Could you live without your technology? What would you do without your digital games?
Princess Beatrice thinks that Bertie spends far too much time lying on the couch and playing games on his tablet. Sounds familiar? She takes him on holiday to the Land that Time Forgot where all modern technology is banned. How will Bertie manage?
Story by Bertie
Read by Natasha.
Illustrations by Chiara Civati
Proofread by Jana Elizabeth & Claire Deakin
Bertie in the Land that Time Forgot -
Throughout the long years that Bertie was a frog, he had missed out on so many things: like the new Angry Insects Game and the 3D Vampire movies. In fact, back in the time when the Wicked Queen made him green and amphibious, iPads had not even been invented yet. Wow! It’s hard to imagine that world, isn’t it?
As soon as he became a human prince, he made up for lost time. He quickly got to level 300 in Droid Rush, and his island on DigCraft was the most spectacular you ever saw.
Almost everyone was impressed by Bertie’s rapid progress at gaming. But not Beatrice. She thought that Bertie spent far too much time lying on the sofa with his tablet, and not nearly enough time in the real world with her. There were days when she thought that quite frankly, he might as well still be a frog because when she tried to speak to him, he just stared at her blankly and said, “Croak,” before going back to his game.
When it came to picking a summer holiday, Bertie was happy to leave that to Beatrice.
“This is where I want to go,” she said as she handed him a brochure. It was painted on thick paper, almost like card, and the colours were all slightly faded. Its title, in Gothic letters, announced:
The Land that Time Forgot.
Bertie turned the pages. There were pictures of horse-drawn carts, penny-farthing bicycles, fat policemen, steam trains, and people wearing flouncy hats and plus-four trousers.
“Is this some sort of time travel?” Asked Bertie, who was willing to believe that anything was possible.
“Not exactly,” replied Beatrice, “but it’s a bit like going back in time. It’s a whole kingdom that has decided to go back to old fashioned ways. They’ve banned modern motor cars, mobile phones, game consoles, and television, and processed food… and all the things that make life hectic and distracting and stressful. People go there to detox, you know, get all that sort of stuff out of their system – because quite frankly, some people are addicted to their gadgets, games and gizmos.”
“And what would we do there?” asked Bertie, puzzled.
“Well instead of playing Angry Insects on your tablet, you could talk to me and go for romantic walks,” said Beatrice.
Bertie knew that his fate was sealed, and he had to make the best of things. He decided to surprise Beatrice by becoming a proper old fashioned prince just for the holiday. He bought some shirts with cufflinks and collars that you fasten on with studs. He found a blazer with gold buttons, and he grew a moustache which he waxed so that it was all twirly.
All motor vehicles made before 1970 were banned from the kingdom. But Bertie found a vintage motorbike in the garage that had belonged to his uncle. The mechanic got it working, and polished it with wax so it was all shiny. Beatrice sat behind Bertie. They took their luggage in a sidecar. He gave the bike a kick start and the engine roared. They rode to the Land that Time Forgot with plenty of spluttering and clattering – and Beatrice loved every minute of clinging to Bertie’s waist and feeling at one with the world as it rushed by.
When they reached the border post, the soldiers on guard went through their luggage searching for any illegal modern gadgets. Luckily they did not discover that Bertie had a mobile phone and charger sewn into the lining of his leather jacket.
They drove over rugged mountains to the capital city. Once they were there, they bumped over cobbled streets past iron railings, gateways guarded by stone lions, houses built out of large stones – under arches, and through squares where fountains played. Sometimes the narrow way was blocked by a horse and cart. Almost everyone they saw wore a hat of some sort – as it was a holiday place, straw boaters were popular. The cars were black and squarish, but ever so beautiful.
They felt quite at home in the hotel, because it was like a palace. Its marble and crystal and panelled walls made it even more opulent than they were used to. The beds were covered in pillows, so they could have great cushion fights. The bath was so big that you could swim in it. Bertie could hide behind the giant curtains and jump out and surprise Beatrice when she came back from the bathroom.
In the day they visited the cathedral and the art gallery, and watched the changing of the guard outside the King’s palace. In the evening they went to the ballet.
A beauty and health spa was tucked away inside the basement of the hotel. Beatrice booked herself in for a steam bath, followed by a massage, a facial, and a manicure and pedicure. Her beauty pampering would take all morning.
Bertie stayed up in their suite of rooms. He told Beatrice that he was going to read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, but in fact he did not manage more than a few pages before he started to think about the mobile phone he had smuggled across the border. He took out his nail scissors and carefully cut open the lining of his motor bike jacket. He did not expect it to function as a phone while they were in the Land that Time Forgot, but the games were all working fine. Soon he was happily zapping space invaders.
But oh dear, Beatrice returned sooner than expected. She had not enjoyed the treatment. The steam room was so cold you could catch a chill, and the masseur should have been an all-in-wrestler. She was in a bad mood when she stormed into the room and said:
“Bertie! What are you doing?”
Bertie looked up guiltily. “Just phoning my Aunt Gertrude to see how she is,” he lied.
“No you’re not. You’re playing games,” said Beatrice angrily. “I’m confiscating that,” and she snatched the phone off him and put it in her silk purse.
Bertie tried not to sulk as they went down in the lift but it was hard. He brightened up when a butler approached him with a letter on a tray. “I was just bringing this to your room sir,” he said. Bertie could see that it was sealed with wax. He sat down with Beatrice on a gold sofa and opened the envelope with a silver letter knife. Inside was a letter addressed to Prince Bertie and Princess Beatrice inviting them to lunch at the king’s palace.
“How did the king know we were here?” asked Bertie. “We are booked into the hotel using false names.”
“Well I told him we were coming,” said Beatrice. “He’s my uncle.”
“You kept that quiet,” said Bertie.
“I thought you might not approve,” said Beatrice blushing.
“You mean he’s the brother of the Wicked Queen?”
“Well you know, all royals are one big family, and he’s really very nice,” said Beatrice.
“Hmm, I would not call somebody who stops you using a mobile phone nice,” said Bertie. Then it was Beatrice’s turn to sulk.
They both had to cheer up in time for lunch at the palace. Beatrice’s uncle Ferdinand wore a white uniform emblazoned with medals and had a neat grey beard so that he looked a little bit like the last Tsar of Russia. The meal was served on the terrace overlooking the river and they watched steamboats and pleasure cruisers sailing past.
Beatrice praised the food. “It’s such a joy to eat tomatoes which really taste like tomatoes, and new potatoes that are bursting with flavour. Everything from the supermarket at home is so bland and same-y,” she gushed.
“This breed of potato is named in my honour,” boasted their host. “They are called King Ferdinands, and it will be my honour to decree that the tomatoes be named after my darling niece… From henceforth they shall be called Princess Beatrices.”
Beatrice was delighted with the compliment from her uncle. Bertie asked Ferdinand why he had decided to turn his kingdom into the Land that Time Forgot.
“I thought it was good marketing,” he replied. “These days small kingdoms have to differentiate themselves in the market otherwise they just get over-shadowed by bigger and flashier holiday destinations.”
“You mean it was a business decision?” said Beatrice, disappointedly. “I thought it was more because you were into traditional values and conserving the past.”
“Oh no, just scratch the surface and you’ll find a very modern kingdom,” said Ferdinand. “It all looks old fashioned, but underneath this is the most technologically advanced theme park in the world.”
“It is?” said Bertie, surprised.
“Oh yes, rather,” said Ferdinand. “Have you seen the changing of the guard? All the soldiers are computer generated in 3D. It’s the cheapest army to run in the whole world! We don’t have to pay for a single tin of boot polish.”
“Wow,” said Bertie. Even Beatrice was impressed. It turned out that all the works of art in the gallery were also electronic fakes, and that the steam trains and even some of the horse drawn carriages were all operated by a sophisticated computer system. Many of the buildings were actually built with virtual reality blocks and then projected onto screens, but they looked so real you could never tell unless you tried to walk into them. As for the real tasting tomatoes and potatoes, they were all developed in the laboratory. And the roast beef was made out of genetically modified soya beans.
Bertie enjoyed the dessert, because it was a light, fluffy and bright concoction that tasted of strawberries and was made from a packet of powder and whipped up with condensed milk. As they thanked their host, he asked an awkward question:
“By the way, how’s my sister?”
He meant of course The Wicked Queen.
Bertie blushed slightly and said, “Oh we don’t talk to her much now. She’s a frog, you know, and lives in the pond.”
“I heard,” said Ferdinand darkly. “That wasn’t very nice of you Bertie, was it, to go turning your future mother in law into a piece of pondlife.”
“I did no such thing,” said Bertie. “I’m not a magician. First she turned me into a frog, and then when I became human again, she turned herself into one by accident. Serves her right too for being so wicked.”
“Well it has come to my attention that you have broken the laws of our kingdom by smuggling a mobile phone across the frontier,” said Ferdinand.
And when Bertie heard those words, he felt a sense of foreboding – like he had walked into a trap. He glanced at Beatrice. She bit her lip and looked anxious.
The king ordered Bertie to empty his pockets, and when that did not turn up the illegal phone, he told the guards to search him.
“We shall have to search your room a second time,” he said.
Bertie realised that their room was being searched while they were at lunch. He thought what a good thing it was that Beatrice had confiscated his phone. But oh no! Just then there was a loud
De De De DEEEEEEE!
Bertie’s phone was ringing in Beatrice handbag. “Excuse me,” said Beatrice, as cool as a cucumber. She opened her bag and answered it. It was a sales agent who was giving a courtesy call to see if Bertie wanted a better deal on his palace’s insurance policy.
“Er he’s not here right now,” said Beatrice and hung up.
“Guards, arrest the princess,” ordered the king. And two soldiers came up and placed strong hands around her arms.
But King Ferdinand laughed and said, “That was my plan, Bertie, but now I see it is better to detain the princess. If you want her back, you shall have to restore my sister to her former glory.”
“But I’ve no idea how to do that,” said Bertie. “She’s stuck as a frog for a few years at least.”
“You’ll find a way,” said Ferdinand. “My soldiers will escort you to the border. Go back home and unfrog her, or you will never marry your darling lovey dove’y princess.”
“Bertie don’t do it!” called out Beatrice. “She’s too wicked. The world is far better off with her on the pond.”
“I don’t think I could even if I wanted to,” said Bertie, crestfallen.
A day and half later, Bertie returned home alone, and feeling very angry. He had to rescue Beatrice, but short of declaring war on the Land that Time Forgot, how could he force Ferdinand to release her?
He was so down, he did not even want to play computer games. His cyber-friend Prince Sven, was messaging him, challenging him to a round of Space Dragons. He had never actually met Prince Sven, but they played games online together.
He tried to ignore Sven but his phone kept on buzzing with messages. Eventually Bertie opened up his chat app and wrote:
“Can’t play today. Fiancée got arrested while we were on holiday. Trying to sort it out. Might have to declare war.”
“Cool,” messaged Sven back. “Have you ever tried Cyber War?”
“No time for games right now,” replied Bertie.
“This is no game,” wrote Sven. “I mean Cyber War for real.”
The first indication that all was not right in the Land that Time Forgot came when diners at the hotel started sending their food back to the kitchen. They complained that the King Ferdinand potatoes smelled like rotten cabbages, and the chocolate pudding tasted of beetroot. Then visitors to the art gallery no longer found French Impressionist paintings on the walls, but action comic strips about super heroes. The ballet was taken over by hip hop dancers. The soldiers outside the palace, instead of changing the guard, linked arms and did the French Can Can. A horse and cart puffed out stinky purple exhaust fumes. Rococo Buildings turned into glass and concrete sky scrapers. One of them took off like a rocket and whizzed around the sky like some sort of berserk firework. The traffic lights went crazy and traffic jams of vintage cars clogged up the cobbled streets. Police sirens were wailing everywhere. The once tranquil capital city was loud, smelly and congested.
King Ferdinand was on his mobile phone trying to get through to technical support. All the lines were engaged and he was listening to bland elevator music, getting more and more furious by the minute. Eventually he got through to his Chief Technical Office who gasped:
“Sorry Sir, we are under attack!”
“What sort of attack?” Asked the king, desperately.
“Cyber attack sir. As soon as we close one gap in our firewall, another one opens. They just keep coming and coming at us. We are doing everything we can but this is a massive offensive against us. It’s all out war, Sir.”
Ferdinand was on the balcony of his room. He was so shocked that it took him a minute or so to notice that an army of giant frogs were hopping across the forecourt and invading the palace. The croaking was deafening. It was terrifying. The windows of the palace were rattling. Ferdinand’s hands were trembling.
Ambassadors and Foreign ministers were constantly calling. Overseas governments were flying in planes to evacuate tourists. Worse still – holiday agents were cancelling bookings and demanding their money back.
Then suddenly, just as the frogs were bursting through the front door of the palace and guards were running for their lives, the attack stopped. All the virtual attackers disappeared. Glass and concrete turned back to stone. Hip hop dancers were ballerinas once again. And joy of joys, the puddings tasted of chocolate.
Fedinand’s mobile phone rang.
“Hi there, it’s Bertie,” said a familiar and rather annoying voice. “Do you give up, or shall we resume the cyber attack?”
“What do you want?” asked the king.
“Just my fiancée back, please,” said Bertie. “Because there is one thing in this world that is real and can never be recreated in virtual reality – and that is love.”