… and so, as Hansel and Grethel followed their father deeper and deeper into the forest, Hansel carefully left a trail of pebbles behind them. When their father mysteriously disappeared as darkness fell they were able to follow the glistening crystals right back to their home where father was just popping the cork from a bottle of prosecco.
“Can’t I trust you to do anything properly?” yelled mother, hastily pulling a dressing gown around her.
“I’ve no idea how they found their way back,” their father answered. “I bet that little bugger Hansel has got GPS on his smart phone. I will confiscate both of their phones tomorrow. I will smash them with a hammer. I will drop them in a lake.”
“Talk is cheap,” muttered mother darkly, disappearing up the stairs with the bottle of fizz and locking the bedroom door.
The following day, in the early afternoon, just after Hansel and Grethel had emerged from their beds, father again persuaded them to come with him into the woods.
“Why?” said Hansel. “You misplaced us both yesterday. Why would we possibly want to go with you again?”
“I will pay you,” said Father.
“How much?” they chorused.
So, after a lengthy negotiation they left home as twilight began to gather around them. Hansel had with him a tub full of miniature okra, having become vegan on Thursday, and he quietly dropped a pod every few yards as they marched deeper into the darkness. Eventually father again mysteriously disappeared having this time plied both of his offspring with some of the mushrooms they had foraged on the way and having tied them both to a tree. Presently both Hansel and Grethel were able to free themselves as, despite it all, their father was a kindly man and had not tied them too tightly. Nor had he followed mother’s instruction to “nail the little bleeders to a fence”. They were easily able to follow the trail of ladies fingers home, as not even the beasts of the woodlands would touch them. They walked in just as mother was paying the pizza delivery man. “I hope you’ve remembered I don’t like pineapple on my Hawaiian,” said Grethel.
“Bloody stroll on,” said mother. “I truly cannot rely on your father to do anything can I? Can’t you two take a hint?”
“Hint?” said Hansel.
“We’re in our sixties,” said mother. “We have supported you through university, we have supported you through your various relationship break ups, we have listened to all of your snowflake whining. Can’t you both just bugger off and get a home of your own?”
“Are you joking?” said Hansel.
“Have you seen the price of property?” said Grethel.
“Have you seen the average rent in this part of the woods?” said Hansel. “Much better we stay here and save up our money rather than paying for stuff. Now, did you get garlic dip with the pizza?”
And so Hansel and Grethel settled down to demolish a large Margarita, a medium meat-feast and a litre bottle of Frascati, whilst, hand in hand, mother and father walked deeper and deeper into the enveloping darkness of the forest, hoping, perhaps, to meet an old woman who would lock them in a cage and feed them through the bars…
… “But Grandma,” said Little Red Riding Hood. “What big ears you’ve got!”
“Eh?” said Grandma. “You’ll have to speak up. My hearing aid’s down at Timpson’s having the battery done. Your Grandad can’t do it on account of he keeps losing the little screw down the back of the footspa he uses to keep his suppositories warm.”
“But Grandma,” said Red Riding Hood. “What a hairy face you’ve got!”
“Yes,” said Grandma. “Your Grandad’s been using my razor for getting the furballs off the cat again. Near cut my lip off when I tried to remove the old peach-fuzz earlier.”
“And Grandma,” said Little Red. “What big teeth you’ve got!”
“Yeth,” said the old woman. “I think I must have got your Grandad’s out of the glass by mistake. He’ll be down the bingo by now, wondering why the ones he’s wearing keep falling out. There’ll be carnage if he has to yell ‘House!’ Could take somebody’s eye out.”…
One fine evening a young princess sat by a pool and played with a golden ball that she had been given by an appreciative golden ball manufacturer in grateful thanks for all of her selfless support and also because the king had told him to. She repeatedly tossed the golden orb into the air and caught it as it fell, but alas, as darkness fell she dropped the ball which rolled into the pond and disappeared into the twelve inches of stinking gloop that lay at its bottom. The princess was very upset at losing the ball and was just considering who to blame for its loss when a frog appeared at the water’s edge.
“Why do you cry, princess?” it asked.
“I have lost my ball in the foul-smelling gunk at the bottom of the pond,” wailed the princess. “Also, I think someone might have been spiking my drinks, judging from this conversation.”
“The foul-smelling gunk is my home,” said the frog. “But don’t worry. None taken. I’ll go and get it for you if you like.”
“Would you really?” trilled the princess. “It is worth a small fortune. My father will blow his bean if he finds out I’ve lost it.”
“Really?” said the frog as he slid into the depths.
The princess waited by the poolside for several hours, but the frog did not return to her. Eventually it dawned on her that he was not coming back and she trudged back to the palace wondering how she was going to explain the loss to her father and also how she had been detained in the garden until past midnight by a talking frog. But she need not have worried, for when she opened the door to the king’s chamber, she saw the golden ball upon a cushion by his side and, beside the ball, the frog resplendent in silken robes.
“Thank goodness,” said the princess. “You have the ball.”
“No thanks to you,” said the king. “If it had not been for this warty amphibian by my side I would now be ball-less. In gratitude I have promised him your hand in marriage.”
The princess stared at them both open-mouthed for a while before the truth dawned on her.
“Of course,” she said, hugging her father. “The frog is actually a handsome prince who has been cursed by a wicked witch. Shall I kiss him now?”
“Can do,” said the king.
And so the princess kissed the frog and absolutely nothing happened.
“It’s just a frog, isn’t it?” she said.
“Yup,” said the king. “Now go and get measured, the wedding’s on Wednesday.”
“Ribbit,” said the frog…