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The Poggitty Farm Mix-Up

Come with me, bck to Poggitty Farm, the farm where the animals run the place themselves.

Life on Poggitty Farm generally runs pretty smoothly, as the animals go about ploughing the fields, planting the seeds, harvesting the crops, and so on. But one winter things were not going well. It was a long, cold winter, and it seemed to rain for weeks on end.

When it wasn't raining, it snowed, so that even Bremworth the goat crept inside to sleep, and all the animals huddled round the fire in their big kitchen to try and keep warm.

It was not surprising then, that most of them caught colds and sniffles. It was sad to hear:

(sneezed)...went Peck the hen.

(sniffled) ... sniffled Grunt the pig, while Piano the cat sneezed her way round the house.

Soon, they began to lose their voices, so they could speak only in whispers, if at all.

"This is most uncomfortable," grumbled Porridge. And instead of Peter and Bunny the ducks trotting around everywhere with their cheeky quacks, they mumble-quacked, and went to sleep under the coach with their heads tucked under their wings.

It was on one of the first sunny days after all this rain that Bonny the sheep went outside with Tip the dog to have a breath of fresh air and to stretch their legs. They had just go to the first windbreak, when Tip said:

"What's that up there?"

"Looks like a flying rainbow," said Bonny, squinting. She really needed spectacles, but would not admit it.

"No, it's a bird," said Tip, "But I've never seen one like that before. What strange colours."

The bird spotted them and circled down. It landed on a branch just above their heads, cocked its head on one side, and said:

"Hello, hello, who are you, who are?"

"Who are you?" asked Tip. "Or rather, what are you?" He had never seen a parrot before in his life.

"I'm Crackers the parrot. Skreek, skreek," cackled the bird, and it hopped along the branch. "And compared to me, you look pretty scruffy."

"Maaaaaaaaa," went Bonny. "It's been a haaaaaard winter."

The parrot said, "Not where I come from. Lovely and warm." Then he spotted the smoke coming from the chimney. "Skreek. Lovely and warm," and as cheeky as anything flew into the house through an open window.

The arrival of Crackers the parrot caused quite a commotion. Although some of the animals had seen pictures of a parrot in books, only Porridge had seen a real live one. Crackers was a real show-off, and it took the animals a long time to realise that underneath he was actually quite frightened. He had been owned by an old sailor who treated him very badly. So he had flown away one day when his cage was accidently left unlocked. But the animals did not find that out until later.

In the meantime, they were overwhelmed by his bright colours, and he seemed to know so much through having travelled all over the world with the sailor. They were also fed up with feeling miserable.

So when Crackers said he knew how to get their voices back, they were happy to let him try.

"When you go to bed tonight, just leave your voices with me," the parrot said. "I'll scrub them with a special juice I know, and in the morning you'll have them back as good as new."

The animals were highly excited, and as they went to bed, they left their voices underneath Crackers' perch. After they had fallen asleep, into the night he worked, muttering odd sounds to himself. "Cut up the long drink... scruggle the dollop ...haul on the rynernecker... skreek!" At last he flew off to sleep also.

When the animals woke in the morning, they were eager to try out their mended voices. But when they opened their mouths, what a commotion there was.

"That's not my voice," whoofed Bonny the sheep.

"Who's that talking, it's not me," bleated Piano the cat.

"What have you done to me," gobbled Mrs Moon, the cow.

"What's happening - I sound terrible," clucked Tip the dog.

"This is not my voice, it's someone else's," mooed Peck the hen.

Crackers had given everybody back the wrong voice! Piano the cat had Bonny the sheep's voice. When Porridge opened his mouth, he sounded like a rooster. Skiffle the rabbit was hopping miserably round the house quacking like a duck, while the ducks sounded very funny with the voice of Bremworth the goat. Have you ever heard a duck go (bleat)? Mrs Moon would not let anyone milk because she was so embarassed. I'm not surprised. Anyone would be likely to laugh at a cow that went gobble like a turkey.

I suppose you could not blame Crackers entirely for being confused about who owned which voice. But the animals were very upset, and he would have lost a few tail feathers if Piano had caught him. He flew up into the rafters just in time.

Everybody was having so much trouble making himself understood, that by lunchtime they were all in a frightful temper. "This is no good, we have got to do something about it." Now, that might have sounded like Strut the rooster, but of course it was really Porridge with the wrong voice. "This afternoon we are all going to see Doctor Casebook." And he whinnied a very rooster sort of whinny.

Doctor Casebook was an animal doctor who lived in the town near Poggitty Farm, and he was a good friend of the animals. So after lunch, they all set off to see him. The animals that could walk or fly went their usual way, while Porridge pulled ones like Grunt the pig and Bonny the sheep in the farm cart.

You should have seen the surprised looks on the faces of the people in town as the animals passed along the main street. Because, of course, the animals still had all the wrong voices. The people couldn't believe their ears, to hear a rabbit sound like a duck, or a cow that made a noise like a turkey.

When they got to the doctor's surgery, they all piled into his waiting room. He wasn't there, but they were making such a din, he quickly came out of his next-door room.

"You'll have to cut this out, I've got a sick poodle with a headache in there," he began. And then he stopped in astonishment as he realised what was going on. "Good gracious me," he said. "What on earth has happened?" They all started to explain at once, which made things even worse.

"Stop, stop, stop, stop," he cried. "Just one of you, or you can all leave straight away. Porridge, what is going on?" Porridge explained, and the other animals pushed forward a very sheepish Crackers, who hung his head in front of the doctor.

"You are very fortunate," the doctor said after thinking for a moment. "I just happen to have some rare medicine which I was once given by Doctor Dolittle. He got the recipe on one of his trips to Africa." Doctor Casebook dived into a big old chest, and came out with a large bottle. The animals stared. Inside the bottle was a mixture that was all different colours. There were swirls of red, and streaks of yellow and blue, and blobs of green, and they kept moving around inside the bottle, as if they were alive.

"Take a large spoonful of this before you go to bed tonight," said the doctor. "And Crackers, this is for you." He popped a ball of something in the parrot's beak.

"What kind of medicine is that?" asked Grunt the pig with Piano the cat's voice.

"It's not medicine. It's a very gooey bubble gum, and it'll help him to keep his mouth shut for a while," laughed the doctor. "Grmmmph!" went Crackers, as he first chewed and then realised his beak was stuck together. It was dinnertime before he got it unstuck again.

Before bed that night, Porridge made all the animals line up, and he dished them out a big spoonful of the liquid. As he poured it out, there were flashes of coloured light all round the room, and each animal felt a lovely tingle in its tummy. Somehow, after taking the medicine they didn't feel like talking any more, and they quickly hopped off to sleep.

Early the next morning, Strut the rooster hopped on to his perch by the back door as he usually did, ready to wake the other animals. He was just about to crow, when he remembered yesterday's horrible mix-up. Quickly he looked around to see if anyone else was up and watching, and he then tried an experimental crow. It was! It was his own voice back again. Excited, he crowed louder.

"What's all the noise about?" called out Mrs Moon, and then she realised she also had her proper voice back. "Moooooo, moooooo," she called with joy. The medicine had worked!

All the animals quickly tried out their voices, as if they were greeting long-lost friends. And to tell you the truth, they talked that much for the rest of the day, not much work got done. But no-one cared. And they felt so good, they forgave Crackers for causing the mix-up in the first place, and said he could stay if wanted.

He was actually pleased to stay, and while he always had more to say than anyone else (because he often said it twice), he did become very useful, particularly in the kitchen, where he cooked the most delicious recipes he had learned on his sea voyages around the world.


(c) Copyright John McNeil, all rights reserved. Apart from the purposes of fair review, this work may not be reproduced in whole or in part in any form, physical or electronic, without the express permission in writing of the author. He may be contacted at jandhmcneil<a>