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** Oli Hille **

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The Riverbank
by ** Oli Hille **   

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Category: 

Children

Publisher:  Self Type: 
Pages: 

30

Copyright:  2007
Fiction

This is the first 10,000 words of a children's book I am writing. The first chapter is in my "Stories" secion. It is influenced by and is somewhat of a tribute to my favourite children's book "Wind in the Willows" by Kenneth Grahame.

NB You need to click on "Download" to be able to read the whole story.

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The Riverbank


Chapter One – Squirrel’s House


It was a warm spring morning and a light breeze blew the smell of daffodils and bluebells through the wood. A path twisted and turned through the trees while birds in the branches above sung cheerful songs, the kind that make you feel tingly and nice. The grass was still wet with the dew and the dew drops sparkled in the sun.

The path continued for some time until it came to a river where it split in two and wound its way along the riverbank in both directions. About five minutes walk along the left path, or perhaps ten minutes if you are rather small or like to dawdle and sniff flowers (but if you are both small and like to dawdle I would not like to say how long it would take you) there was a large oak tree with bright green leaves.

It stood a little way from the path and right on the edge of the riverbank. A small boat was moored to one of the tree roots and it bobbed gently on the river which was slowly meandering its way through the countryside. Halfway up the tree trunk a large window was open towards the sun. Inside sat a squirrel reading a book in a large armchair. It was not a very big room but then rooms in trees seldom are. Houses of this sort have many rooms one on top of the other. In this particular house there were eight. A faint track ran from the main path to the front door of the house. On the door was a large brass door knocker and a polished brass name plate that read:


West Bank House

Residence of Mr Toby Squirrel



Actually no one used Mr Squirrel's first name, no one that is except relatives.

The front door opened into a room which was the closest thing you could have to hall in this kind of house. There was a coat and boot rack, a place to put your umbrella, a barrel of cider, some fishing tackle, two folding chairs and pictures of distant relatives on the walls. Because all of the rooms were one on top of the other, there was a spiral staircase in one corner which wound up through the house.

The next room up was the kitchen and pantry, which was always kept clean and tidy and often had delicious smells coming from it. Stone jars and glass jars, and packets and tins lined the walls on shelves and on the floor. A big baking oven and a bucket of coal for the fire sat under the window that looked out towards the wood.

The stairs went up to the living room where Squirrel was reading and occasionally looking out of the window at the sun and the puffs of white cloud floating by. It was almost a nice enough morning to sit outside in the sun on a deck chair he thought. But then again perhaps it wasn't, and he continued reading.

The living room was filled with interesting things. On the walls, on shelves and on the floor there were plants and jars and pictures and boxes. There were three windows, a large fireplace, an old wooden clock on the mantelpiece and two vases filled with freshly cut, lovely smelling flowers. Most interesting of all were the rows and rows of books on the bookcase which reached the ceiling. There were books on history and books about plants, animals, rivers, and fish and so on. Best of all were the poetry and story books with colourful pictures which could take you to another place and make you forget where you were. Just by looking through his house you could tell that Toby Squirrel was the kind of person you would like to know and perhaps go to visit on a rainy day to sit in front of the fire talking about all kinds of things.

From the living room the stairs went up to a clean, fresh bathroom with a small window open to the breeze. On one wall hung a long mirror and next to it was an airing cupboard filled with warm towels, sheets, cloths and flannels. Above the bathroom was the lounge. There were some chairs and a coffee table and three large windows which opened to the north, south and west. There was also a door on the east side which opened onto a veranda from which you could see both ways along the river and catch the best of the midday sun. In one corner of the room was a jug with six matching mugs. On warm nights when friends visited, Squirrel would full the jug with cider from his barrel and carry it up to be sipped until the sun set.

Squirrel’s bedroom was the next room up. It was a cosy room with a comfortable bed and a feather duvet. An old chest of drawers given to him by his grandmother sat against one wall, and a writing desk sat against another. A large window let in the morning sun and there were two flowering plants on the window sill.

The stairs wound still further up to the spare bedroom which had bunks on one side and a hammock on the other. A wardrobe was built into one wall and two windows, a mirror and a green rug completed the furnishings.

At the very top of squirrel's house was the storeroom which was fairly empty because it was spring. At the beginning of winter it had been filled with apples, nuts, jam, bottled fruit and sacks of vegetables. But now most of it had been eaten. There was still an unopened bag of porridge oats, a few jars of fruit, and one of pickled onions. There were a few nuts and vegetables on the shelves and even a couple of jars of blackcurrant jam that had been saved. There was enough to last at least until summer when the stocks could be built up again.



Chapter Two – The Five Miles


The life of the Riverbank was lived in a five mile stretch of the river between two bridges. To all of its inhabitants their world consisted of five one mile sections known as the Five Miles.

The Five Miles started at Old Bridge which had stood for as long as anyone could remember. The river flowed down from Old Bridge all the way to Stone Bridge. Some of the old tortoises remembered being told about its construction by their grandparents.

Above Old Bridge was Upriver. It was considered friendly but an unnecessary trip. Occasionally Upriver folk would come down by boat or on foot and news was exchanged. The Rabbits had relatives Upriver that they visited on rare occasions. But there was nothing there to make a comfortable animal want to leave the ample confines of the Five Miles.

Below Stone Bridge was Downriver which almost no-one ventured into. It was a dark and wild place, even worse than the weasel infested wood at night. Mothers told their children tales of creatures who lived there and fathers said that disobedient children would be set upon a boat and sent under the Stone Bridge. No visitors ever came up from Downriver although there were stories of grey foxes and wolves being seen from the bridge.

In between the bridges was the glorious land of the Riverbank. It was bordered on one side by the wood which was the domain of the weasels. They were tolerated but not to be trusted, especially after dark. On the other side it was bordered by the Uplands which were a group of high grassy hills. The lower slopes were nice and safe but it didn’t pay to go too far into the hills because hawks lived higher up and a small animal could be snatched away by a hungry hawk.

Each of the Five Miles had its own name and its own character. First was Old Bridge Mile where the river was at its slowest and deepest. It included the Fishing Hole which was considered the best fishing on the river. On the east bank was Tortoise Run where the Tortoises lived in a dry stony field. On the west bank was The Orchard which produced succulent fruit in great quantities from late spring to early autumn.

Second was the Loop Mile, so called because the river looped around towards the hills leaving a big field full of berry trees which were fat and drooping with all manner of berries all summer long. The loop was a favourite summer fishing and picnic spot because of the proximity of the berries and hence a free lunch. Halfway along the loop was the Old Mill. No-one could remember it operating and it sat on the east bank crumbling a little at its foundations, its stonework a reminder of how grand it had been at one time. It was a nice cool place to sit in the heat of the day and rats and mice were forever quarrelling over the best quarters inside and in the roof.

At the end of the loop on the wood side of the river stood the newest house in the Five Miles. It was made from the finest materials and was elevated to give wonderful views in both directions. Its designer and builder and resident was a very clever fellow who had built a fortune in a few short years. He was a young adult stoat who was always busy and usually working on some deal. He was well liked by all, even the weasels. But given his youth and stature no-one could decide whether he should be called Master Stoat or Mister Stoat. Since there was no agreement and no other stoats lived in the Five Miles, he was referred to by all (great and small) as Stoat or Stoaty to his friends.

Third was Stone Cottage Mile. It started with the Wetland Marshes on the east bank where ducks and geese and wetland animals lived. It was a great place for catching frogs and small fish but a very easy place to get muddy and wet if you weren’t careful. On the west bank were the Rabbit Downs which were full of burrows and fat, lazy rabbits and a few conceited hares. On the east bank was Stone Cottage itself, the grandest house on the river. It was set back a little way from the riverbank and it had its own small wooden jetty to which was tied an immaculate rowboat painted white with a natural wood trim. It had shiny brass fittings and lots of cupboards and lockers for fishing tackle and lunches. It could comfortably seat six, and four animals could sit reclined with cushions in areas in the bow and stern. It was of course the finest boat in the Five Miles and many adventures were had upon it.

The cottage itself was similarly immaculate and well cared for. Its furniture and rugs were of the highest quality and the ambiance of the interior confirmed good breeding and fine taste. Indeed such was the case. The owner of the cottage and the boat and the surrounding acreage was none other than Squire Red Fox. Red (as he was commonly called, though not to his face) was the latest inhabitant in a long line of Red Foxes to have lived in Stone Cottage. The cottage was passed down from father to son in the finest of patriarchal traditions. When Red grew older he too would select one of his sons from the many offspring scattered amongst the burrows in the Uplands. The cub would be groomed and educated just as he was, to become the next Squire. Red kept a game keeper who doubled as the boat’s skipper and tripled as a butler. The game keeper was a stout no-nonsense rat who was also from a long line of game keepers. He was known to all as Keeper, or Skipper when aboard the boat.

Keeper was also well known and well respected as a trader. In his Keeper’s Lodge he stored a large selection of goods. If an animal had an excess of one thing and a shortage of another, they could go to Keeper and make a fair exchange. Of course there was a little bit in it for Keeper for his services and everyone was happy.

The Squire was somewhat reserved but was good natured and generous. His mid-summer parties were always well attended and if you were invited on a fishing trip or an Upriver expedition you were always in for an adventure.

The fourth mile was Seven Oaks Mile, so named for the seven large oak trees, six on the east bank of the river and one on the west bank. Ferret’s house was near the six oaks on the east bank although the word ‘house’ is generous. The less charitable members of the river folk referred to it as Ferret’s pile of sticks, and it was true that Ferret took little care of his dwelling. But it was dry and snug and it suited him perfectly. Seven Oaks Mile included the Bluebell Grove which stretched from behind Squirrel’s house to the wood, and ran along the river from the Rabbit Downs to the Wood Path.

Fifth was Stone Bridge Mile which was the least populated and least favoured mile given its proximity to Downriver. Its lack of favour was not merited however as it was the most beautiful of the miles. On the west side was Daffodil Dale which was stunning in spring, luxurious in summer, colourful in autumn and magical in winter. Hedgehog’s burrow was near the centre of the Dale and he had frequent visitors all through the warmer months. On the edge of the Dale were seven bee hives which were often visited. Sometimes honeycomb was traded with the Tortoises for cider or the Upriver folk for pickled onions and gherkins, or barley for making bread.

On the west bank were the Clover Fields which stretched all the way from the oaks to Otters’ Place, and the feet of the rolling hills to the east. In spring and summer the Clover Fields were the domain of the bees and the butterflies and picnickers who wanted more peace and quiet than the Bluebell Grove afforded. In autumn and winter it became a cold, soggy and wind-blown place where few animals ventured.

Between the Clover Fields and Stone Bridge were the large rambling tunnels and stone and wood structures of Otters’ Place. Generations of otters had lived there, happy in their quiet corner of the Five Miles and not concerned about their proximity to Downriver. Currently there were two residents of Otters’ Place, two brothers; Big O and Little O. They were both strong and stout-hearted creatures but they were easy going and cheerful and were especially happy to have visitors, given their rarity.

Animals from all around regarded the Five Miles as the place to live. A place of friendship, good conversation, fun and adventure. It was said that its inhabitants took their surroundings for granted, but that is always true of those living the good life.


NB Please "Download" to read the rest of the story.   


Excerpt

It was a warm spring morning and a light breeze blew the smell of daffodils and bluebells through the wood. A path twisted and turned through the trees while birds in the branches above sung cheerful songs, the kind that make you feel tingly and nice. The grass was still wet with the dew and the dew drops sparkled in the sun.




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Reader Reviews for "The Riverbank"

Reviewed by Amy Sellers 3/28/2007
Oli, wow... I've been mesmerized in a world with color-ful creatures and a great adventure tonight! Toby Squirrel, Hedgehog, Little O and Soat have me sitting right next to them... enjoying the honey, the hammock swing and their boat! A few of my favorite clips are: when you referred to Hedgehog and Squirrel as a basson and a clarinet; the it-feels-great-to-be-alive-thalamus; and they sat there with paws danglingover the side in the sade of the trees. Oli you paint an amazing picture with words! I especially like when the critters are interacting and being adventurous. I can't wait to read the next few chapters! Remember me when you get this published... I want one of the first signed copies! From your #1 fan, Amy Sellers (PS. go to www.omniexperts.com ask for Joe... he gives GREAT publicity for new authors!)
Reviewed by Regis Auffray 3/28/2007
I have not written a novel (barely even attempted to) so I must humbly admit that I do not consider myself any kind of "literary critic." To me, from the sections that I have perused, your story seems delightful and well-written. Thank you for sharing it. Best wishes. Love and peace,

Regis


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