Natasha’s storytelling has been coming in for some criticism of late, from none other than Colin the Carp (whom all the pond life know to be a particularly grumpy fish). This led to a huge argument on the pond, and eventually, after many protests and demands, Colin was forced to reveal the secret of how he got his grouch.
Told By Natasha. Duration 11 minutes
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
Just the other day, I was taking a walk through palace orchard, and picking some apples, and thinking to myself I would make some apple crumble because it is yummy-scrummy. And I just happened to overhear some pond life talking to one another.
“Let’s play a game,” said Tim the Tadpole, excitedly. “We could play… er… play…”
But Tim was so excited that he swam into a stone and banged his tiny head.
“Why bother playing anything at all?” Said Colin. “Games are boring.” As it happened, the pond life couldn’t agree on what game to play, and so Sadie the elegant black swan suggested that they all practice swimming around in perfectly elegant circles, which is what she does to pass the time.
“Grrrr!” Said Colin. “Swimming in circles will get us nowhere.”
“I’ve got it,” boomed Bertie. “We’ll ask Natasha to tell us a story.”
Colin shook his scaly head. “Oh no, here we go again,” he moaned. “Natasha’s stories are soooo boring. She’s always going on about animals who talk. How ridiculous! Who could believe that?”
But when I heard Colin criticise my storytelling, I became quite cross. I put down my apples and walked over to the pond.
“What I want to know,” I said. “Is why exactly Colin is such a grumpy old fish.”
“Well said, Natasha!” Boomed Bertie. “I’ve been wondering that too! Colin, why exactly are you such a wet, ugly, grouchy, boring, and constipated old fish?”
Colin just opened and closed his mouth (as fish do), without saying anything. Quite honestly, I thought he looked a bit stupid. Then Sadie the Swan said, “Colin, my dearest fish, did you get out of bed on the wrong side one morning?”
“Don’t be silly,” snapped Colin. “I don’t have a bed.”
“Tell us, tell us, do tell us,” pleaded little Tim. “Why are you so grumpy?”
“Oh, no, don’t you start!”
But all the other little tadpoles started to swim in circles around Colin, singing,
“It’s raining, it’s pouring, and grumpy old Colin’s boring”
It’s been a long while, since we’ve seen him smile,
So we’re all going to ignore him.”
“Stop! Stop!” Pleaded Colin. “You’ll drive me nuts. I’ll tell you the story if you’re really that interested. At least it won’t be as boring as another one of those tales about the lovely Princess Beatrice and how she lost one of her fluffy toys.”
So this is the story of how Colin the Carp became grumpy.
Once upon a time, Colin was a merry young carp, happily playing with lots of other little fishes in the pond. He was laughing and joking and telling funny fishy jokes.
Then one day, two men came and sat down by the side of the pond. They took out a thermos of tea, and some marmite sandwiches, and made themselves comfortable. Then they pulled out some long thin sticks, which had some string on the end of them. They started throwing their lines into the pond.
“What are they doing?” Said the young Colin.
“I don’t know,” said his great friend, Crispen the Carp. “Let’s watch and find out.”
So they stuck their little faces out of the water and watched them.
“Well, well,” said one of the men. “It’s a good day for fishing, I reckon.”
As he did said this, he again tossed the line into the water not far away from Colin. Right on the end of the line was the biggest, juiciest dead insect that Colin or Crispen had ever seen.
“Wow, Jam-ie,” said Colin enthusiastically, because of course he wasn’t at all grumpy in those days. “I see what fishing is. It’s when humans come along and feed delicious snacks to the fish – and in particular the young carp – just to show how much they appreciate them.”
He started to swim nearer to the yummy-scrummy looking dead insect.
“No, wait,” said Crispen. “My mummy told me never to accept dead flies from strange men.”
So Colin waited, but he felt a bit sad, because the fly really looked really, really tasty. It was so fat and juicy that it was simply irresistible, He just couldn’t help opening his mouth and snapping it up – but oh no, now he felt a terrible yank in his mouth and suddenly he found himself wriggling in the middle of the air. And soon he was gasping from breath – for you see, as he’s a fish, he can’t stick his head out of the water for more than a short time.
“Oh dear,” thought Colin, “I think I’ve been a bit silly.”
“Oooooo!” Squealed Crispen. “It’s all a nasty, horrid trick. Poor Colin – now those men are going to bang him on the head and fry him for dinner with chips and peas and tomato sauce on the side – that’s what my mummy said people do to fish.”
As Colin was was wriggling in the air, one of the two men said, “Oh no, there’s nothing but a stupid baby carp in this pond.”
“It’s all rubbish,” snorted his friend. “Carp are the most tasteless boring fish in the world. Besides, that’s only a tiddler. Chuck him back in the water and let’s go home. My wife’s cooking fish fingers for lunch.”
So the man unhooked Colin and threw him back into the water. His mouth felt like he had the worst toothache ever. He sank to the bottom of the pond and hid under a stone, until much later when his mummy came and found him.
“So, you see,” said Colin as he finished the story, “after that, I decided that the whole world was a rotten place. Nobody likes carp – not even the fishermen. And if no one likes carp, then carp don’t like anyone else.”
All the pond life sat round quite silently, since it was really a very sad story, and they all felt a bit sorry for Colin.
Then Sadie the Swan said, “But don’t you see, Colin, its actually better if people don’t like you, because it means they don’t want to eat you. So really you had a lot to be happy about that morning, not sad.”
“And I like you too, Colin,” said Tim, “because you were once young and had silly thoughts, just like me.”
“And we all know it’s better just to live together on the pond,” said Bertie, “and listen to Natasha’s stories.”
On hearing all these kind words, Colin cheered up, just a bit, and even gave a small scaly smile. “Alright,” he said. “I’ll try not be quite so grumpy. Just so long as Tim doesn’t ask any more silly questions, and Bertie keeps his fat ugly mouth…”
“Now, now, Colin,” I told him. “That’s enough grumping for one day.”