There once lived a small thin little boy aged about 6 or 7 called Bill. (No-one could quite remember the year of his birth – they were too busy with other things at the time). Bill lived in a poor village, the youngest of approximately 10 brothers and sisters, all of whom got their names and ages mixed up since there were so many of them and always lots of other things to be done. There was never enough food, especially for Bill, who ate the scraps which would normally be handed over to the pigs. He always had the smallest portion of all his brothers and sisters.

The people in that village worked particularly hard so that there was enough food for everyone – which there rarely was as they were very dependent on the weather for a good crop – and good weather was rarely the case, not in these cold parts of the country where land was barren and parched in summer and too damp in winter.

Bill had had enough of this mundane, mediocre, humble and humiliating existence that meant he never got enough fat on him to sustain him through the cold winters. He was sad and lonely and miserable to the point of his tears forming deep wedges on the sides of his cheeks. One day he decided to make a quick escape and unnoticed at the crack of dawn, just before that hour as the red sun made its way upwards from the East he packed a bag with food and excited his so called ‘home’.

He walked quickly and entered Dingly wood at the edge of the village. Here it was darker, cooler in the early morning air and he started to feel afraid and alone as the breeze wafted across his face, and scuttles and shufflings came from behind bushes and trees. Just as a twig snapped and dropped onto his sore foot, he ran desperately and ran and ran as fast as his sore feet would carry him, until all of a sudden he was faced with a huge brown figure.

The figure stared at him with big brown eyes and floppy big ears. It was a giant bear which loomed high above Bill. ‘What are you running from boy? What are your fears? What is it you really fear young one?’ it said with a strange warmth yet a terror of something that Bill did not want to face. Bill stammered uneasily yet found himself warming to the dear bear, ‘I’m afraid of this dark, I’m afraid to be on my own, I’m only slight, thin, there’s no meat on me – I might die. I’ve got nothing to eat. I’m afraid of my mother and father but I might be on my own forever now and I can’t be alone. I think I might die. I’m so afraid and I don’t know if I can count on you either. I’m scared of you too. I don’t know where to go any more. I don’t know where to go!’

Before Bill knew what was happening he suddenly found himself being picked up softly and carefully by the giant brown bear and taken away in big furry brown arms to a place suddenly of comfort and love and warmth like he had never quite known before. The bear kissed Bill on his sore, cold nose and then wrapped him up tightly in a bundle and placed Bill’s left knuckle deep into his fur in some some strange gesture. Bill felt warm, cosy and protected and nuzzled up to the bear’s warmth. They drifted through the clouds in time and space and above the landscape of Earth to distant planets and stars and back again. As each passing cloud or planet touched Bill on the waft of a breeze he felt the energies of Mars, Jupiter, Neptune as they encased him in their fiery magic. And this gave him a sense of sleep-awake until he was back again in a place of unknowingness.

This place was fairy land, unbeknown to Bill. The bear lifted Bill onto the top of a giant toadstool which overlooked a golden heart shaped pool. Mermaids, mermen and fairy folk drifted in and out of the landscape, telling stories to one another, playing on their lutes or flying above the beautiful trees and hills. Leaves floated down as if from heaven bringing with them a scent of the most amazing perfume. Bill was enraptured as if seated inside a golden pearl. A green gnome approached him and asked what he wanted. ‘Lots of food!’ bill replied without even thinking.

Bill enjoyed the most incredible feast he had ever experienced as he sat on his toadstool watching the mermaids and men dip and dive in and out of the golden pool. A green fairy with bright emerald wings then presented him with more fruit of exotic types: bananas, oranges, pineapples, kiwis, coconut and lemons in a giant golden bowl. Following this they brought him cups of juice, lemon and orange cakes, ginger bread men and women and coconut cup cakes. Bill ate like this for 5 days and 5 nights until finally he fell into a long slumber in a sleeping chamber built especially for him.

When Bill awoke on the 5th or 6th day the green fairy approached his bedside and asked him what he would like to do now. He said he wanted to play and then all the fairies and gnomes joined him and they played ‘catch’ and ‘scramble’ and ‘push, pull’ and lots of fairy games Bill had never heard of before. They dived in and out of the pool and splashed and laughed and huddled together in a giant circle until all their breaths became one and exuded a huge pink ray that rose up and up and up until it had circled the whole of their land and all was at peace in that land and would be for many days and years to come.

But then, again on the 5th day Bill began to cry. The bear appeared immediately and asked him what was the matter. Bill sobbed more and said how he had such a wonderful time and he had never experienced anything like it before – but he was missing his mother and father and though they had treated him badly he know they had little food and he wanted to go back to help them and see them.

Just as Bill spoke the fairies, gnomes and mermaids and men encircled him and Bill felt the biggest hug he had ever experienced coming from them all at once though they did not seem to be touching him at all. And then the bear clutched him in his claws and Bill was hauled away in a cloud of pink mist above the land and the golden pond and through time and space where few have travelled from the Earthly realms.

Bill found himself waking up as usual in his bed, all was different yet the same. The bear’s face appeared through the window and said, ‘Bill, call me whenever you wish to return to the fairies and the golden pool and I will escort you there. Call on me Bill whenever you wish and I will take you there and back again. Goodbye for now. All is well in your world.’ Bill found himself sadly waving goodbye to the bear and just as he did this the door opened and his mother entered, smiling and holding a warm cup of broth. ‘Sorry you didn’t feel so well last night Billy – here’s some broth to warm you. Let’s go out to the fields today and take a breath of air. There’s work to be done later, but we can walk and talk this morning and you can tell me whatever you want.’ Bill was stunned and alarmed. Didn’t his mother wonder where he’d been for so long? But she did not ask any questions or seem surprised in any way.

From that day on Bill worked to help his family and wanted to work – and whenever he wanted to play he went to fairyland with his big bear friend. And sometimes he would walk and talk with his mother or play with his younger brothers and sisters. Everything was different and yet the same. No-one ever noticed he had been missing. He would silently and invisibly drift through his bedroom window with the bear and enter a new time zone where somehow he had never left his home with his poor family. But all that was about to change too – for the fairies indeed have their magic powers at hand and all then is possible!