Netherneither End has something special that most other towns of its size don’t have: a university. This meant that there were lots of people in the town whose job it was to think new thoughts and to help other people learn new skills and ideas. And this inspired lots of local people to have creative ideas about business and how to help others. The town buzzed with new businesses and shops.
Many students graduated from the University in Netherneither End and went on to big companies and senior jobs around the world. Roxie did not know this at the time, but the woman in the bright blue suit was one of those students. She had many lovely memories of being in Netherneither End as a young student. And as it happened today, she would be able to do something rather wonderful for the town.
Roxie settled down in her seat and placed Strumbold next to her. She was very tired and fell asleep almost immediately as the train shuddered and started to pick up speed as it travelled south. She slept and slept. The countryside whistled by the windows. The train stopped at stations and Roxie carried on asleep. Strumbold began to worry that Roxie might miss her stop.
And then the train slowed down. It began to crawl along. Very soon the train stopped altogether. All the passengers looked at each other and wondered what was happening.
The train manager made an announcement. “I am very sorry everybody but there is a big problem up ahead. Another train has broken down and it is going to take hours to move it. We are going to stop at the next station and there will be buses for everyone. As you might expect, this will take a few hours to organise. I can only apologise but this is outside our control. We will do our best to get you to where you need to be, as soon as we can.”
Roxie slumped in her seat. She was never going to be able to make the Teddy Bear’s Picnic on time now. “There’s nothing we can do, is there Strumbold. Sorry that I could not get you to the picnic. This has been such a mess!”
“What about the woman in the bright blue suit?” whispered Strumbold. “Do you remember what Toot said earlier this morning? Just as you were saying goodbye to her? I saw the woman in the first class carriages as we got on”
Roxie thought and then remembered. “OK” she said “let’s go and talk to her. I have nothing to lose!” Roxie marched off towards the first class compartments and found the woman in question. She sat down opposite her. The woman looked up, a little surprised.
Roxie breathed in. “Hallo, my name is Roxie Riverbloom, and I have come to you for help. I don’t quite know why, but I think you can help me. And I really need some help right now. You see, I am the Town Mayor of Netherneither End and I simply have to be at the annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic in two hours time. The town and all of the children will be so upset if I am not there. And it’s a long story, but I will have to resign as Mayor, if I am not there. Can you help? Please?”
The woman in the bright blue suit looked at Roxie for a long time.
A very long time.
And then she said “Roxie, thank you for asking me for help. I once studied in the university in your town and learnt lots of wonderful things. And that learning helped me get to where I am today: I now run a very big business making children’s toys. My name is Beatrix Bickington and it would be my absolute delight to help you. There’s a seat in my helicopter with your name on it. I am being picked up at the station in half an hour. I will get you to Netherneither End and the Teddy Bear’s Picnic on time.”
Roxie almost cried. A short while later she, Beatrix and Strumbold were flying fast back to the town.
At the park in Netherneither End, everyone had come along. The Teddy Bear’s Picnic was usually very popular but this year even more people had come along. All the Town Councillors were there. The Town Clerk was there. Heather and Vaneather were there with Roxie’s children and Bonniebow. They had brought Bonniebow of course. She was looking forward to seeing Strumbold again. Even Puxley Biddlestone had taken the morning of work to watch the picnic. She was high up in her horseshoe chestnut tree where no one could see her. But she could see everyone.
It was now only a few minutes before 11 o’clock and everyone was checking their watches. Where was the Town Mayor?
Cllr Pompous McDoom, who was standing on the river bank, loudly proclaimed “well, she has well and truly done it this time. We won’t forget this!”
The town clock began to chime. Everyone was silent. Even the blue river seemed to slow down. And then in the distance, there was a strange sound, something like a phwup, phwup, phwup… sound.
And then over the trees appeared the Town Mayor on the end of rope, suspended from a helicopter. In her arms was a teddy bear. And around her neck was the Mayor’s Chain of Office!
Carefully she touched the ground and undid her harness. Suddenly everyone stood up and was shouting, cheering and clapping! Cllr McDoom had stepped back and fallen into the river with a splash. Nobody noticed except for Puxley, Bonniebow and the Town Clerk. They all smiled a little. Cllr McDoom just sat there looking very wet and bedraggled.
Roxie gathered herself and then gave this short speech.
“Welcome everyone to the annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic! It is so lovely to see you all, especially all the children with their teddy bears. This is my teddy bear, the Mayor’s Bear! He is called Strumbold and he helps me lots and lots! I know I cut it very fine, but I made a promise to be here. And I keep my promises. And as you can see, I have found the Mayor’s Chain! And so again, everyone can be healthy, wealthy and happy here in our wonderful Town. So please enjoy your sandwiches, cakes, squash and cups of tea.”
Everyone cheered and clapped again. The picnic went on until the warm early evening. Lots of games were played. And all felt so happy to live in such a wonderful town.
It was just the best Teddy Bear’s Picnic ever.
A quiet end
After the picnic finished, Roxie promised her children she would be home soon. She had to take Strumbold back to the Town Council chamber.
She carefully placed Strumbold onto his high shelf and sat for a moment in the Mayor’s chair.
“Thank you Strumbold. I could not have done this without you. Your magic did the trick! The Chain was found and everyone enjoyed the picnic. I am so very grateful to you.”
“I didn’t do any magic” said Strumbold “all I did was ask you a few questions and remind you of stuff you already knew. You did the magic, Roxie. Not me.”
Roxie rubbed her chin and ran her tongue around inside her mouth while she thought.
“I guess you are right. But thank you all the same!”
“You see that’s the thing, Roxie. If only every person realised that they can do magic. It’s only people who have the power to make our world even more magical than it already is” said Strumbold quietly.
Roxie went home. Waiting for her on the kitchen table was another poem
The blue river flows
Worries are washed downstream
The blue river flows