Gwen Penguin And The Valley Of The Cod

Once upon a time there was a little penguin, called Gwen, who lived with her family in an icy lair next to the other penguins.

[image of GP’s house, GP looking out of the window at the other penguins, mother and father penguin behind her.]

Gwen Penguin liked nothing more than to have a nice snack, and then fall asleep. It was tiring being a penguin! One day, when she was particularly tired, Gwen Penguin had a little nap – even though it wasn’t night!

[image of GP going to bed, the sun shining outside and the clock stating afternoon] Slowly but surely, she started to dream

[image of dreams forming, taking over the icy lair via thought like bubbles: small ones across the page, leading to the start of an image of an icy valley.]

Gwen Penguin had lots of dreams, but today, she had one that was special! Today, she started to dream about the valley of the cod!

[new page] Gwen Penguin had heard of the valley of the cod when she was just a little penguin. As she dreamt, she found herself waddling down the valley. There were other penguins there, and they all looked full.

[image of many a fat penguin looking confused, their wings spread slightly as they were too fat to put them down by their sides.]

“Is this the valley of the cod?” asked Gwen to a passing penguin named Colin. “It is,” replied Colin, “but its no good now.” Gwen Penguin was confused. The valley of the cod was the place where all the penguins had enough to eat – not like when she was awake! She looked about her, and the other penguins seemed full – but she couldn’t see any food! “Where are all the fish?” asked Gwen Penguin. “I like a nice fish dish.”

[image of Gwen Penguin imagining being at the table with mother penguin bringing some sort of fish pie, the head of the cod sticking out from the side, its mouth open.]

“All the fish have gone” said Colin. “We just ate the last one!” Gwen Penguin was shocked! How could there be no food in the valley of the cod – and what could be done? “We’ve been eating too many fish,” said Colin, “and now there are none left. We’ve been greedy.”

At that moment, Gwen Penguin woke up. What a relief! It wasn’t nice to find out that all the penguins had been greedy. Later on, Gwen Penguin’s mother called her to the table for her dinner. Normally, that was the best spot of the day, apart from when she was asleep.

“No cod for me please!” she exclaimed. “From now on, I’m just having vegetables!” From that moment on, Gwen Penguin never ate another fish. And, as her friends stopped eating as many fish, do you know what? More cod started appearing in the waters around them. Gwen Penguin liked to see the cod – and now when she dreamt of them, they were her friends!

[image of GP asleep, dreaming of swimming next to a shoal of cod, the head cod waving at her.]

THE END.

Next time on vegan propaganda for children: why drinking milk will make you burn in hell, without your favourite toys!

Work

It was the old steel city
a rolling metal landscape
once home to the daily march
of the thousands of workers,

an army for the
People’s Republic of South Yorkshire
trudging in hobnail boots in grime valleys
by the temptation of corner pubs.

And now, the old army is retired
replaced by troops of new media
of call centres and button pressing
in the mazes of customer support.

Remember, as you walk down by the
Vickers? This was the journey thousands
made every day, for their keep, and
the country’s industry,

before it rotted, and the route
changed to one for cars
travelling to the shopping centre,
to catch the imported bargains in bright boxes.

And the city fathers look down from
their old general resting place as
the old place vanishes
brick after brick.

They rest easy as they supported
the change, paid for in education
and the tide of students,
clinging to the hope of their results.

“Andy?’

He ignored her. She wasn’t the cause of this. No. This was worse. This was an absolute total return to the past. And there could be absolutely nothing that he could do that would be more wrong. Especially now. And, worse still, there was absolutely nothing he could do to stop it.

“Are you okay?”

“Sure.”

First lie of the day. Best not to look at the clock. He felt that there would be more to come.

We were running late and the train would leave without us. Of course, we didn’t know this. Stuck in the Empire, trying to check out whilst the girl behind the desk filed her nails in disinterest whilst the credit card machine failed to connect. Again. We’d stood there fifteen minutes and it was steadfastful refusing to accept any friendship from our flexible payment.

“I’m sorry, Mr Schott. It’s very busy today.”

Back to the nails.

Maggie swore again, and walked over to the door.

“Andy come on. This is the last taxi.”

She turned round to face me and missed seeing the car drive away into the distance. I looked back at the desk.

“Do you have any other means of payment?”

“I’ve already told you.”

“Of course. I’ll try again.”

Maggie walked back to the desk. She always hated times like this. For her, leaving a hotel should be just that: walking out. Let them send a bill if they care; let her pay it if she could be bothered. Aside from tossing the keys across the counter, she found the whole exit messy, and an invasion of her time and privacy. No patience, that was the trouble, but she had a point. Maggie was known here. Known everywhere I suppose, and the sooner she could leave a place the better. I wasn’t No idol me – and perhaps that was why she liked me. The anonymous face without a life to detract from her own.

Today, though, she was not happy with me. It had been my idea to take that final walk by the water, and my fault, by extension, that.. well, it was my fault the money was gone. And my fault that we were now trying to leave the hotel with the one final card, continually being rejected or not even talking to base camp with its call for approval. Until..

“Sign here.”

Even on the best of days, my signature looks like a drowning spider has staggered across the page still covered in the ink from its final accident. The girl behing the desk didn’t look closely. I could have called myself Mickey Mouse and she would have taken the payment. Nothing to do with Maggie, this was her own rejection of the world around. Why pay attention to what is around you if you can’t stab at it with sharpened talons?

Maggie saw that the transaction was complete and dragged me to the door, yanking my arm from its socket as I just succeeeded in picking up my small shoulder bag from the floor.

“Come on.”

We ran outside and she saw for the first time that the taxi had gone.

“Fucker. Fuck. I asked him to wait.”

We looked at the road and the cars running past. There were others, like us, who were looking out from the side of the hotel. I thought that the place would have arranged a car for us. No such luck. Not here. Not after the weekend that we had just faced.

“STOP!”

I always hate cotradicting Maggie when she’s wrong, especially when she’s so wrong as to be standing in the middle o the road, arm outstretched to deflect the journey of an oncoming volkswagon.

“Maggie, MOVE!”

The car stopped. She moved then. To the door.

“We need to get to the airport.”

I will never, ever, forget the look of terror in that poor woman’s face as my demented love took control of the car.