witches are a bit of an expert on bats.”

“True,” Finn confirmed.  “It must have been one heck of a bat!”

Jeffrey suddenly sat up bolt upright and even dropped his bowl into his lap.  “Aha!  Hang on…” then he shot off, disappearing through the hole in the wall into his garden next door.

The dogs looked at each other.  “Eh?”

Back in puffed the old moggie, carrying a huge book, “I know what it is!”  The cat put the book on the garden table and opened it, flipping through the pages.  It was “The Wonder Book of Dinosaurs.”

He pointed to a colour photo, “Look here!  It’s a pterosaur – a flying lizard!”

Rubbish and Finn gazed at the illustration; an enormous bat-like flying lizard with a huge pointy beak.

“Blimey,” Finn said.

“Don’t know about the witches but it would scare the pants off me,” Rubbish gulped.

“Quite so,” Finn concurred.

Jeffrey was feeling quite pleased with himself and you could see his fur puffing up with pride.

“The only problem, my ginger pal, is that they have not been seen on this earth for over 100 million years.”

The cat frowned.

“That’s a really long time,” Rubbish had to admit.

The old cat frowned even more and his puffiness deflated a little.  “But the description fits” he answered.

Finn and Rubbish had to agree with the cat; it sounded like this flying dinosaur, but where had it been hiding for the last 100 million years?

“Maybe it’s come through time through some sort of worm-hole in the space-time continuum?” Jeffrey suggested.

“Hmmmm,” said Finn.  “Or it might be something less ancient and a bit more likely.”

“We have to see it for ourselves,” Rubbish told them.

“That, my young friend, is a good idea,” the deerhound smiled.

“Capital!” beamed Jeffrey. “I’ll start packing my night gear.”

It was agreed that the three of them would meet again at 5 o’clock – after tea, naturally – and they would go and wait near the Witches’ clearing to see what would transpire.

The moon was rising as the three friends slipped through the undergrowth at the edge of the trees to wait for the witches.  There was a pronounced pong from the canvas backpack that the old cat was carrying.

“Cor – what a niff!”  commented the greyhound.

Jeffrey hissed, “its garlic.”

“You don’t say?” chided Finn.

“In case it’s a giant vampire bat,” the cat explained. “I also have some stakes.”

Rubbish looked puzzled. “In case you get hungry?”

The cat tutted, “No – not that sort of steak!  A wooden pointy one.”

Finn chuckled.

Jeffrey rummaged in the bag and came out with a large head-torch on a wide elastic headband.  It was bright orange and matched his (albeit moth-eaten and ancient) fur.  He slipped it on and adjusted the straps.

Now it was Finn’s turn to tut, and to shake his head.

A blast of very bright light in Rubbish’s face made him jump. “Oh, sorry.   It’s a bit bright,” Jeffrey blushed under his ginger fur as he fumbled and turned the torch off.  “I have boosted the light output a bit.  Should help us see whatever it is.”

Finn put his head in his paws, sighed and muttered something under his breath.  It was going to be a very long night!

 

As it grew darker, there was noise and movement – the witches arrived, mostly on foot as only a couple were brave enough to fly in.  They lit the great bonfire and gathered around it and then started as did all meetings of the Witches Institute by singing the club anthem.  As the singing died down the bottles of magic gin (mostly sloe, blackberry and pumpkin flavour) were opened and glasses filled and consumed. The crowd split into smaller groups who chatted and cackled amongst themselves.  The atmosphere, Finn thought, was somewhat subdued – maybe they had taken on board his request for a quiet meeting.

However, they could see that each group had a member who was scanning the sky.  It was very quiet up in the clouds as only one or two standard-sized bats fluttered past and one or two shooting stars dived through the darkening sky.

Suddenly, a couple of the “spotters” started to chatter excitedly and point upwards.  The gathering changed as more and more of the hags looked up nervously towards the heavens.  The moon by now was very bright.

Something was definitely coming.  In the bushes the three adventurers prepared themselves for whatever was about to appear; Finn could just make out some movement in the clouds.  A huge black shape was approaching, which definitely had wings – silent ones – and was coming down towards the clearing at a heck of a rate.

The witches started to worry, then panic!  They started to leave, very hastily.  As they ran around and scattered into the forest the giant bat came ever closer.  It was definitely black, very large, and Finn could make out a head, body and..spindly legs?

It swooped lower.  Any witches that were left were now shouting and screaming as they scampered about.

The monster had large ears and blood-red glowing eyes, and it was making a loud screeching a sound and giving off smoke.

As it flew over the bonfire it started to spiral upwards; like a buzzard it was using the warm air of the fire to give it lift and rise into the air.  The witches were long gone by now, and there was only the group of stunned animals to witness the arrival of the bat.  They stepped out into the clearing to see the monster more clearly.  Jeffrey switched on his super-bright head torch and it shone on the flying beast like a searchlight.  It picked out the black wings and the body underneath, the huge head with its red eyes and ears.

The monster screamed as the light hit its face.  There was another cry as a tiny burning ember that was also rising on the thermals from the fire happened to catch the edge of one of the wings.  There was a flash of flame – and the monster began another descent, this time at break-neck speed.

The beast flew across the animals’ heads but above the trees.  It had gravity on its side as it sped earthwards.  The animals tried to keep up but they lost it in the woods.   Finn stopped them, “It’s no good – it’s too dark.  Make a note of where it’s going and we’ll have a look in the light tomorrow.”

As they walked home they discussed what they had seen and what they thought the monster could be.  Jeffrey was still convinced it was a flying dinosaur, maybe a new undiscovered species that had forgotten to become extinct.  Finn suggested that it had not received the memo..  Rubbish was not sure what on Earth it was.  Finn always put his faith in believing his own eyes.  However, he was not convinced that what he saw was what this thing actually was.  And what it was….that still remained to be seen.Howe

The next morning found Finn and his companions picking up their trail and making their way through the woods and out the other side onto the edge of a vast ploughed field of damp mud.  The two dogs scented the air – there was no smell of monster, just the usual smell of mud and sheep.  Jeffrey had brought along his ghost detector but it failed to emit one pop, crackle or beep.  He was pretty disappointed by the lack of any result.

They began to step across the muddy patch.  Half way over there was a patch of sheep prints but big ones that also looked like they had slid.  Most peculiarly, they started in the middle of the field.   Finn called Rubbish and Jeffrey to his side to examine them.  As they chatted and pointed, Rubbish heard what he thought was a stifled laugh.  A few yards away sat the very same blackbird that had snaffled his piece of bacon the day before.

“How d’you do?” the Blackbird asked.

“Fine, thank you,” Rubbish replied.

The blackbird eyed them curiously.  “So what you looking for then?”

Finn answered, “These strange prints, and the flying beast?”

“Oh aye?” the blackbird cocked his head to one side.

“Do you have any ideas as to what these are?” asked Rubbish.

“Oh yes,” the blackbird smiled.  “The name’s Morris, by the way.  And thanks for the bacon yesterday, it was lovely.” He added.

The animals were stunned. “Well?” Finn looked at the bird.

“It’s Nige,” he replied.

“Nige?” the old moggie enquired.

“A flying monster called Nige?” Rubbish could not believe what he’d heard.

“No, Nigel the sheep,” Morris replied.

“What?” Finn, Rubbish and Jeffrey all asked in unison.

“Oh aye.  Crash landed, he did,” the bird told them.  “Wing malfunction.”

The dogs were now even more stunned.  Jeffrey had to pick his jaw off the floor where it had metaphorically fallen.  “A monstrous sheep with wings?”

Morris laughed, “Come with me.”  He flew low over the field, the animals trotting close behind.

In the next field stood (and lay) a herd of sheep.  Normal looking sheep, not at all monstrous, and not one with a pair of wings.  Away from the herd towards the top end of the field one sheep lay on his own, evidently deep in thought.  Morris landed next to him and coughed rather loudly (and Jeffrey thought, somewhat dramatically).

“I have some visitors who want a word with you,” he said.  “I told you it would only be a matter of time before someone came to see you.”

The young sheep sat up and smiled rather sheepishly (which was very easy for a sheep to do) at the two dogs and the cat.  He knew who Finn was (as did most animals in the area) and he bowed politely, “G-good morning, sir.”

Finn smiled back, “Good morning my young lad.  I have heard from this little bird that you are the source of these tales of a flying monster?”

Nigel sighed, “Well….sort of.”

Finn sat on his haunches on the grass, and Rubbish and Jeffrey copied him.  “You’d better start at the beginning.”

Nigel explained how with the help of Morris and Gilbert the owl he had built a set of wings and learnt to fly.  He had had some initial issues with his non-aerodynamic shape and poor overall fitness but he had overcome these difficulties by applied engineering and mathematics and had been quite successful.  He was surprised that no-one had seen him flying in daylight. He had become the world’s first flying sheep.  Morris and Gilbert had worked hard to build the wings.  The next challenge had been to master night flying (as he was less likely to get funny looks or complaints from the farmer or his family).

Gilbert had designed night-vision goggles, which were powered by a system of pulleys, pumps and valves by the sheep’s back legs.  The visibility had been good but the valves and pumps made loud screeching noise.  The owl had suggested some light engine oil might solve it but they had not had time to sort that out before their test flights.  They flew anyway.

The evening before he had lost height and he was trying to get into a thermal of hot air to lift him upwards so he had headed towards the bonfire.  It was going well until he was hit in the face by a blast of very bright light which had dazzled him, then a spark set light to his left wing.  He had called out to Morris and had made an emergency landing in the ploughed field.

“Fortunately the only thing dented was his pride,” the blackbird grinned.

Finn and Rubbish were amazed (though it took more than a flying sheep to amaze Jeffrey) and they were very keen to see the flying suit.  They took them over to the old sheep shelter across the filed.  It had been abandoned when the farmer built a new one nearer the big oak tree.  Nigel and Morris had fixed the leaky roof with the assistance of two hippie foxes who had helped them acquire the materials required for the flying suit (but that’s another story!).  The shed had become ‘Mission Control’.

The suit consisted of two large flapping canvas wings and a tail – a bit like a hang-glider.  There were a series of cables, pipes and springs too, which made the flying suit look most extraordinary.  Jeffrey in particular (who loved his technology) was really impressed with the design and could not help making sketches and taking notes and measurements.  Finn could see the old cat having a go at making his own version; the thought of the old moggie with wings didn’t fill him with confidence!

“I’m hoping to get the suit fixed and be flying again tomorrow night,” the sheep told them.

Morris added, “Aye – should be easily fixable.  I’ve got a patch up kit and ‘Hat’ has got me some gaffer tape.” (Hat was one of the foxes).

“I need to do these night flights as I want to see how the goggles work,” the sheep told them.

“Gilbert reckons we could make our fortunes if we copyrighted the design,” Morris grinned.

Finn had an idea.  “You know that you have terrified the local coven of witches, don’t you?”

Nigel was amazed.  “You’re joking?”

The deerhound shook his head, “I have asked them politely to keep the noise down and stop scaring the animals but they have just ignored me.  Hallowe’en is in two night’s time.”

Nigel and Morris looked at each other, and then looked at Finn.  Morris could guess where this conversation was heading!

“It’ll be loud and scare the children again,” the great hound continued, “but with your help I think we can give those witches a taste of their own medicine.”

So Finn told them of the plan that he had devised.

 

As the sun was setting and the light grew warmer but dimmer, the witches began to gather in the clearing around the mound of timber that was growing into their party bonfire.  Each witch brought a few branches which they added one by one to the pile.  One witch (the one in the bright yellow and very reflective High-visibility hat) was carrying a torch with which she lit the fire.  It first began to smoke, then burst into flame.  They all cheered and the bottles of Witchy Gin came out.  They were soon singing loudly (and out of tune).

There were a couple of spotters watching the sky.  As nothing appeared to be happening up above the spotters lost interest and joined in the revelries around the fire.

Suddenly a terrified dog burst into the crowd of hags.  He was shivering with fear, and shaking and eve foamed a little at his mouth.  “It’s huge, it’s huge,” he babbled, “It has massive teeth…and big wings!”

Some of the witches stopped singing to turn towards the dog to hear what he was saying.  A ripple of unease passed through the crowd of hags but they then continued their partying.  The dog wandered back into the woods, muttering about the thing he had seen.

Not long after the dog had disappeared into the trees a very round cat staggered into the clearing.  He too was shaking with terror, and his eyes were as wide as dinner plates.  “It was terrifying!” he announced dramatically.  “Vampiric in its beastly ferocity!” A few more witches stopped this time to look at the terrified old cat.

“And its coming THIS WAY!” he added at the top of his voice.  A second ripple of unease ran through the crowd, larger than the first.  Once again, the party restarted as soon as the cat disappeared back into the undergrowth.  The party was a little more hesitant but then picked up.

From the dark of the woods there came a terrifying howl which shook the clearing; it was blood-curdling in its intensity.  This time all the witches froze.

Into the light of the bonfire staggered an enormous hairy deerhound – clearly it was Finn, as everyone there knew the Lord of the Glen.  He had blood all down his left side, and was dragging one of his back legs.  He glared into the faces of the (by now) very worried witches.  “I tried to stop it,” he told them.  “It was too big and too powerful even for me. Its teeth are like daggers, and eyed like burning iron.”  He saw the colour drain from the faces of a number of the witches and one even dropped their bottle of gin.  He staggered forward and the sea of hags parted to let him through.

“Who did this?” the Hi-Visibility witch asked.

Finn shook his head, “It was a giant bat.” The hag caught her breath. “Its more vicious than anything I’ve ever seen,” he replied.

By now the witches were talking excitedly amongst themselves and were sounding very concerned.

Finn too staggered and limped towards the edge of the clearing.  Just before he passed into the darkness he turned back to the quaking crowd and shouted, “It’s coming this way.  And it says it eats witches!”

At this stage the witches were on the verge of hysterical panic.  There was a lot of shouting and chattering amongst them and you could feel the tension in the air building itself to a fever pitch.  Then “it” appeared.

It screamed out of the heavens though it looked like it had come from the very pit of Hell itself.  It had blazing laser eyes, so bright that they lit up the quivering coven as it swooped low over them.  Witches who were at fist rooted to the spot in sheer terror soon found their feet (and legs) and began sprinting into the trees.  By the time Nigel came around for his third sweep there were only four witches left who were trying hard to kick-start their brooms.  Almost as one they threw their brooms onto the bonfire and scrambled, practically on all fours, into the bushes.

The blackbird that sat on the black bat’s shoulder called into its left ear, “OK Nige.  Time for a gentle landing on the far side of the clearing.”

“Wilco,” the flying bat-sheep replied.

“Full flaps,” called Morris.

“Full flaps,” Nigel adjusted his wings.  The sheep descended slowly, lowered his landing gear (his back legs) and landed on the soft grass amongst the abandoned pointed hats, brooms, clogs and gin bottles.

Out of the trees emerged Rubbish, Jeffrey and Finn.  The deerhound had a wet cloth and was wiping tomato ketchup from his side and his face, and then passed the cloth to Rubbish so he could wipe his face too.  Jeffery was laughing so much that he thought he would make himself sick.

“Marvellous job!” Finn called.

“It really was,” Rubbish agreed.

“Haven’t had as much fun in ages,” the ancient moggie guffawed; he had tears running down his ginger cheeks and his ribs ached.

Nigel had taken his flying helmet off and said to Jeffrey, “That head-torch of yours was fantastic!  It worked a treat!”

“I think it was the icing on the cake,” Morris nodded.  “But more importantly, it was an excellent test flight.  Night vision goggles worked to a tee!”

“I don’t think it was those witches will bother us for a while,” Finn said.

I know,” Rubbish laughed.  “A quiet Hallowe’en tomorrow.”

“What do you think?” Jeffrey asked.

The animal turned to look at the old cat and laughed out loud.  There stood the ancient marmalade cat, wearing a bright yellow high-visibility pointy hat.  He grinned at them, “Elf and safety, anyone?”

 

 

This story and characters are copyright of Chris Dignam/Crafty Dog Cymru.Co.UK, except Finn who is copyright Sean & Kate Standing (World of Finn). 

 

If you like this, search out The Largest Rabbit or The Winter Hare, available from the website www.Crafty-Dog-Cymru.Co.Uk/Books

Hallowe’en Story – The Giant Bat – Final Part!

The Giant Bat – Part 4

As the sun was setting and the light grew warmer but dimmer, the witches began to gather in the clearing around the mound of timber that was growing into their party bonfire.  Each witch brought a few branches which they added one by one to the pile.  One witch (the one in the bright yellow and very reflective High-visibility hat) was carrying a torch with which she lit the fire.  It first began to smoke, then burst into flame.  They all cheered and the bottles of Witchy Gin came out.  They were soon singing loudly (and out of tune).

There were a couple of spotters watching the sky.  As nothing appeared to be happening up above the spotters lost interest and joined in the revelries around the fire.

Suddenly a terrified dog burst into the crowd of hags.  He was shivering with fear, and shaking and eve foamed a little at his mouth.  “It’s huge, it’s huge,” he babbled, “It has massive teeth…and big wings!”

Some of the witches stopped singing to turn towards the dog to hear what he was saying.  A ripple of unease passed through the crowd of hags but they then continued their partying.  The dog wandered back into the woods, muttering about the thing he had seen.

Not long after the dog had disappeared into the trees a very round cat staggered into the clearing.  He too was shaking with terror, and his eyes were as wide as dinner plates.  “It was terrifying!” he announced dramatically.  “Vampiric in its beastly ferocity!” A few more witches stopped this time to look at the terrified old cat.

“And its coming THIS WAY!” he added at the top of his voice.  A second ripple of unease ran through the crowd, larger than the first.  Once again, the party restarted as soon as the cat disappeared back into the undergrowth.  The party was a little more hesitant but then picked up.

From the dark of the woods there came a terrifying howl which shook the clearing; it was blood-curdling in its intensity.  This time all the witches froze.

Into the light of the bonfire staggered an enormous hairy deerhound – clearly it was Finn, as everyone there knew the Lord of the Glen.  He had blood all down his left side, and was dragging one of his back legs.  He glared into the faces of the (by now) very worried witches.  “I tried to stop it,” he told them.  “It was too big and too powerful even for me. Its teeth are like daggers, and eyed like burning iron.”  He saw the colour drain from the faces of a number of the witches and one even dropped their bottle of gin.  He staggered forward and the sea of hags parted to let him through.

“Who did this?” the Hi-Visibility witch asked.

Finn shook his head, “It was a giant bat.” The hag caught her breath. “Its more vicious than anything I’ve ever seen,” he replied.

By now the witches were talking excitedly amongst themselves and were sounding very concerned.

Finn too staggered and limped towards the edge of the clearing.  Just before he passed into the darkness he turned back to the quaking crowd and shouted, “It’s coming this way.  And it says it eats witches!”

At this stage the witches were on the verge of hysterical panic.  There was a lot of shouting and chattering amongst them and you could feel the tension in the air building itself to a fever pitch.  Then “it” appeared.

It screamed out of the heavens though it looked like it had come from the very pit of Hell itself.  It had blazing laser eyes, so bright that they lit up the quivering coven as it swooped low over them.  Witches who were at fist rooted to the spot in sheer terror soon found their feet (and legs) and began sprinting into the trees.  By the time Nigel came around for his third sweep there were only four witches left who were trying hard to kick-start their brooms.  Almost as one they threw their brooms onto the bonfire and scrambled, practically on all fours, into the bushes.

The blackbird that sat on the black bat’s shoulder called into its left ear, “OK Nige.  Time for a gentle landing on the far side of the clearing.”

“Wilco,” the flying bat-sheep replied.

“Full flaps,” called Morris.

“Full flaps,” Nigel adjusted his wings.  The sheep descended slowly, lowered his landing gear (his back legs) and landed on the soft grass amongst the abandoned pointed hats, brooms, clogs and gin bottles.

Out of the trees emerged Rubbish, Jeffrey and Finn.  The deerhound had a wet cloth and was wiping tomato ketchup from his side and his face, and then passed the cloth to Rubbish so he could wipe his face too.  Jeffery was laughing so much that he thought he would make himself sick.

“Marvellous job!” Finn called.

“It really was,” Rubbish agreed.

“Haven’t had as much fun in ages,” the ancient moggie guffawed; he had tears running down his ginger cheeks and his ribs ached.

Nigel had taken his flying helmet off and said to Jeffrey, “That head-torch of yours was fantastic!  It worked a treat!”

“I think it was the icing on the cake,” Morris nodded.  “But more importantly, it was an excellent test flight.  Night vision goggles worked to a tee!”

“I don’t think it was those witches will bother us for a while,” Finn said.

I know,” Rubbish laughed.  “A quiet Hallowe’en tomorrow.”

“What do you think?” Jeffrey asked.

The animal turned to look at the old cat and laughed out loud.  There stood the ancient marmalade cat, wearing a bright yellow high-visibility pointy hat.  He grinned at them, “Elf and safety, anyone?”

If you liked this, look for the other Hallowe’en and Christmas adventures on the blog pages.   And don’t forget to order a signed copy of The Winter Hare from our webshop – an ideal Christmas present!

Hallowe’en Story 2018 – Part 3

The Giant Bat – Part 3

Nigel sighed, “Well….sort of.”

Finn sat on his haunches on the grass, and Rubbish and Jeffrey copied him.  “You’d better start at the beginning.”

Nigel explained how with the help of Morris and Gilbert the owl he had built a set of wings and learnt to fly.  He had had some initial issues with his non-aerodynamic shape and poor overall fitness but he had overcome these difficulties by applied engineering and mathematics and had been quite successful.  He was surprised that no-one had seen him flying in daylight. He had become the world’s first flying sheep.  Morris and Gilbert had worked hard to build the wings.  The next challenge had been to master night flying (as he was less likely to get funny looks or complaints from the farmer or his family).

Gilbert had designed night-vision goggles, which were powered by a system of pulleys, pumps and valves by the sheep’s back legs.  The visibility had been good but the valves and pumps made loud screeching noise.  The owl had suggested some light engine oil might solve it but they had not had time to sort that out before their test flights.  They flew anyway.

The evening before he had lost height and he was trying to get into a thermal of hot air to lift him upwards so he had headed towards the bonfire.  It was going well until he was hit in the face by a blast of very bright light which had dazzled him, then a spark set light to his left wing.  He had called out to Morris and had made an emergency landing in the ploughed field.

“Fortunately the only thing dented was his pride,” the blackbird grinned.

Finn and Rubbish were amazed (though it took more than a flying sheep to amaze Jeffrey) and they were very keen to see the flying suit.  They took them over to the old sheep shelter across the filed.  It had been abandoned when the farmer built a new one nearer the big oak tree.  Nigel and Morris had fixed the leaky roof with the assistance of two hippie foxes who had helped them acquire the materials required for the flying suit (but that’s another story!).  The shed had become ‘Mission Control’.

The suit consisted of two large flapping canvas wings and a tail – a bit like a hang-glider.  There were a series of cables, pipes and springs too, which made the flying suit look most extraordinary.  Jeffrey in particular (who loved his technology) was really impressed with the design and could not help making sketches and taking notes and measurements.  Finn could see the old cat having a go at making his own version; the thought of the old moggie with wings didn’t fill him with confidence!

“I’m hoping to get the suit fixed and be flying again tomorrow night,” the sheep told them.

Morris added, “Aye – should be easily fixable.  I’ve got a patch up kit and ‘Hat’ has got me some gaffer tape.” (Hat was one of the foxes).

“I need to do these night flights as I want to see how the goggles work,” the sheep told them.

“Gilbert reckons we could make our fortunes if we copyrighted the design,” Morris grinned.

Finn had an idea.  “You know that you have terrified the local coven of witches, don’t you?”

Nigel was amazed.  “You’re joking?”

The deerhound shook his head, “I have asked them politely to keep the noise down and stop scaring the animals but they have just ignored me.  Hallowe’en is in two night’s time.”

Nigel and Morris looked at each other, and then looked at Finn.  Morris could guess where this conversation was heading!

“It’ll be loud and scare the children again,” the great hound continued, “but with your help I think we can give those witches a taste of their own medicine.”

So Finn told them of the plan that he had devised.

The 4th and Final part will be tomorrow!!