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Chapter 16: Luke Walker and the Maybury Christmas Fayre
Luke reached for it at the exact same time as Jared. They scowled at each other.
“Let me have it. I saw it first,” Luke insisted.
“We saw it at the same time,” Jared argued, “and I’m the oldest so you have to do what I say.”
“I do not,” said Luke emphatically.
“Boys!” Mr Walker halted their squabbling, “what’s the trouble now?”
“I want to get this for Mum,” explained Luke, “I saw it first.”
“No he didn’t!” argued his brother, “I saw it first and I want to get it for Mum.”
The item in question was a dainty ceramic ornament depicting Little Bo Peep with a lamb – an ideal Christmas gift for anyone’s mother. Dad took it off them and asked the lady how much it was.
“All the small ornaments are 50p,” she told him.
Dad looked at Jared and appealed to his better nature.
“Luke doesn’t have much money Jared, so this is all he can afford. You’ve got your paper round money so you’ll be able to find something else. Let your brother have this one.”
“Okay,” he agreed and wandered off to the home-made jam stall.
Luke pulled a sticky fifty pence piece out of his pocket and handed it to the lady. She wrapped the ornament in tissue paper for him. Dad smiled.
“Your mum’ll love that Luke, nice find.”
“Where is Mum?” Luke asked.
“Where d’you think?” said Dad, grinning.
“Tombola!” they both said at the same time.
This was the first time they’d been to the Maybury Christmas Fayre and it was pretty good. There were lots of stalls where you could buy Christmas presents for reasonable prices – some things were second hand, some were home-made. There were games, like Mum’s favourite, the Tombola, where you had to get a ticket ending in 5 or 0 to win a prize, and some which had a prize every time like the lucky dip or Luke’s favourite where you paid 50p for a jar wrapped in Christmas paper without knowing what was in it. If you were lucky it might be a jar full of sweets or marbles; if you were unlucky it might be full of tea bags. But even that wasn’t a complete loss because it could be a Christmas present for someone. Nan liked tea. There was also a cake stall, a raffle, and a dog show to see who was the prettiest dog and who was the cleverest dog and who was the most obedient dog. Luke knew that Dudley wouldn’t enjoy that because he was the type of dog who had no interest in performing. He was clever, but didn’t feel it necessary to prove that to anyone. He was his own dog and Luke respected that.
The other good thing about the Christmas Fayre was that it was in aid of helping animals. Maybury Centre for Animal Welfare was a sanctuary where they looked after horses and donkeys and sheep and chickens and tortoises and anyone else who needed help and came their way. They also rescued dogs and cats and rabbits and guinea pigs who’d been abandoned or neglected or cruelly treated, and they found happy new homes for them. Luke was very glad that his Christmas shopping money was going to such a good cause.
By three o’clock Luke had done all his shopping and was very happy with what he’d got for everyone: Little Bo-Peep for Mum; gloves for Dad; football book for Jared; jar of tea for Nan; bowling DVD for Grandad; and a jar of marbles for Joe. Plus he’d been lucky enough to score a jar of gobstoppers and a really cool stainless steel whistle for himself.
Luke had 87p left so while Dad went to find Mum, he decided to have a final look round. In doing so he came across a man wearing climbing gear standing behind a table with a pen and a long list of names and numbers.
“Sponsor me to abseil down the clock tower?” he solicited.
“What’s that?” asked Luke.
“Abseil means to descend down the side of a building on a rope.”
Luke looked confused.
The man tried again to explain.
“So, I’ll stand on the top of the tower wearing this harness attached to a rope which will be doubled through a loop. And I’ll jump off the top and bounce my feet on the side of the tower, going down bit by bit, sliding the rope through my hands until I get the bottom.”
“Yeah, I get what you mean, but why would you do that?”
“To raise money for Maybury.”
“But why don’t you get sponsored to do somethin’ useful, instead of abstainin’.”
“Abseiling,” he corrected. “Raising money is useful for Maybury. They can do a lot of good things with it.”
“Yes, but if the thing you got sponsored for doin’ was useful as well, like you could get sponsored for pickin’ up litter, then you would get money and at the same time you would have done somethin’ really useful.”
The man looked over Luke’s head at the elderly couple approaching his table.
“Sponsor me to abseil down the clock tower?” he asked them.
Luke moved on. When he got to the cafe he decided to pop in. He knew that 87p wouldn’t ordinarily get him a cupcake but, since the end of the day was approaching, they might have made them half price. Or maybe there was a squashed one that nobody else wanted. It was worth a look. He stepped inside and picked up a menu. That was somewhat disturbing.
This animal sanctuary, this place of love and compassion, of respite and rescue; this place whose slogan, “We care about the well being of every animal”, was written across every sign and above every doorway, was selling dead animals in its cafe.
Luke spoke to the lady behind the till.
“Why are you selling meat?”
“Erm, well, it’s on the menu,” she replied.
“But why is it on the menu?”
“Because it’s a cafe,” she said, not knowing why he was confused.
“It’s a animal sanct’ry cafe,” Luke pointed out, “and meat is dead animals.”
“Ahh,” she replied, finally understanding where he was coming from. “All of our meat is from local, free range farms.”
“What does that mean?”
“What does that mean?”
By this time a queue had formed behind Luke and when the manager saw that it wasn’t moving, he came over.
“Is everything okay over here?” he asked the lady on the till.
“Oh, yes, erm, this young man has a question about the menu,” she told him.
The manager steered Luke away from the counter.
“How can I help you?” he asked.
Luke started again.
“Why do you sell meat here?”
“Because people want to eat it,” the manager answered.
“But what about the animals who get killed for your meat?”
“And your eggs?”
“Ah, the eggs …”
“And cheese and milk and ice cream?” Luke was getting louder and people were starting to look.
The manager spoke quietly in an effort to diffuse the situation.
“I assure you that all the meat, eggs, fish, and dairy sold here comes from local free range farms with sustainable practices.”
Luke was exasperated.
“That’s what she said!”
“What does that mean?”
“It means that it doesn’t come from factory farms where animals are kept in small cages. The animals are well looked after and are free to walk around.”
“Until they’re killed,” said Luke.
“Er, yes,” said the manager.
“And are the killin’ sheds free range?”
“Er, no,” the manager admitted.
“Are they special killin’ sheds or are they the same killin’ sheds what the factory farm animals go to?”
The manager knew a lot of eyes were on him and for a few moments he didn’t say anything. Luke, however, had plenty more to say.
“They’re the same horrible killin’ sheds aren’t they? And them animals is the same as the animals who you look after here; who you say you love; who you say should be treated kindly.”
At this the manager felt he had a good come-back. He answered with confidence.
“Ah, no, we don’t sell the meat of any of the species who live at the sanctuary. Only beef and pork and fish.”
Luke looked at him with disdain.
“And,” the manager added with a smile, “we do have vegetarian and vegan options on the menu. We’ve got something for everyone.”
Luke was bitterly disappointed in what he had thought was a wonderful place. That this was happening made absolutely no sense to him. He was so sick and tired of adults saying one thing and doing another. The manager, taking his silence as an end to their debate, turned to walk away. Luke touched his arm and said,
“So, you know about veggietareun food, you know there’s no need to eat animals, but you still have ’em killed because some people like eatin’ ’em. And Maybury says it wants to teach people how to be kind to animals but it doesn’t set a good example of not eatin’ ’em. It lets people think it’s okay to eat ’em. It pretends it’s not cruel to eat ’em so people keep on doin’ it. So it’s your fault when people keep on doin’ it coz you could ‘ave told ’em not to and you didn’t.”
He turned and walked out. He didn’t want a cake any more.
“Luke! There you are!” called Mum, “you do have a penchant for wandering off.”
Luke had no idea what a ponshon was but decided to take her word for it.
“Look what I’ve got!” she said. She sounded excited. “I won it! Well, I bought so many tickets I almost bought it!”
Luke looked at the slightly torn, slightly scratched, slightly coming apart at one end, box she was carrying. He could hardly believe it.
“Is that the same as ..?” he asked her.
“Exactly the same!” she said. She sounded so happy. “Here you are darling, this is yours.”
She was holding a Hornby R.793 King Size Electric train set. It was exactly the same as Grandad Pete’s. Grandad Pete was Mum’s dad and he loved trains. He was a volunteer fireman at his local steam railway and he used to let Luke ride the engine with him when they visited at Easter and August bank holiday. His Hornby train set had three locomotives – a King Henry VIII, a Class 29 (type 2) Bo-Bo, and a Class 3F Jinty Tank. Plus it had coaches, wagons, trackside accessories and buildings. It was brilliant.
Whenever they went to visit Grandad Pete, Luke and Grandad went up to the loft and played with the train set for hours. It was always set up. Always ready to play.
Grandad died the day after Luke’s seventh birthday. He left Luke the train set in his will because he wanted it to go to someone who loved it as much as he had.
Sadly, Mum, because of an unfortunate series of events which were of no interest to Luke, accidentally backed over it with the car. Luke had been devastated. Mum equally so. She couldn’t replace it because they didn’t make them like that any more. And Luke didn’t want just any train set. But now she’d found one. And it really was exactly the same as Grandad’s. Luke was momentarily lost for words. He looked up at Mum’s glowing face.
“Thank you,” he tried to say but the words caught in his throat. He was overwhelmed. “Can we go home and set it up?” he asked.
“Now?” she asked, “are we done here?”
“I’m done here,” he replied.
On Christmas Eve, Luke pulled down the peak of his blue engine driver’s cap, blew his whistle and called,
The train pulled out of the station. It picked up speed and smoothly rode the tracks through Lego town, across the Scarf-River bridge, under the Bed-Tunnel through Bed-Mountain, and onto the Blue Pillowcase Coast. When it got to Seaside station it stopped to pick up Batman, Spiderman and a couple of soldiers on leave, before continuing on its journey to the end of the line. There was a near accident when a giant brown and white dog stepped onto the track but tragedy was averted when a quick-thinking observer lured the animal out of harm’s way with a Digestive.
Outside, a car door slammed.
“Luke, Jared – Dad’s home. He’s got the tree!” Mum called from downstairs, “come down and help me decorate it.”
Jared thundered down the stairs. Luke was too busy. Batman was late for a job interview – the train must keep going. As it sped towards the old suspension bridge, the driver noticed two of the shoe lace suspenders had snapped, and the others looked like they’d struggle to take the strain. He applied the brake but it was too late, the train was going too fast, it wouldn’t be able to stop in time. Suddenly Spiderman climbed out of the window and ran along the roof of the train to the front. He spun his web and ….
Mum opened the bedroom door.
“Luke, don’t you want to help decorate the tree?”
“erm, no thanks,” he said without looking at her.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you sure? You haven’t been yourself since we went to the Maybury Centre.”
Luke didn’t say anything. Mum tried again.
“What happened to upset you? I thought you’d like it there.”
Luke let go of his trains, sat back and looked at her.
“I’m fed up.”
“Coz I’m fed up of grown ups not doin’ what they say.”
Mrs Walker waited for more.
“Maybury is a animal sanctry wot says it teaches people to be kind to animals. A man from Maybury even came to give a talk at school to tell us not to keep animals in small cages, or let them have puppies.”
“So why do people whose whole job is lookin’ after animals and teachin’ other people to look after ’em prop’ly, still let animals be killed for food? Why don’t they care about them animals? Why do they on’y care about some animals?”
“What makes you think …”
“They sell dead animals in their cafe.”
“Really? That does surprise me.”
“If I can’t trust people whose job is lookin’ after animals then I can’t trust nobody. ‘cept myself!”
“Ooh, that’s hard. No wonder you’re fed up,” said Mum sympathetically.
“And Joe,” he admitted.
“Well, that’s something. But you know Luke, you shouldn’t give up. You should tell them how you feel. You should tell them you are offended by their decision to sell meat in their cafe.”
“I did tell ’em.”
“Good. And what did they say?”
“Nothin’ sensible. Jus’ said it was okay coz it was rangin’ and stainable. Rubbish!”
“Tell them again. Write them a letter.”
“What’s the point? They won’t take no notice o’ me.”
Mrs Walker was sorry her son felt so discouraged. It was a terrible thing to lose your faith in humanity at such a young age.
“The thing is,” she told him, “you never know when someone might listen. The only thing you can be sure of is that if you don’t say anything, they definitely won’t get the message.”
Luke looked at her and didn’t say anything.
“Come with me, come and help decorate the tree,” she said.
When they got to the living room Jared and Dad already had things well underway. The tree was gleaming with glittery gold and silver tinsel and different coloured shiny baubles.
“Mm, pretty good,” said Mum, “but it’s missing something.”
“The star for the top,” said Jared, “I’m just about to do it.”
“Something else,” said Mum and she left the room.
A moment later she was back with a small box from the kitchen. She handed it to Luke.
“No Christmas tree is complete without a few sweet treats,” she said, smiling.
Luke looked in the box. It was full of chocolate Santas. On the wrappers were the words:
Moo Free Organic Chocolate,
DAIRY FREE, GLUTEN FREE, VEGAN
Luke’s jaw dropped and his eyes lit up.
“Are these for me?” he asked.
“No, greedy boy, they’re for all of us! Why don’t you hang them on the tree?”
“But, … how come …?”
“I found your leaflets,” Mum explained.
“The ones stuffed in the back pocket of your black cords; the black cords you shoved under the bed and forgot about I don’t know how long ago.”
“Oh, I wondered where they were.”
“Well I found them and I checked the pockets before putting them in the wash, and there were these leaflets. One with a picture of a cow on the front entitled ‘The Dark Side of Dairy’ and one with a cute little brown and white piglet on the front entitled ‘Think Before You Eat’.”
“And you read them?”
“And I read them.”
“And that’s why …?”
“Yes it is,” she paused for a moment, searching for the right words. “Luke,” she went on, “you have good instincts. When you started this crusade for animals you did it on instinct. You hadn’t been told any of the shocking facts and figures that are in those leaflets, you just knew it wasn’t right. And you did something about it. You spoke out bravely and you acted. You broke the rules when you felt you had to and you endured punishments, but you never wavered; you never stopped fighting.”
Luke nodded. He wasn’t sure why his mum was explaining something that she must have known he already knew, but he waited. It would become clear eventually. She continued.
“So I don’t want you to give up hope now. I want you to know that if you keep trying, you will make a difference. You have already made a difference for Curly and Little Squirt and the rabb.., er, the damsons, but even more than that, you’re a good influence on other people.”
Now, those were words Luke never thought he’d hear from his mother.
“You have been a good influence on us.”
At this point she took his hand, led him into the kitchen and opened the freezer.
“What d’you fancy for Christmas dinner?” she asked.
Luke looked in the freezer. It was full – Mum always did a big shop for the Christmas holidays – and there were quite a few unfamiliar boxes and cartons. He lifted them out one at a time to read the descriptions:
Cauldron Wholefood Burgers
Made with Chickpeas, Cauliflower, Aduki Beans, Broad Beans, Spinach, Onions, Garlic & Potatoes
Cauldron Wholefood Sausages
Made with Grilled Vegetables (Peppers, Courgette, Onion), Beans & Wheat
Cauldron Aduki Bean Melt
“The combination of aduki beans, spinach and mushrooms deliciously filled with mango chutney and carefully coated in breadcrumbs gives a satisfyingly moreish taste.”
Biona Red Lentil Sun Seed Burger
A flavoursome vegan burger made with red lentils, pumpkin and sunflower seeds with a subtle hint of spice. Made using all natural, organic ingredients and free from artificial colours or flavours. Perfect loaded with your favourite burger toppings, added to salads or dipped in sweet chilli sauce as a tasty and nutritious snack.
Can be eaten hot or cold.
Dee’s 6 Leek & Onion Vegan Sausages
The perfect partner to velvety mashed potatoes and homemade gravy, our Leek and Onion Sausages will become an instant family favourite on your weekly menu.
Dragonfly Organic Bubble & Squeak Tatty
Our Tatty is a vegetarian burger that has a real bubble & squeak feel about it, made using locally sourced cabbage and onions
Linda McCartney Vegetarian Country Pies
Vegetarian pie made from a shortcrust pastry base, filled with rehydrated textured soya protein in a rich onion and beef-style gravy, topped with a puff pastry lid.
Linda McCartney Vegetarian Sausage Rolls
Vegetarian Cumberland sausage-style filling wrapped in puff pastry.
And there were three flavours of luxury organic vegan ice cream:
Booja Booja Hazelnut Chocolate Truffle, Booja Booja Raspberry Ripple and Booja Booja Caramel Pecan Praline.
Luke was no longer fed up. He smiled broadly at his mum.
“Are these for all of us?”
“Yes they are. For all of us,” she said happily, “and I got them from Besco’s. They sell them in mainstream supermarkets Luke and that just shows how much progress you’re making. That’s what happens when you speak out and you keep speaking out.”
Mrs Walker was treated to a rare hug which lasted a good half minute, and then Luke ran from the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” she called after him.
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