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Bertie and the Boot Camp
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Bertie, the guiding spirit of Storynory, is a frog who likes to tell stories about the time when he was a human prince. His adventures range far and wide, and this one is no exception. We learn how when Bertie was a teenage prince, the King was afraid that he was growing into a “softy”. In order to toughen him up, he packed Bertie off to a boot camp in Scotland.
We think Bertie’s back on form with this story, and we hope that you are going to enjoy it !
Read by Natasha. Story by Bertie. Duration 16.40.
When Bertie was a wee small prince his father, the King, was planning to pack him off to boarding school in Scotland. The King had been to that boarding school. And the King’s father had been to it. And his grandfather. Not to mention his great grandfather, and his great great grandfather and who had also been school captain. All of them had suffered terribly at that school, and had absolutely hated it, but naturally they sent their sons there because it was the family tradition.
But fortunately, Bertie’s mother was still alive in those days, and she said “Absolutely not”, and “Not on your nelly,” and she made the King promise never to send Bertie to boarding school. And as the King kept his promises, he didn’t, even after the Queen passed up to a higher kingdom.
And so Bertie went to the day school in the palace.
One afternoon, when Bertie was already a teenage prince, the king came to watch him play in a school soccer match. Bertie was in goal. It wasn’t his normal position, but the regular keeper was in hospital with frostbite, and Bertie was absolutely frozen.
The King thought: “My boy looks a bit pathetic hopping up and down like a rabbit on the goal line,”
When Prince Boris came running into the penalty box with the ball at his feet, the King shouted:
“Bertie, come out,” and Bertie dived towards the ball, but Boris “accidentally on purpose” kicked Bertie’s head and scored in the corner of the net, before doing a cartwheel while his father, the Grand Duke von Clutterbuck shouted, “Great shot Boris. Now put another one past that weedy keeper.”
There was a cut above Bertie’s eye and he was quite dazed. The teacher shouted:
“Play on, it’s just a scratch,”
Bertie was so dizzy that he tripped over a blade of grass and Boris easily scored a second goal. In fact, by the time of the final whistle, the score was five nil.
That evening, when the king was sitting by the fire with the wicked queen, he said:
“Do you know. I”m rather worried that Bertie’s turning out to be a bit of a softy.”
“So am I. So am I, “ sympathized the Wicked Step Mother, who was a very different character from Bertie’s real mother, and greatly regretted that Bertie wasn’t away at boarding school. She went on: “Did you hear my dear, that after your old school was closed down for cruelty to children, it reopened as an exclusive, five star, all-inclusive, boot camp? “
“A boot camp,” echoed the King. “ Do you mean it puts on lots of out healthy activities like obstacle courses, cold baths, cross country runs, that sort of thing?”
“Exactly,” said the Queen.
“Just the ticket for a boy whose going a bit soft,” agreed the King.
And so it was, with the best of intentions, the king booked Bertie into the boot camp, because of course it wasn’t boarding school – but it was the next worst thing.
It was summer in the highlands of Scotland, which meant that when it wasn’t raining, clouds of midges descended from sky and ate you alive. The water in the loch was so cold that if you went swimming in it, you would come out looking like the Loch Ness monster. The windows in the old school house were so drafty, that at night it sounded like a pack of ghosts was trying to get in.
In fact, it was just the perfect setting for an all inclusive boot camp.
And Prince Boris’s father, who liked to keep up with the latest trends in the palace, sent his son there too, which was doubly unfortunate, because, you see, Bertie couldn’t stand Boris.
The master of the camp was Major Tim Smily-Hook (retired). Major Tim, as everyone knew him, wore a black patch over one eye, and walked with a stick as a result of his various war wounds. As Major Tim sipped a mug of brick-coloured tea laced with a wee dram of whisky, he was contemplating the rare honour of a personal letter from none other than her Majesty, The Wicked Queen. It read.
Dear Major Tim,
I commend to your care my step-son, Prince Bertie. Hitherto he has led a sheltered life within the confines of our Palace. It his Majesty the King’s fear that Bertie is turning into a softy. We require a SHORT SHARP SHOCK to straighten him out. Please provide him with your FULLEST service.
Give him HELL.
Major Tim had two sorts of clients. Some were tough kids who had been in trouble with the law, and the authorities sent them to his camp to see if a taste of the outdoors would sort them out.
Others were from rich families, and had parents like fashion designers, celebrity chefs, and retired rock stars. Normally Major Tim mixed his clients together so that they got to know people from different backgrounds. But this time he decided to do things a bit differently, as Prince Bertie discovered when he arrived the next day.
“Hi there. I’m Prince Bertie,” said our hero, as he threw his rucksack onto to a metal bunk bed.
A boy with an extremely short haircut stared at him as if he was an alien from out of space. He jabbed a finger in the direction of Bertie and said:
“Did I ken ye right? Your first name is Prince?”
“Ah actually no. My first name is Bertie. I’m a Prince. But you can call me just Bertie,”
“I’ll call you what I like. Do ye ken?”
“Ah, yes. I think I do.”
“And my name is Hans,” said a tall boy with a strong German accent. And and I will call you Prince Scum because that is a name that I like very much, HA ! “
And half a dozen voices laughed and said “Good one Hans !” because all the others in the group were tough kids, and they didn’t have a very high regard for princes.
When Bertie went out of the dorm to go to the bathroom, he wisely stopped outside the door and listened to what the boys inside were saying about him. He heard Hans’s voice.
“I have a funny joke. In the middle of the night we will tie Prince Scum to the bed with a climbing rope, and shave off all his hair.”
There was general laughter around the room, because everyone clearly thought that would be a jolly funny joke.
And so Bertie went to the store room and found a cricket bat. On his return he climbed up onto his bunk bed with the bat and let it be known that if anyone came near him in the night, they would receive a Six. And although none of the boys played cricket they understood that a Six with a cricket bat would probably hurt quite a lot, and they forgot their plan to tie him to the bed, and went to sleep.
The following morning in the dining hall, as the newcomers to the boot camp tried to eat the world’s lumpiest porridge and the coldest hardest, toast, Boris spotted his fellow prince and called out:
“Hey Bertie. I hear you didn’t sleep much last night,”.
And there was general laughter all around the hall, because the story of Bertie and the cricket bat had already got around. It was true, he hadn’t been able to sleep much, as he was on the look out for attackers all night long.
Over the following two weeks they tried all sorts of new activities such as a canoeing expedition on Loch Gorm, during which Bertie capsized dozens of times and was soaked through for two whole days; climbing, in which Bertie found that he could cling to the tiniest of pimples on the rock face of a mountain , and somehow scramble up an impossible cliff with a looping overhang at the top,; abseiling down a rope from a terrifying height; endless hikes up mountains through the drizzle and mist, during which Bertie somehow managed to appreciate the beauty of Scotland. He thought it quite remarkable that if you arrange rocks, thistles, mists and gushing streams in just the right fashion, they become stunningly attractive to the eye. It was just a pity about the rain and the biting attacks by flying insects, which the Scottish lads called “wee beasties”.
But a greater torment than the “wee beasties”, the boys from Hamburg and Glasgow, still made it clear that they didn’t think much of princes whose fathers paid for them to come on all inclusive boot camps.
He shared his supply of chocolate, which softened their attitude a little bit. He stood up to Hans, who threated to punch him, and then backed off. That won him a little respect. But as they approached the end of the boot camp. Bertie had still not made any friends. He didn’t feel miserable. Two weeks of wet and cold had made him indifferent to almost everything.
Captain Tim wondered if he had given Bertie a hard enough time to satisfy the Wicked Queen. He concluded:
“Probably not. He’s not cracked a bit. The young prince has had it way too easy.”
And so for the grand finale to the boot camp he thought up a new activity that he was certain would sort Bertie out. It was a game of hide and seek, only with a few original twists.
Boris lead a group of seekers. Bertie lead a group of hiders. The major borrowed a pack of hunting dogs.
“Right now Boris. Here’s something I pinched from the laundry that will help the dogs get the scent.”
And he handed him a pair of Royal Blue y-fronts with royal crest embroidered on the hem. They could only have belonged to Prince Bertie.
“Why thanks Major Tim,” said Boris.
“‘Oh, and when you catch anyone, chuck ‘em in the coal hole for the night. “
“Right oh,” said Boris. The cole hole was a cavern beneath the school. It would make an excellent dungeon – cold, damp, dirty, and pitch black. I was said to be haunted by the ghosts of boys who had died while at the boarding school.
And Major Tim thought to himself, “Well if Bertie doesn’t go back to the Wicked Queen crying that he had the worst time of his life, then my name’s Florence Nightingale.”
As darkness fell, Bertie’s group split up and ran into the woods. Billy ran into the barn and hid in some hay stacks. Hans found a cave in some rocks. The others dug holes in the ground and covered themselves with leaves, or built shelters and disguised them with bushes. Bertie ran as far as he could. When he heard the sound of barking he thought:
“Oh oh. They’ve set the hounds on us. That’s not playing fair.”
He started to splash along a stream to put them off the scent. He thought of running across the road and hiding in the next door farm, but that was out of bounds. Then he had a better idea. He saw a branch of a tree that was overhanging the stream. He pulled himself up onto it, and started to climb upwards. He went higher and higher until he was lost among the canopies.
The dogs were all over the woods and the others were being unearthed like so many rabbits. He heard Boris shout.
“Bertie I can see you. Come out with your hands up.”
But he knew it was just a bluff because Boris was also cursing the dogs for not finding Bertie’s scent. When he had rounded up all eleven of the other group and taken them off to the coal hole, he came back again for Bertie. It was getting on for midnight. Bertie looked was growing tired clinging to a branch high up in his tree, but he listened with satisfaction as Boris led the dogs across the road and into the next door farm.
When the hunters finally gave up and went back home, Bertie climbed down from his tree. He was tempted to go back to bed by himself, but then he thought of the others lying in the dark coal hole. He didn’t care for them much, and he it might serve them right. Then he felt a sense of injustice rising up inside him.
“Nobody deserves to be treated like that,” he thought.
And so he sneaked passed the sleeping sentry, unbolted the coal hole, and released the prisoners. They came out covered in dirt and spluttering with coal dust. The sentry, who was the daughter of a TV weather man, awoke, but she was frightened by the dark figures emerging out of the coal hole, and she pretended to be still asleep. They all ran back to the showers and spent the night tucked up in bed.
In the morning, an angry farmer called to say that a pack of dogs had been running through his crops. Major Tim was not pleased with Boris.
But as for Bertie… need I say that he was a bit of a hero? Even Hans shook his hand and apologised for calling him Prince Scum. Billy patted him on the back and said,
“Now I ken that you’re a great lad, even if you are a prince.”
And Bertie invited them all to come and stay at the palace for Christmas. He knew that the Wicked Queen would hardly be pleased, but he didn’t really care about that. He danced with the prettiest girl at the end of camp jig – but of course he didn’t forget the lovely Princess Beatrice. And Major Tim wrote to the Wicked Queen saying:
“I gave him my worst, but Prince Bertie is a tough nut and a hard case, and if he ever wants a job in the marines, I’d be glad to recommend him.