Britland Calling Book 1 Chapter 2
Chapter 2. Logan and his Mother and the Strange Shop
The intense summer sunlight dazzled seven-year-old Logan’s eyes as it reflected off the glass and metal of passing shop and car windows. Logan was strolling down the small town centre of Basildon with his mother. He was dressed in blue jeans and a white T-shirt just as his mother was. And he felt very happy because his mother had decided to take him shopping and buy him a present because she said he had been a very good boy lately.
Suddenly, Logan stopped on the High Street pavement outside a bank and looked up at his mother’s smiling face, a radiant face that made the late morning sun seem even more warming.
‘Do I really deserve a present, Mum?’ he asked, tugging at her wrist. ‘Are you sure?’
‘Of course you do, my little prince.’ His mother gently patted him on the shoulders before giving his blond hair a loving ruffle.
Logan smiled up at his mother with all the glee of his full seven years. Who was he to disagree with his mum? But he knew they struggled with money as there was no one else but them, so he couldn’t help but feel a little guilty.
‘There’s always a reward for being good,’ said Logan’s mother. Then she bent down, pressed his nose, smiled and added, ‘Even if it’s just that other people will smile at you.’
Off they walked, hand in hand, deeper into the town centre.
Minutes later, Logan let go of his mother’s hand and stopped at a small comfortable looking shop. It was fronted by a thick glass window and a glass door to the side, all of which was framed by purple painted wood.
Logan pushed the flat of his hands up against the thick glass window. He squashed his nose up against it and peered intently at the shop’s interesting window display. It was a display full of remarkable looking toys.
‘Ooh,’ he cried, in delight. ‘Look at all these almost alive toys! Look at that toy horse…it’s got “Henry the Horse” written on the saddle… See, Mum? Ooh, what twinkling brown eyes he has! He looks like a real horse only much smaller. He’s sort of alive, only he’s not because he can’t be…because he’s completely still. You don’t think he’s a stuffed horse do you, Mum?’
‘Oh no. I don’t think it can be a stuffed horse. It’s too small to be a stuffed horse.’
‘But it might be a baby horse?’ Logan turned from the shop’s display and looked up at his mother with his questioning pea-green eyes.
‘No, I don’t think so. It looks like a small adult horse. I’ve been around horses when I was a girl. Where I grew up, in Brockenhurst, there were lots of horses and ponies. They even came into your garden trampling over the flowers, even eating them sometimes. Brockenhurst is a town in the New Forest, you see.’
‘Are there really forests in England?’
‘Yes, Logan. But not the sorts of forests you get in the rest of the world with wild animals like tigers and lions and giraffes and elephants and so on. The New Forest is a sort of civilised forest. Still, many of the animals that live there are wild I suppose. But they’re not dangerous ones. At least not to humans!’
Logan turned his attention back to the shop’s display.
‘Mum, d’you think this shop is a sort of forest for toys? Look even the floor is real ground with grass growing out of it. And there’s even a tree growing out of it, see!’
‘You’re a very clever boy to think of such a thing like that. Logan. While you are not the best at maths and science at school, I have to admit you are the best when it comes to imagination. A forest for toys! Very clever.’ Logan’s mother gave Logan a quick friendly ruffle of the hair.
‘But the grass is blue, Mum. That’s wrong isn’t it?’
‘Well, grass is green unless it is dying and has been yellowed by the sun. I think this isn’t real grass but fake grass. Why the factory made blue blades instead of green ones, is beyond me?’
‘They’ve made a mistake with the leaves of the tree too, Mum. See, its leaves are blue instead of green!’
‘Well, I suppose at least who ever designed this display is consistent.’
‘What does “consisent” mean?’
‘It means keeping things similar, even if it means keeping things similarly wrong.’
Logan didn’t quite understand what his mother had said, so he puffed out his cheeks and blew out a long steady spurt of air. Something he often did when he found himself struggling to understand something.
‘At least the tree’s gnarly branches, trunk and roots are brown,’ pointed out Logan’s mother. ‘It’s only the things that are meant to be green that are blue when you think about it. Everything else is the correct colour.’
‘I see,’ said Logan. But he didn’t really.
‘Look at the tree’s roots!’ said Logan’s mother. ‘They’re sticking out of the ground here there and everywhere. Twisting in and out of one another. I wonder what sort of tree it’s meant to be. I’ve never seen a tree like it—even if the leaves are the wrong colour.’
‘Is it a spaghetti tree?’ offered Logan jokingly, as to him the tree’s roots were very spaghetti like.
‘You are a one,’ said his mother placing her hand firmly on the top of his head and dinking it down playfully.’
‘Hey, gerroff, Mum!’ mumbled Logan between laughs.
When Logan repositioned his face to peer once again into the shop’s display, he suddenly noticed something more unusual than most about it.
‘Ooh!’ he exclaimed loudly. ‘The tree, Mum?’
‘What about it?’
‘It’s got a face!’
Logan’s mother looked carefully at the tree…
Sure enough three quarters of the way up its trunk the gnarly bark almost disguised a smiling face.
‘Ah, oh yes. So it does.’ Logan’s mother looked just as fascinated as he did. ‘And if you look closely, the words “Tweetygum the Tree” are carved above the tree’s small twinkling black eyes.’
‘Oh yes,’ agreed Logan. ‘That word’s definitely “Tweetygum” is it?’
‘Yes. It’s not a word or name I’ve seen before. But I think that’s how it’s pronounced.’
‘Tweetygum,’ said Logan, as he felt repeating the word would help him remember to recognise it in the future. If it came up in a school word-voice test (a test where a pupil has to read aloud words they are shown) he would be the only pupil to get it right. ‘Tweetygum. Eee by gum!’ he said jokingly. ‘There, that will help me remember the word, Mum.’
His mother smiled.
Logan’s eyes followed a thick white braided rope dangling down from one of the branches of Tweetygum the Tree. And hanging on this rope was a monkey wearing big red-spotted pyjamas. And on one particularly big red spot on the monkey’s chest was written the words ‘Martin the Monkey’. Martin had quite a cheeky grin on his face. One arm was straining on the rope, and the other holding a wooden craved banana. Logan thought the monkey was about to let go of the rope and jump down to the floor. But he never did, of course.
The monkey, like the horse, was so life-like that to Logan he looked more life-like than any stuffed monkey could ever look like. In fact, all the toys he spied through the window were looking as real as real can be. Including, in a strange sort of way, the non-animal ones! Dolls, teddy bears, trains, boats, cars, oh all kinds of things were grinning out of the window display. Whenever Logan looked at one, they always seemed to stare right back at him with a twinkle in their ‘living’ eyes.
Suddenly, Logan’s chest heaved as he drew in a huge breath…
‘Look! Look, Mum! On the floor in front of Henry the Horse. Look! There’s a football with a face drawn on it!’ Logan loved playing football, and this particular toy had an emotional effect on him, it somehow tugged at his heartstrings. ‘See the football, Mum? And look, it’s got “Freddy the Football” written above its eyes. He’s called Freddy. Freddy is very happy, isn’t he, Mum.’
‘Well, he looks very happy, all right—but I’m not sure a toy can actually be happy. But it can definitely look happy.’
‘But all these toys look sort of alive, so maybe they really are happy,’ insisted Logan, looking around the smiling toys gathered around the shop’s display. ‘Maybe they are alive and have been frozen in time.’
‘Hmm… Logan, that sounds quite an imaginative thing to say. I mean, I like the way you said that. But somehow I don’t think toys can be alive or frozen in time.’
‘They can in my story books,’ said Logan, looking away from the shop window and up at his mother’s smiling sea-blue eyes.
‘True,’ agreed his mother looking down thoughtfully at Logan. ‘And even in the real world, I suppose some of them might come alive at night when their owners are asleep.’
‘D’you think so?’ said Logan enthusiastically.
‘You never know,’ said Logan’s mother with one of her biggest most radiant smiles.
Logan turned his attention back through the shop’s fronted glass window.
He looked at a fluffy white tabby cat with big green eyes wearing a beautiful blue coat. A label on the coat carried the words ‘Camelia the Tabby Cat’. Was it really only a toy? Just sitting there staring at him with a big grin on its face as if it had just polished off a large bowl of cream. Logan’s eyes then drew themselves once more to Freddy the Football.
‘Mum?’ he said, tearing his gaze from Freddy for a moment and looking to the side at his mother with a hopeful look. ‘Can we buy my present from this shop please?’
‘Surely you don’t want your present from here,’ answered Logan’s mother. ‘I think this is a charity shop, Logan. All these toys are very glittery, colourful, alluring and life-like, but they are after all only second-hand. I can see these toys are incredibly likeable—just look at that sleepy-eyed furry little red-haired elephant leaning snugly against Tweetygum with its name “Ethelred the Elephant” engraved on its stately golden crown—but don’t you want a new toy?’
‘I like charity shops, Mum,’ said Logan, ‘They have…erm… What’s the word…ah yes… They have interesting toys in them sometimes, and lots of good books. You get great bargains too. And all the money goes to help people. That’s what you told me. And that’s good isn’t it?’
‘Oh yes, it is very good to help people, Logan,’ she said, looking proudly down to meet Logan’s concerned eyes.
‘And it might not be a charity shop,’ said Logan. But he didn’t hold out much hope.
Logan’s mother stepped back a pace on the pavement and looked around at the front of the shop searching for a name.
‘Ah, there’s the name of the shop,’ she said. ‘See above the window?’ She pointed upwards at the shop’s sign. It was written in gold lettered words on a purple painted wooden background.
‘Read it out, Mum, please,’ said Logan. ‘I’m not sure of all the words. You know my reading’s bad.’
‘It says, in its big gold lettered words: “Tomboli’s Britland Toys”, and then it says beneath that, in the very small words: “We are not a charity shop but we do support them and aim to help people. All toys are free (one toy per person only). Opening Times: 20 minutes per month.”’
‘Hmmm…“Britland”. Oh yes, that’s a word I’ve tried to learn before. I looked it up in the dictionary. Do you remember, Mum. It wasn’t in the dictionary, was it?’
‘I can’t remember all that. But the word “Britland” does ring a bell…’
‘And, Mum, did you say all the toys are free? Did you?’ Logan tugged at his mother’s wrist excitedly.
‘Well it does say so,’ said Logan’s mother, looking rather puzzled. ‘But only one toy per person. Hmm… There’s something very peculiar about this shop.’ She stroked her chin a few times, shrugged her shoulders and sighed. ‘All right, let’s go into the shop—there’s no harm in that, I suppose.’
Bring! Bring-ity bring!
The shop door’s old-fashioned shop bell sounded loudly as Logan’s mother pushed open the door…