Coronavirus Lockdown: Fergie Ferguson and the Wee Bogeyman

I was a scriptwriter for the children’s Radio and TV programmes on the BBC for many years and wrote loads of stories for them. Here’s one I wrote about Fergie who was pestered by a wee pest, the bogeyman. I hope your kids and grandkids enjoy reading it.

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Fergie Ferguson was a clockmaker who lived in a little village on an island off the west coast of Scotland where the great Atlantic Ocean smashed and crashed on to the shore. He spent his days mending and repairing clocks and when he’d fixed them, setting them at the correct times that they could chime along with the rest. For Fergie Ferguson’s house was full of clocks. They sat on every surface in every room of his house and stood on every square of floor he had.

From every room in his house could be heard the tick tocking of his clocks. Some were slow, deep sounds….

TICK …. TOCK…..

….others were busy, hurried rhythms…..

ticktockticktock….

….and others were so quick and quiet you had to put your ear tight up against them in order to hear them……..

tick tock tick tock

All day long, the sound of ticking and tocking could be heard through the house. It was so loud it drowned out the thunder of the Atlantic waves crashing on the nearby shore. Fergie didn’t notice the noise, he was used to it but not many people came to visit because they couldn’t stand it for very long.

One day a visitor came to stay in Fergie’s house. Fergie hadn’t invited him and he didn’t even know he was there until one morning, Fergie got up as usual.

He was just in the middle of washing his face when he stopped.

‘Something’s wrong,’ he said to himself. ‘Something’s not right.’

He stood and listened, the water still dripping off the end of his nose and his hands all soapy. He could hear the clocks all ticking away – the big grandfather clock with its deep slow tick….

TICK …. TOCK…..

the clock that sat on the mantelpiece with its quicker ticking…..

ticktockticktock….

and the little clocks whose ticks could hardly be heard…..

tick tock tick tock….

….yes they were all there and none of them had stopped.

But still Fergie was sure that something was wrong. He quickly dried his face and rushed downstairs. Then it dawned on him.

‘They’re ticking the wrong way,’ he said. ‘My clocks aren’t going tick tock any more, they’re going tock tick.’

He listened carefully to each one. Sure enough, every clock was going tock tick. The big grandfather clock,

TOCK….TICK

the clock on the mantelpiece,

tockticktocktick

and the little quiet clocks….

tock tick tock tick.

‘Who’s done this?’ he shouted. ‘Who’s been tampering with my clocks?’

It was then that Fergie heard a little chuckle. It was so quiet that he scarcely heard it over the ticking, or rather tocking, of the clocks.

‘A bogey-man!’ said Fergie. ‘Don’t tell me a bogey-man has moved in.’

There was another little giggle.

‘Come out, you wee rascal!’ Fergie yelled. ‘Come out and show yourself!’

But of course, the wee bogey-man didn’t.

Fergus spent all day putting his clocks right so that they went tick tock and not tock tick, and then after supper he turned his whole house upside down looking for the bogey-man. 

He didn’t find the wee man so at midnight, tired out, he gave up and went to bed.

It was very early the next morning when Fergie suddenly awoke. This time he knew at once that something was wrong. Very definitely wrong.

‘My clocks have lost their tick,’ he cried jumping out of bed and scuffling for his slippers in the half light. Sure enough, all his clocks were just going tock.

The big grandfather clock said, 

TOCK………..TOCK…………TOCK very slowly and sadly,

the clock on the mantelpiece said 

tock – tock – tock as if it had a limp 

and the little clocks seemed to start and stop all the time,

 tock. tock. tock.

Fergie was furious. ‘Just wait till I catch you, you wee menace,’ he yelled.  

The wee bogey-man just laughed. Fergie chased after it till the sun was high in the sky but he did not manage to catch it or even a glimpse of it. All he heard was its laugh leading him a merry chase.

The rest of the day Fergie spent fixing his clocks so that they all went tick tock again. That night he was so exhausted he fell into bed with his clothes and boots on. When he woke the next morning, it was to the sound of the Atlantic Ocean crashing on the shore nearby. Fergie listened for a moment then leapt out of bed.

‘Where are my clocks?’ he shouted. ‘I can’t hear any of them.’

He ran downstairs and there they all were, still keeping good time but silently. Not a tick or a tock from any of them. 

‘What have you done with all my ticks and tock, you wee pest?’ he yelled. ‘Give them back to me at once.’

But the wee bogey-man just laughed.

Fergie hunted high and low throughout the house looking for his ticks and tocks. It wasn’t until he took the lid off his teapot that he found them all crammed in and desperate to get out. It took Fergie many hours to sort out what tick went where but at last all the clocks were back to their usual tick tocking.

‘I’ve had enough,’ said Fergie, mopping his brow. ‘You win. You can have this house to yourself. I’m leaving.’

The wee bogey-man was quiet. The next morning, Fergie was surprised to find that nothing had happened to his clocks overnight, every one was ticking and tocking as it ought to.

But Fergie’s mind was made up. He hitched his pony to the cart and loaded all his belongings and all his clocks on to it. The grandfather clock with its deep

TICK…TOCK..

the clock from the mantelpiece with its

ticktocckticktock

and all the little clocks with their quiet

tick tock tick tock.

Then he shouted ‘Giddy-up!’ and he and his pony set off for a place as far away from the wee bogey-man as he could find. But the noise from the Atlantic waves crashing on the shore was so loud that Fergie didn’t hear a little laugh coming from the back of his cart!

I collected many of the poems and stories I wrote for the BBC into A Drop of Rainbow Magic   leaving blank pages for the children to use their imaginations to illustrate the stories in their own way.

For young readers

There’s a First Time for Everything

I thought for a change I’d post one of my short stories that I had published. This one was in an Australian magazine and I was delighted to buy a copy in a New Zealand newspaper shop where we were holidaying at the time. The photo, no prizes for guessing, is Sydney Harbour Bridge which we have driven across, walked across and climbed to the top of.

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There’s a First Time for Everything

“Is this your first?” I say.

She nods and chews her bottom lip. She is just so nervous. I try to think of ways to calm her. I put my hand on top of hers. It’s cold and there’s a tremor which she’s trying to conceal.

“Don’t worry. Everything will be fine, you’ll see. It’s an everyday thing; hundreds of people are doing it, no problem.”

She nods again and this time a glimmer of a half smile flickers over her features. She’s so young, it makes me feel ancient, though forty isn’t nowadays. Her pale skin has a flare of spots round her mouth as if she’s been touching them and spreading them around. Fine, mousy blonde hair falls over her eyes and her cheeks and I want to tell her to pin it back so that she can see clearly. 

As if I’ve spoken aloud, at that moment she digs into the pocket of her coat and pulls out a blue sparkly hair-band. It’s so little-girlish I can’t help smiling. She drags it over her forehead, capturing the wayward strands of her hair and revealing a high forehead which she’s obviously been trying to cover up. She looks even younger, like a modern day Alice. I grin at her, aware that I probably look like the Cheshire Cat to her, my teeth revealed in the rictus of my smile. I’m not feeling terribly confident myself.  

“I don’t want it to hurt,” she stammers. “That would be awful.”

“It won’t,” I reassure her. “Not nowadays with all those new drugs and things. Before, it used to hurt something terrible, but that’s all past. It’s all quite painless now.” I hope she doesn’t notice my crossed fingers behind my back. I can’t stand pain and I certainly don’t want to even think about it.

“I hope it won’t take too long,” she says and her voice has disappeared to a whisper. Her hands are shaking even more.

“It will be over before you know it,” I say. I take hold of both her hands to still the trembling. “Stop worrying. You’ll be fine, believe me.”

“Excuse me.” She jerks her hands away. “I have to go to the loo.”

She rushes out and leaves me alone. I look around at the equipment waiting to be used. It’s all clean and sterile, instruments neatly lined up in their plastic wrappers, Through the frosted glass of the window I can just see the vague shape of the chestnut tree in the driveway. The candles on it are large and white and pregnant with fruits to come. The branches quiver in the freshening breeze. They remind me of her hands.

When she returns, there are two red spots on her cheeks but she looks calmer.

“Feeling better?” I ask.

“Yes, thanks. It’s my first time, you see, and I don’t want to make a fool of myself.”

“You won’t,” I reassure her. “You’ll see. You’ll soon get used to it. I have every confidence in you.” But I don’t. Not with shaky hands like that.

“Take some deep breaths,” I suggest. “They’re supposed to be calming.” So she deep breathes for a few minutes, her chest rising and falling as she does. I frantically think of other ways of helping her to relax. 

“Exercise,” I say. I’ve read somewhere that exercising releases endorphins which calm you down. “Couldn’t you run round the block? Do press-ups? Touch your toes ten times?”

She’s looking at me as if I’m demented, which I admit, I’m getting close to. It’s those shaky hands. I have to drag my mind back from the horrible pictures they’re trying to sneak into my brain.

I’m just about to run out of the room myself when the door opens and a man in a white coat enters.

“Good morning Mrs Brown,” he says to me. “I’m here to supervise Janine as she does her first filling. We don’t want anything to go wrong, do we?”

“No,” we both chorus wholeheartedly.

I lie back in the dentist’s chair and watch as Janine reaches for the drill. Her hands are steady as a rock. I relax and close my eyes.

Not that any of us can go to the dentist these days! Keep safe, keep well and may your teeth stay healthy!

Coronavirus Cycling

We are pleased that our house overlooks what is unfortunately known as the Suds Basin but which has a circular cinder path around the so-called basin. As the playpark for the kids has been shut due to lockdown, this has become a popular area for the children to ride their bikes round.

suds basin

And round and round they go; some are super confident and have races with each other, the smaller siblings trying desperately to keep up with the older ones. But it’s the toddlers on their balance bikes that I love watching, from their first tentative attempts at pushing them along to eventually whizzing down the slope just as fast as the older brothers and sisters. These bikes apparently teach them how to balance quicker than  ones with stabilisers so that they can graduate to pedal bikes at a younger age.

balance bike

The first bikes at the start of the nineteenth century were like that, and known as hobbyhorses, with the young gentlemen scooting along the highways just like today’s toddlers. But as they were heavy on the shoe leather, Doc Martins being unknown then, they did not prove popular. Then in the 1830’s the pedal bike was invented; some claim that Kirkpartick Macmillan from Dumfries was the one who should be credited, and cycling really took off with women also learning to ride.

veolicpede

My own experiences of learning to ride a bike were rather fraught. My parents rode a tandem so in order that I did not curtail their outings, my father acquired an old sidecar from a motor bike and affixed it to the tandem. I did not enjoy the view, six inches from the ground, of two pairs of muscly legs, one decorated with immense  varicose veins, going like the clappers. Looking back, it’s a wonder the sidecar did not separate from the tandem as they rounded bends or rode across Glasgow’s tram lines.

tandem + sidecar c1948

I graduated eventually to a red tricycle, second-hand of course, which I had for many years until I eventually mastered the art of riding a two-wheeler. My method was to prop the bike against a wall and try to climb on putting both feet on the pedals before actually moving. If I had been able to do that, I’d have joined the circus!

jeep

Today’s children are so much more confident and it’s a great way to use their hour of exercise this way. Their parents are also joining in so maybe after lockdown eases, we’ll have many more bikes on the road and a lot less cars.

If you’re interested in what it was like growing up after World War Two, then read A Scottish Childhood, a compilation of the articles I wrote for the magazine, Scottish Memories.