“Bogle’s Gift of Friendship”

Peetu the Penguin had been saving half his dinner every day for weeks and now had a barrel load of fish with which to pay Albie the Albatross for his flight to the North Pole. Albie was the biggest of birds with a greedy belly to match. He let out a high-pitched squawk of excitement as Peetu tipped the barrel on its side and the fish came flowing out.

“There you go,” said Peetu. “Please consider this payment for my ticket.” Albie immediately started chomping on the food. With his beak half-full of fish, he mumbled: “Num-num-num. We fly at nine.”

The fish would make two of Peetu’s dreams come true at once. He would finally know what it was like to fly and he would, at long last, meet Father Christmas.

Peetu spent a lot of time on his own in the freezing South Pole, staring up at the stars in the sky and wondering why it had been his bad luck to be born a penguin. Of all the birds in the world, he had to be from a species that could not fly. He envied Albie’s massive wingspan, often looking down at his own wings and muttering: “Silly, stubby, useless things.”

Peetu also thought he was most unfortunate that the South Pole was home to penguins, while the North Pole was home to Santa and his elves. “Just my luck!” moaned Peetu.

Once Albie had guzzled half his body weight in fish, suitably fuelled for the flight, he told Peetu to climb on his back and strap himself in tight. “Don’t go falling off now…you haven’t got travel insurance.”

Albie ran down the snowy runway, slipping and sliding, this way and that, until Whoosh! Take off. Peetu’s tummy felt like it leapt into his mouth. “Whooaaaaa!” he screamed as Albie climbed higher and higher.

Peetu closed his eyes, afraid to look down at first. But once his tummy stopped doing somersaults, the young penguin opened one eye, then another. For the first time in his life, this flightless bird was flying…and he absolutely loved it. “Higher!” he shouted. “Faster, faster.” Albie was only too happy to oblige.

Albatrosses are the kings of soaring in the air, so they can cover great distances with little effort. But flying from the South Pole to the North Pole is a massive trek even for them. After all, it’s all the way from the bottom of the world to the top.

The pair had travelled thousands of miles when Albie decided he had flown quite far enough. He selfishly wanted to return home to finish his fish. But Albie and Peetu were not at the North Pole. They were only in the North of England.

“Look down there,” said Albie. “See all those shiny lights. That looks like just the kind of place that Father Christmas would hang out.”

“Really?” asked Peetu. “You mean, this is the North Pole? I thought there’d be more snow, if I’m honest.”

Albie swooped down to a huge car park. There were sparkling Christmas trees and illuminated decorations dotted all around. In front of them was a giant domed building, lit with the most dazzlingly beautiful array of coloured lights. In the distance, a massive Father Christmas figure sat on a huge tower.

“That’s where the elves work,” explained Albie, making things up as he went along. “That’s why it’s all lit up with Christmas decorations,” he lied.

“Oh – right,” said a wide-eyed and ever-more-excited Peetu, believing every word.

Albie continued: “That sign over there reads ‘North Pole Workshop’.” The albatross could not read any more than his penguin passenger could.

It actually read: “John Lewis” and in truth, they were standing in front of one of the UK’s most famous department stores at one of Europe’s biggest shopping malls, The Trafford Centre. Peetu could not see that. He was an innocent soul and simply did not know any better.

“How amazing!” declared Peetu. “This is the North Pole! You have made my dreams come true.”

For just a second, Albie felt guilty about lying to Peetu. But his mind quickly turned to thoughts of his fish supper and he was soon taking flight, waving goodbye from on high with one of his gigantic wings. Peetu was left all alone.

Peetu waddled over to the door beneath the sign and rapped the glass with his wings, then tapped it with his beak, before shouting – as loud as a small penguin can: “Hellooooo! Is there anybody there? Father Christmas…Mr Elves…hellooooo there!” He peered through the glass and saw a wonderful world of Christmas delights. There might not have been as much snow outside as he hoped, but the rest of it was just how he imagined the North Pole to be…trees, lights, decorations and toys as far as the eye could see.

Suddenly, from beyond the gigantic mound of toys on the other side of the door, appeared a small and very smartly dressed bear. He wore a red waistcoat and matching bow tie. The bear dragged a box to the door, climbed upon it and pressed a button. The door swung open.

“Quick, come inside,” said the bear. “Shouting like that will only bring the guard dogs this way. And trust me, you do not want a bite on the bum from them. They have very big gnashers.”

“You don’t bite as well, do you?” asked Peetu. “You being a bear.”

“I most certainly do not. I’m a teddy bear not a grizzly bear. I’m adorable – and I’m cute. Everyone says so. I’m an annual best seller. Although I’m not exactly sure what that means, I know it’s good.”

“Oh, that’s very good to know, Sir,” said Peetu politely.

“Please don’t call me sir. I’m Boris Grigor Leonid Bear. My family come from Russia, you see.”

“That’s an impressive name. I’m just Peetu,” announced the Penguin, offering his wing to shake. “It means charity and loving kindness…or so I was told. Very pleased to meet you, Boris Grig…erm…what’s the rest of it again?”

“Don’t worry about all of that. I actually prefer Bogle. That’s what my friends call me, at least. That’s the B and O from Boris, the G from Grigor and the L and E from the start of Leonid. It all adds up to Bogle.”

“Clever. I like it,” said Peetu, who then pointed out, “It’s very quiet around here. I thought you would be very busy so close to Christmas.”

“It is normally incredibly busy,” said Bogle, “just not after midnight. Everyone’s asleep, except me.”

“What’s midnight?” asked Peetu.

“It means it is very late and way passed bedtime.”

“So why aren’t you in bed?”

“Because,” said Bogle, “this is my favourite time of year and I don’t want to miss a single second of the magic here. It’s only at this time that I can explore and not get caught out. I shouldn’t really leave my shop. But come with me, I’ll show you.”

Bogle took Peetu on a grand tour. The penguin gasped in awe at every turn and there were lots of “ooohs” and “aaaahs” as well. He had never seen so many beautiful Christmas trees, so much delicious festive food, so big a collection of colourful decorations and twinkling lights. He could have stared at the shimmering ornaments for hours and thought the ground in front of the singing Christmas tree was the perfect place for him to sleep tonight. He liked the idea of being sung to sleep by a tree. You would never get that in the South Pole.

Peetu exclaimed: “No wonder Father Christmas is jolly all the time if he lives in a place like this.”

“What do you mean?” asked Bogle. “Father Christmas lives in the North Pole – and I think he has a base in Lapland. But he doesn’t live here. He visits, though. We see him most days.”

“But this is the North Pole,” insisted Peetu.

“No, it isn’t,” said Bogle, matter-of-factly.

“The pilot who dropped me off here told me it was.”

“Well, Peetu, I should know. Bears like me have been here every Christmas for many years. I live in that rather wonderful toy store over there called Hamleys. Many more of my brothers live in an even bigger store in London. That’s until a loving child takes us home for Christmas.”

Peetu revealed he had never had brothers or a child to love him, explaining: “I don’t have a family. I find it hard to make friends, too, to be honest. I’m a bit shy.”

“You have a friend in me,” said Bogle. Peetu smiled a big beaky smile.

“I hope I can find a family of friends, just as welcoming as you, in the North Pole. I had hoped to land there before Christmas. That’s where I’m planning to live. I’ve travelled all the way from the South Pole. That’s where penguins normally live…not in the North. I don’t know why. We’re just unlucky, I guess.”

Bogle hauled himself on to a bench near the singing tree and rested his head in his paws. “This is what I do when I’m thinking,” he said.

“Oh – okay,” said Peetu, who duly copied his new chum by resting his head on his wings.

They sat side-by-side, thinking thoughts together, until Bogle said: “I’ve got it. You sleep here tonight and tomorrow you continue on to the North Pole.”

“But how?” asked Peetu. “Albie has long since gone.”

Bogle didn’t know who this Albie creature was, so simply said: “You leave it to me.”

When Peetu woke the next morning, he felt a towering presence looking over him. He wiped the sleep from his eyes and focused on a shiny gold belt buckle on a big black belt surrounding a vibrant red suit. He looked up and saw the happy, rosy-cheeked face of Father Christmas staring down at him.

“Hello little one,” said Father Christmas, his voice so booming and yet so kind. “I hear you are in quite a predicament.”

“What’s a padicky-ment?” asked Peetu.

“It means you are here and the North Pole is way up there.” Father Christmas pointed into the distance. “Bogle has asked me if I can help his friend get from here to there.”

“What friend is that?” Peetu enquired.

“Why you, of course.”

Peetu remembered the night before, when Bogle had said: “You have a friend in me.” A warm feeling swept through the penguin’s tiny body. He had never before felt that glow of friendship.

“When I travel north tonight,” said Father Christmas, “you will be by my side. I think we have room for a penguin as bold and brave as you in our North Pole home. Not many would take flight from the South like you did.”

“Oh, but I didn’t fly, Sir. I was flown. I only have stubby wings.” He flapped them feebly.

“No, Peetu, you have wonderful wings. Beautiful wings. And you don’t need to be able to fly in the sky to soar to new heights in life, as long as you dream high.”

Just then, Bogle rushed over and announced: “Time for a celebration of the season before you go and before the shoppers pour in. Do you like cake?” As they scurried off, Peetu said: “I think I’m safe to call you Bogle from now on, you being a friend and all.” Then he added: “What’s a shopper?”

Many presents were opened, much cake was consumed and lots of lemonade drunk inside Bogle’s Hamleys home until it was almost time for Peetu to wave farewell. But first, Bogle had a presentation to make.

“A present…for me?” Peetu had never received a gift until now. The penguin excitedly tore off the silver wrapping paper to find a blue bow tie inside. He immediately put it around his neck and said: “It’s just like yours – but in blue. How wonderful! Thank you, Bogle. I’ll wear it always as a sign of our friendship.”

Peetu soon took flight once more to start his new life in the North Pole, this time carried by Father Christmas and his reindeer sleigh. The penguin was proudly wearing his precious bow tie and friendship was filling his heart.

The End

Copyright: Phil Jones 2018