About This Story:
This is a relatively simple little story with lots of in-jokes that may not work for other families. Katie and Emily often stayed with us in our big house on the hill in Cornubia. We would walk down the bikeway and admire the owl who had taken up residence on a stump. There were always lots of stories- and nice afternoon teas: that much of the story is true. And the tired Old Grandad is real too.
It has a happy ending of sorts but it’s rather like a Greek tragedy in that way, however: the most interesting things happen off stage and are only hinted at. One can only guess at what Grandad gets up to at the shopping centre under the influence of the tonic. Once he has the bump on the head on the bikeway, he retireats into the torpor that marks his decline!
Chapter 1: Old Grandad is always tired!
Princess Katie and Princess Emily loved visiting Old Grandad and Nanny at their castle. Their grandfather was, you know, a famous magician. Their nanny was famous too – for being the sweetest person you could ever meet. She made lovely salad sandwiches and jelly and pancakes. During their visits, the girls slept in a special princess bed and had the best fun doing all sorts of interesting things. It was never dull at the castle.
One rainy day, however, the girls couldn’t go outside and play but they were very busy indoors with Nanny making clothes for their paper dolls. Old Grandad was very busy too, having a snooze and a lie down. When Nanny went to get the morning tea, Katie said quietly to her sister, “Emily, I wonder if Old Grandad is all right? He doesn’t seem to want to do all the fun things he used to do.”
“He does still love to tell us stories,” said Emily. “He tells us the best stories before we go to bed at night.”
It was true: Old Grandad was famous for his stories.
“But Emily,” said Katie, “Grandad fell asleep last night while he was telling us the story about the princess and the platypus- and it was at the most exciting part. We had to wriggle him to wake him up to tell us what happened!”
Emily giggled. Old Grandad did seem to be slower and quieter than he had been on their last visit.
“And he used to be so full of tricks,” said Katie. “Remember when I put the snake in his lunch box? He thought it was the best trick. I don’t think Old Grandad would think it was a very good trick now at all.”
Emily remembered that Grandad had loved the trick – although the poor snake had a terrible fright when Grandad opened his lunch box at work and absentmindedly tried to eat the snake. Nanny, I must tell you, didn’t see the funny side of the trick at all. She said that the trick was mean to the snake.
Just then, Nanny came back with a wonderful morning tea: vegemite toast and red cordial! The girls forgot about their worries with Old Grandad for the rest of the day. That night he took them out for a walk in the moonlight to see the owl who lived on the stump on the bikeway. If the girls were very quiet, they could get quite close to the beautiful tawny owl and see his splendid feathers and wonderful sharp beak. He had a snowy chest and lovely sharp claws for holding on to tree branches.
The owl who lived on the bikeway. The girls loved to visit him.
The next day it was still rainy so Nanny took the girls shopping at the Hyperdome while Grandad had a snooze. The Hyperdome is the big shopping mall near the highway; it’s a great place to do some shopping. It had been Emily’s birthday and she had some money to spend. This was always fun because Katie helped Emily find the snazziest clothes. They loved shopping. Nanny always took the girls out for a posh lunch after they had finished their shopping, too. This day they had a Chinese lunch with dim sum, a pot of jasmine tea and tiny cakes for pudding. By the time they stopped for lunch, the girls had spent most of their money and Emily had a pile of gay shopping bags to carry.
As they wandered back to the car park, Emily saw a shop she hadn’t noticed before. It was a new shop with beautiful pictures in the window of a forest scene with a stream and flowers. There was a big sign that read:
ZONKO’s MAGIC SHOP
Jokes and Fun for Boys and Girls
We have All Kinds of Magic Potions
And They Are Guaranteed to Work.
As the girls looked into the window, the beautiful scene changed slightly. A cheeky monkey suddenly dropped from the tree and began firing a water pistol into the crowd of boys and girls who were looking on intently. Katie copped a blast of cold water right in the face and this sent Emily off into a tremendous fit of giggles. Emily didn’t giggle so much when the monkey aimed the water pistol at her – but Katie did and soon both the girls were laughing and everyone was shaking off the water. As soon as Nanny came up to the glass, however, the monkey disappeared. Nanny read the sign too and Katie saw her face lost in wonder for a moment. Then she called the girls to follow her and off they went to the car.
Later that night after Old Grandad had finished his story [yes, he fell asleep again and Katie had to tickle him this time to wake him up to finish] the girls talked about the magic shop. “I wonder if they have anything in the shop for Old Grandad?” asked Emily quietly. “Of course, Old Grandad is a famous magician and probably can make his own spells but wouldn’t it be fun to buy a magic spell and put it into his tea or his All Bran. Then we’d get our Old Grandad back, I’m sure.”
Mr George Weasley of Zonko’s Magic Shop
“I’d really like him to be sparky again,” said Katie sadly. “I mean, I do love him – but he was so much fun when he was a bit more lively.” Lying in the princess bed in the dark it seemed almost possible that the girls could buy a potion that would give Old Grandad back his spark. The little princesses fell asleep thinking of this lovely idea.
And in the morning, they thought of it again. Katie thought of it when she saw the change from Emily’s birthday money sitting on the dressing table of their room. She counted the coins: $7.20. It seemed like a lot of money. Perhaps there was something they could buy at the Joke Shop after all. Emily thought exactly the same thing when she saw the money on the dressing table. While Katie was reading a story book, Emily was cleaning up the bedroom, making sure that all her washing had been put away and that her pyjamas were neatly folded under her pillow. She picked up the coins and wondered. She’d never bought any magic potions before so she had no real idea how much something that was really magical would cost. Perhaps the whole shop was just a trick, selling silly things – the sort of things boys would like. Then she remembered the lovely forest scene – and the cheeky monkey. Well that much was magical, at least.
That very afternoon, the girls had an unexpected chance to go back to the Joke Shop and see for themselves. It happened like this. Nanny asked whether the girls would like to go to the library with her and then to have a slap up afternoon tea at The Shingle Inn. As the Shingle Inn was famous for its butterfly cakes, both the girls thought that would be a great idea. The shop had the added advantage of being quite close to the Joke Shop, too. Perhaps they could have a really good look in the window this time.
When they arrived at the library, of course, there were so many good books to look at that they quickly forgot all about everything else. No sooner were they sitting down with a beautiful picture book about magpies than Nanny remembered, she said, that she had left her library borrowing card in the car. Could she trust the girls to be very good and read their books while she went back to get it? Of course she could, the girls said, and Nanny was gone for about fifteen minutes. When she came back, she quickly found some books and the girls set off for the tea shop.
Delicious butterfly cakes from the Shingle Inn
Have you ever seen a whole tray of delicious butterfly cakes of all sorts of colours and flavours and know that you can only choose one? It takes a long time to pick the very best one. Nanny solved the problem by asking the waitress to bring a knife. Each girl could pick one cake and Nanny would cut it in half so the girls could actually try two different flavours. Katie chose a chocolate butterfly cake; Emily chose a vanilla snow cake. Nanny chose a coffee cake to have with her cup of tea. She loved seeing the girls so pleased with their afternoon tea that when they had finished, she offered to get them another one – but really, they were quite full up! Those little girls were really quite ladylike in the way they ate their cakes.
Near the cake shop was the Hyperdome’s wig shop. They had all sorts of wigs in the shop, each one of them arranged on a white Styrofoam model and all of them looking splendid. The girls had often joked with Old Grandad that he should buy one of the wigs. Wouldn’t he look splendid in red curly hair? What about long blond hair? Green hair? Anything was possible at the wig shop and although Old Grandad never quite got round to trying them on, the wigs were always a source of interest when they walked that way in the shopping centre.
The excellent red wig which Old Grandad admired in the wig shop.
The girls finished their afternoon tea and Nanny paid the bill. Just as they started back for the car Emily said – as if she were just thinking of it - “Nanny, we are being greedy. Poor Old Grandad is left at home and hasn’t had a scrumptious afternoon tea as we have. Can Katie and I go back to buy him a nice butterfly cake?”
Nanny had a big pile of books to carry because the girls had found some great books about ducks which they wanted to borrow in case the wet weather continued. Nanny was looking forward to getting home with all the books they had borrowed.
“My, my,” said Nanny, “you are such sweet girls to think of Old Grandad. I had quite forgotten him!” Nanny looked in her purse and found a five dollar note. She gave it to Katie. “I think Grandad would like a strawberry butterfly cake. I hope there are some left. I saw some boys at the table next to us wolfing a whole plate of strawberry cakes. If there are no strawberry ones left, you can decide what Old Grandad would like. Can you find the car in the carpark downstairs?”
To be sure, they could. The girls felt so grown up to be trusted with the money and the important errand. No sooner was Nanny out of sight, however, before Emily grabbed her sister’s hand and hurried her back. “Come on,” she said in a whisper. “I think we have just ten minutes to look in that Joke Shop and see whether they have anything for Old Grandad. Then we can buy the cake. Katie, this could be the start of a wonderful adventure!”
Chapter 2: The Buck You Uppo Tonic
As soon as the girls stepped into the shop they could feel the magic of all the special potions and spells arranged on the shelves. It positively made you tingle. They were lucky. The shop was quiet; the young man who was the shop keeper was busy talking to an elderly lady who seemed to be very hard to please. They were able to wander around and look at the different products without any interruption.
“Emily,” said Katie excitedly, “look at this!” There on the shelf was a splendid green and red display with a happy girl and boy sitting down to a picnic with a cheerful sun overhead. In the background, storm clouds looked on angrily. The display read: Sunny Days Picnic Set. No matter what the weather, you can enjoy a sunny day on your picnic. Rain clouds fly away and the sun shines just for you!
“What about this one!” said Emily. There was a classroom with a whole lot of happy boys and girls getting up to mischief while a sad looking teacher sat at a table looking very ill. The sign read Misery Guts Powder. Fun in School! A guaranteed misery for a grumpy teacher so that boys and girls will enjoy their day at school.
Katie didn’t know about that one. Her Mummy was a teacher and she wanted to be a teacher herself. She felt rather sorry for the poor teacher in the picture. Before they could do anything more, however, they were interrupted by the young man who ran the shop. He was tall and slim with a wonderful shock of red curly hair and lots of freckles. His green eyes fairly twinkled with joy. “Now would you two young princesses need any help this morning?” Then he looked at them very carefully before he went on, “Well blow me down! I think that this beautiful young lady with the lovely curly hair is Princess Katie? And this singularly beautiful young lady with the snazzy spectacles must be the famous Princess Emily. Am I right, ladies or am I right?”
The girls giggled just a little and blushed too. Before they could reply, the young man held out his hand to shake theirs. “How d’ya do? I’m George Weasley, Ronald’s older brother. He’s told me all about you girls – and the trouble you’ve sometimes had with Harry Potter’s horrible cousin, Dudley Dursely. I tell you what, ladies, I’ll give you a special price on anything you would like to buy – anything at all. “
Katie knew that she didn’t have very much time before Nanny would start to become anxious and so she quickly said, “We’ll have to come back another day to look at all your fine things, Mr Weasley. Right now I need to tell you about my grandfather…” And in two breathless minutes, that’s just what Katie did. She told Mr Weasley about how sparky her Old Grandad used to be, and how many snoozes he needed now and how few jokes he played. And although she couldn’t explain why, by the time she finished, Katie was crying - and so was Emily. It was clear to Mr Weasley that the girls didn’t want a trick or a clever charm; what they wanted was something good and wholesome and powerful that would make things better.
Mr Weasley scratched his head when Katie had finished and reached under the counter. With a little flourish he produced a ruby red bottle that was small and elegant. Written in gold letters across the label were the words:
Weasley’s Sovereign Buck You Uppo Tonic.
The famous Buck You Uppo Tonic in its splendid red bottle.
Mr Weasley read the fine print on the label in a clear, dramatic voice: Do you have a tired cart horse? Do you need to make your old dog more frisky and wag his tail again? Take three drops of Weasley’s Buck You Uppo Tonic and stand back to notice the difference.
In a tight, dry voice, Mr Weasley finished the label: Warning: Use Only As Directed. Do not operate machinery or sign documents after taking this preparation.
The girls squealed their excitement. It was exactly what they were wanting. “I think I should buy two bottles if it is any good,” said Katie. “How much for two bottles?”
“I’m sorry, Miss Katie,” said Mr Weasley. “Alas, I have only one bottle to sell. I sold my second last bottle to a kind old lady only an hour ago. I only have one left until I make a new batch at the next full moon.”
“Is it expensive?” asked Emily timidly.
“Miss Emily, it’s worth its weight in gold,” said Mr Weasley sounding offended. “This is powerful, magical stuff made from the finest ingredients! It’s not cough medicine. All the same,“ said Mr Weasley quietly, “how much do you have?”
Emily opened her purse and tumbled the coins on to the counter. “I have $7.20,” said Emily. ”And that’s all. If I’d found your shop before I bought my birthday present I would have had more.”
“But that’s exactly how much it costs to a young princess like you,” said Mr Weasley, scooping his coins into the till and reaching for the most gorgeous shopping bag either of the girls had ever seen. “Now mind you be careful with that and don’t spill it on the carpet. You’ll never get the stain out unless you come back and buy a bottle of Weasley’s Super Dooper Stain Blooper. And I have lots of bottles of that for sale. And, Miss Emily, since it’s your birthday and you are a friend of my dear brother, Ronald, I’ll put a little something special in there for you to find afterwards.”
The girls almost ran out the door and to the café and in the luckiest thing they found that the greedy boys had left a large and scrumptious strawberry butterfly cake uneaten on the tray. The kind waitress at the Shingle Inn listened while the girls told her about their Old Grandad who had missed out on afternoon tea - and gave them the strawberry butterfly cake for free. Then they were off to the car and home to Old Grandad. Perhaps they would have the chance to try out the Buck You Uppo Tonic that afternoon.
Chapter 3: The Tonic Takes Effect!
As they drove home in the rain, Nanny told the girls how well they had behaved. “I think you deserve a special treat,” she said. “What say I make you your favourite dinner?”
“Cheesy Pasta!” the girls cried.
“It’s just as well that that’s Old Grandad’s favourite too,” said Nanny. “But before we get that ready, I want you to take in Grandad’s afternoon tea. He’ll be so pleased with his cake. You really are the kindest girls to think of him like that. Can you please wait to read your library books until you’ve done that?”
Now I’m sure you’re thinking just what Katie and Emily were thinking: that if they were trusted to take the afternoon tea to Grandad, this would be their chance to try out the Buck You Uppo Tonic! And that’s just what they wanted to do. When they arrived home, Emily hung up her new clothes and Katie looked again at the wonderful red bottle. She couldn’t work out if the glass were red or if the bottle was only red because the tonic inside were red. When she shook the bottle, it became cloudy and mysterious and Katie was sure that she could see lightning inside – and hear the faintest rumble of thunder. She gently eased open the screw top cap [making very sure she didn’t spill it on the carpet] and the room was suddenly filled with the most beautiful scent. Katie could smell pine forests and beaches at dawn and fairy floss and new puppies. It took all of Katie’s willpower not to take a swig of the liquid herself.
Nanny called from the kitchen. The tray of afternoon tea was ready. The kitchen smelled lovely too! It smelled like new mown grass and rain forest moss and new cars and butterscotch ice cream! Perhaps Katie was just imagining it. Grandad’s tea was poured and there was the scrumptious butterfly cake. This was going to be so easy!
Emily picked up the tray and holding it very still, walked towards Grandad’s study where the girls knew he would be reading. Once they were out of sight of Nanny, Katie opened the bottle. She decided that the best place for the tonic was in the cake. But how much tonic to put on? The bottle said three drops for a lazy dog – and the same amount for a tired horse. How much for an Old Grandad?
Katie carefully dibbled three drops of the tonic into the strawberry cake. It looked a little like the icing and Katie was sure Grandad wouldn’t notice it. It seemed such a small amount; surely the tonic wasn’t that strong.
“Put a bit more on,” said Emily. “You never know with magic stuff. I suppose it has been sitting in Mr Weasley’s shop for ages and some of the power has gone out of it.”
Katie didn’t think this was likely; she was almost certain that the Joke Shop hadn’t been there in the shopping centre last week. All the same, she put some more of the tonic on the cake –seven or eight drops more. Emily grunted and pushed the tray into Katie’s surprised hands and then took the red bottle herself.
“I think Old Grandad is more tired than any old cart horse,” said Emily as she poured lots more of the tonic on the cake.
They both looked at the cake – now smelling so beautifully you would have wanted to wolf it down if you had been there. Would Old Grandad notice the unusual flavour in the cake and maybe spit it out? What would the girls say to Nanny if she found out what they had done? Perhaps this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Playing with magic was a dangerous business. I think that both of the girls would have gladly put the cake in the bin at this moment if Grandad himself hadn’t come out of his study and found the girls standing there looking shy and sheepish.
“My darling little princesses,” said Grandad, “Nanny has told me all about how kind you were in fetching home the strawberry cake for me. It smells so good, too! I’ll just take this back to my desk so I can continue with my book while I drink my tea. Nanny came out of the kitchen at this time too and was pleased to see Grandad heading back to his study.
“Thank you, girlies, for giving Old Grandad his afternoon tea. Now you can read your books. And if it stops raining later we might go for a walk,” said Nanny.
Try as hard as they could, the girls couldn’t concentrate on their library books while they waited to see what would happen to Old Grandad. They didn’t have to wait long!
The first sign that something had happened was an excited Whoooosh! sound that came from the study. Then they heard Grandad singing loudly [and very well] a song that the girls had heard in the Mama Mia movie. There was the unmistakable sound of dancing. They ran for the study and found Nanny there as well. It was Grandad, of course, who was doing the vigorous dancing. He was trying to get Nanny to join in; as soon as he saw the girls, he tried to include them as well.
“Come on, Nanny; come on girlies! Let’s go out and play in the rain! Let’s go and climb some trees. Let’s go and swim in the river; it will be great fun in the rain. And I feel like a big ice cream. Let’s go and get the biggest ice cream that they sell at the Hyperdome!”
Nanny looked both pleased and frightened; the girls felt the same. There was no doubt that the tonic had worked.
Grandad didn’t seem to be able to sit still. He jumped up and turned on the CD player and was dancing to a really catchy Bratz song. His dancing was clunky and strange and yet Grandad seemed to be having great fun.
“Let’s go, girlies! I can’t wait for Nanny: she’s too slow for me,” said Grandad. “I’m going shopping for that ice cream!”
But Grandad couldn’t wait for the girlies either. He grabbed the car keys and leapt down the steps, taking them three at a time and laughing happily. Nanny grabbed the girls; she wouldn’t let them travel with Grandad in his present state and they soon heard the car start and rev up noisily before heading down the hill, with Grandad blowing the horn all the way.
Now Katie and Emily were really frightened. Grandad wasn’t the best driver at the best of times but now he was positively dangerous. Right now he could be speeding up the road – or having a conversation with a policeman about his furious driving.
“Nanny,” said Katie tearfully, “I have to tell you that Emily and I put something from the Joke Shop on Grandad’s strawberry butterfly cake. It was Buck You Uppo Tonic and the label said to use only three drops.”
“We put on a lot,” said Emily. “And you can see how much it works!”
“We wanted our old Grandad back,” said Katie. “I’m so sorry we tried to do magic on Grandad.”
Katie was crying now and so was Emily. And so was Nanny – although she was laughing too. She hugged the little girls with a big, cheery warm hug.
“You dear little girls. I’ve been worried about Grandad for some time. You’re right; he hasn’t been as sparky as he was. I bought a bottle of Buck You Uppo Tonic from the nice young man at the Joke Shop too. When I said I was going back to the car to find my library borrowing card, I was really buying the tonic from young Mr Weasley I put it in Grandad’s tea – much more than three drops, too. Poor Grandad! I think he has had enough Tonic to make him frisky for a whole month!”
There was nothing for it but to wait until Grandad came home. He could be anywhere right now and if they went looking, they might never find him. Nanny reminded them that Grandad was normally quite a steady fellow. Even under the influence of the Buck You Uppo Tonic, he probably wouldn’t do anything too outrageous. At least that’s what Nanny told the girls; deep down, I think Nanny was really quite anxious.
I think it was the longest evening of the girls’ life. The rain was still falling in showers but the girls and Nanny sat out on the verandah and looked up and down the road. The castle was built on the top of a hill so they had a very good view of anyone coming towards them. Nanny made them some cocoa and they sat and waited as evening fell.
Chapter 4: What Happened Next
As the evening came on, the girls became more and more anxious. Nanny was thinking that she had better get her car out and go looking for Grandad when Emily called to them, “Here comes someone on a bicycle, but it can’t be Grandad. This person has hair!”
Sure enough, riding smartly up the hill came a strangely dressed man on a lovely new bicycle. He was dressed in the best clothes a teenaged boy could wish for: a splendid Hawaiian print Mambo shirt and bright colourful Billabong board shorts. On his feet were expensive trainers made in Vietnam but worn on television by a famous basketball star. But you only noticed these things after you had admired his magnificent head of curly red hair. As soon as the figure on the bike saw the girls and Nanny on the verandah, he began to ring the bell and wave. The girls and Nanny rushed to the stairs to get down to him. It was Grandad!
Grandad bought these cool board shorts from Billabong
Old Grandad never wore smart clothes and all his hair had fallen out but he did look, even then, a kindly old man. With his red hair and teenage fashions, Grandad now looked simply funny. Katie noticed that all of the clothes [even the trainers and the wig] still carried the famous brand name labels and price tags from the shop. Do teenaged boys look as awful as Grandad did in these clothes, Emily wondered?
They didn’t have long to think about these things, however. Nanny went into action straight away; she was so pleased to see Grandad that she hugged him gently and cried. With an arm around his shoulder, she tried to lead him back indoors. “Grandad, do come in now and have a nice cup of tea and a lie down. I’ll put the kettle on and make you some nice toast. Katie and Emily want you to tell them one of your wonderful stories. Just put the bike there against the fence and it will all be fine.”
But Grandad was having none of this. First he did a little walk and twirl to show off his fine new clothes. He tried to get Nanny to admire his board shorts and shirt and he kept touching the wig with his hand, wanting everyone to tell him how fine he looked. Emily giggled; Grandad was as vain and as silly as any teenager. Nanny looked increasingly worried. She wondered how Grandad had paid for all this – and where his car was now.
Katie, wanting to say something to make everyone feel less awkward, finally went to the beautiful red mountain bike and ran her hand over the shiny handlebars and lovely leather seat.
“It’s a great bike, Grandad. And you ride it really well,” she said.
“That I do, Princess Katie. And I will give you a ride as well!” said Grandad.
Everything that happened next happened very quickly; that’s the only way to explain it. Grandad lifted the bike away from the fence and in one vigorous lunge, had swept Katie up on to the bar of the bike.
Nanny tried to stop him [and Emily, I think, was really quite sorry that she hadn’t admired the bike and been picked to go for a ride] but Grandad was not only frisky again, he was very strong and young and vigorous. With a wonderful whoop of joy, he pushed off and headed the bike down the hill. Ringing the bell and whooping, Grandad took the corner at a terrible speed and headed off towards the bike path that lead down the hill.
“Come on,” cried Nanny, seizing Emily’s hand, “we’ve got to save them!” Nanny and Emily ran as fast as they could but Grandad on the bicycle was always going to be faster. They reached the bike way only to see Katie and Grandad speeding down. Billy, the lovely white Labrador who lives in one of the houses on the bikeway, was barking loudly and calling on them to slow down. Katie was calling out to Grandad not to ride so quickly but I think that only made him want to go faster still. The bike path was slippery after rain and I think Billy was wise to be cautious.
Two old men having a bike accident.
Nanny and Emily gasped as they saw the bike lurch and slip, then spin off the path. Grandad gave one last excited whoop as he lost control. Katie jumped clear and landed in some thick wet grass; Grandad went hurtling forward and landed with a crash against the stump where the beautiful tawny owl was sitting. The poor bird had a terrible fright and rose in fear and anger, his sharp talons and beak extended. He flew at Grandad and attacked him but when he flapped away, the bird was astonished to bring away in his talons the bright read curly wig. The owl flew away with the wig in his claws – more frightened now than when the bicycle had crashed into his quiet perch on the stump.
Nanny and Emily arrived just in time to see all this. Katie had rolled when she hit the grass and although she was shaken [and just a little frightened] she was quickly on her feet to help Grandad who had hit the stump with his head. I think the wig really saved his head from bad damage but he stood now awkwardly holding his head and looking with astonishment at the owl and his wig disappearing into the gloom. Katie gave him a big hug which Nanny and Emily joined in as they arrived. It had begun to rain again and Grandad looked even sillier in his flash clothes when they were dripping with wet.
I think it was Emily who giggled first. Now that her sister and grandfather were safe and sound she could stop worrying and just enjoy the fun. Katie was next and soon Grandad was laughing too. Nanny joined in last of all; from the moment that Grandad had driven off under the influence of the Tonic, she had really been very anxious indeed. She had quickly decided that she would settle for a tired Old Grandad rather than no Grandad at all.
By the time they had pushed the bike up to the castle, they were all wet through. The girls wanted to ask all sorts of questions of Grandad: where he had bought the clothes and what he had done at the shopping centre and how he felt but Nanny did her best to keep all those questions unasked. She sent Grandad off to have a hot bath and the girls had the same. Every now and then there would be a round of giggles as someone [usually Emily] mentioned how interesting the afternoon had been.
Grandad was rather quiet through dinner and once he had had his pudding, he kissed the girls and went off to bed. The girls wisely didn’t even ask about a story. Nanny asked the girls if they could bring their Buck You Uppo Tonic in and she would put it somewhere very safe. There was still quite a lot of it left and it winked and thundered in its crystal bottle. It certainly seemed to work just like Mr Weasley had said it would. The trouble was, there was no telling how to make sure it didn’t work too well.
In the Princess Bed that night, Katie and Emily talked through all of the exciting things that had happened that day. Perhaps it had been a mistake to try to make Old Grandad frisky and young again.
“I wonder what happened to the red wig,” Emily asked.
“I think the owl will look pretty funny if he tries to wear it,” said Katie.
“Do you know,” said Emily, “I rather liked Old Grandad’s Mambo shirt. I hope Nanny doesn’t throw it away or take it back to the shop.”
“I think we have to love Old Grandad just as he is,” said Katie.
“You would say that,” said Emily quietly. “You were the one who got to ride on the bike with him. Katie, was it really good fun? It looked wonderful!”
“It was magic, Emily – right up until we hit the post and alarmed the owl!” said Katie. Now the girls were giggling terribly and Nanny had to come in to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight again. She loved her little Princesses. They were the kindest, best girls.
Grandad slept in the next day and seemed to be his old self again. The rain had cleared over night and it was bright and sunny. Nanny left the girls reading their library books so she could get way to the Hyperdome. She had cut the labels off all the clothes that Grandad had been wearing and patiently went to all the shops to pay for the things that Grandad had taken. She also found the poor Security Staff at the Hyperdome - a very large Samoan lady in a uniform and a small weasely looking man from New Zealand with lots of tattoos. They had been called to the Billabong Surf Shop when Grandad had dressed up in the fine new clothes and then left without paying. She apologized for Old Grandad’s strange behaviour and listened patiently while the weasely man showed her his bruised arm where Grandad had grabbed him to try to get him to join in a dance. The lady at the wig shop was still anxious. It seems that Grandad had tried on lots of wigs before he chose the red curly one. By the time Nanny had paid for everything and given some expensive presents to the grumpy people in the shops, she was a good deal poorer. At least, she thought, the police wouldn’t be interested in Grandad.
The last task was a long trek through the car park looking to find where Grandad had left the car. To her great joy, it was parked in a disabled car park in the shade – and the keys were still in the ignition. Nanny paid a taxi driver and his friend to drive the car home and park it there.
Things returned to normal at the castle. Grandad was his old self – meaning that he was quiet and loved his cup of tea, his book and his snooze. The girls still loved their stories and perhaps they were imaging it but Grandad did seem to like busy things more – like going to the park and watching the little princesses play on the swings or do their dances to the wonderful Bratz music they had on their iPods.
A week after the amazing Buck You Uppo day, the girls walked with Grandad down the bikeway to see whether the owl were back on his stump. Alas, it was quite empty and the girls thought sadly that after his fright with the runaway bicycle perhaps the owl had run away to Eagleby where things were quieter and the people better behaved. But Emily had the presence of mind to look up into the tall trees that bordered the bikeway. She saw it before any of them.
In one old tree there was a kind of hole on the trunk were a branch had once been but it had long ago broken off in a storm and rotted away. It made a snug and safe place for a nest – even for a big bird like an owl. There in the hole was the owl looking very proud and smug. With a happy call, he flew down to the stump to meet them and as he did so, the girls caught a glimpse of the most splendid nest. Other owls might have a nest of sticks and straw but this tawny owl had a nest made from the loveliest curly red wig.
The clever owl used Grandad’s red wig to make his nest.
The time came for the girls to leave the castle and go home to Mummy and Daddy. Nanny had planned to take them out for a picnic that day and they had the nicest lunch all packed when the rain clouds rolled back and made any thought of a picnic impossible. What a disappointment for the little princesses. Instead of playing in the park, the girls went downstairs to begin tidying their room.
Katie picked up the splendid red and gold shopping bag from Zonko’s Joke Shop that had held the crystal bottle of Buck You Uppo Tonic. It was, you remember, the most beautiful bag and it seemed too fine to throw away with all the other things that had accumulated. Katie carefully pressed it flat to put in her suitcase – and as she did do, she was surprised to find something else in the bag.
When she had tipped it out into her hand, there was a splendid purple bottle with lovely silver lettering.
“Emily, look at this,” said Katie. Emily was very busy doing the cleaning up but she was pleased to stop for a moment and listen as Katie read the label:
Sunny Days Picnic Set. No matter what the weather, you can enjoy a sunny day on your picnic. Rain clouds fly away and the sun shines just for you! Sample Size.
“Perhaps we will be able to go on the picnic after all,” squealed Emily.
And they did. The girls couldn’t work out from the label whether one drank the magic potion, or rubbed it on or poured it on the ground but they didn’t have to decide anything in the end. As soon as Katie pulled the crystal stopped from the bottle, there was the most delicious smelling purple mist came whisping out. It drifted out steadily making a lovely warm, sunny glow and in just a little while the sun was shining - even though the storm clouds threatened in the corners of the sky.
I think that was the best picnic of the girls’ visit. Grandad had so much fun with the girls in the park and Nanny had made the best lunch. The next day it was time to go home. The adventure with the Buck You Uppo Tonic was always remembered as one of the best that the girls had enjoyed at the castle.