Despite his mother’s misgivings, Oscar enjoyed his new nursery. He was nearly three, very bright and very lively. The nursery teacher had assured Oscar’s mother that ‘Busy Bees Nursery’ had a very active programme and his energies would be directed.
‘We don’t keep them cooped up, we go for a walk every day.’
His mother had been alarmed.
‘You do keep them safe? We never take him out without his reins.’
‘I’m sure you have seen us out in the high street, no more than four children per helper, double reins; we certainly don’t want to lose anybody.
As Christine reached the post office counter, she noticed the sign.
‘Pocket Calendar, ten pence for Children in Need.’
After the ordeal of trying to post a parcel overseas, with Mrs Grumpy behind the window, she thought she would earn a few brownie points.
‘…and a calendar please.’
‘Ten pence in the bucket’ came the terse reply.
The calendar would not be released until she moved along the counter to the bucket. Already holding up the queue, she fumbled in her purse. It was a good cause, so she emptied all her small change with a satisfying clatter into the empty bucket; then collected the flimsy piece of card with dates much too small to read.
Ten minutes later, staggering out of the greengrocers, she saw a couple of women struggling in the wind to tie up their banner.
‘Children in Need Cake Sale.’
Good idea, that would save her baking before her sister came round for tea tomorrow. If she donated here as well, she could, with a clear conscience, keep the television turned off all night and avoid those irritating celebrities with their grand totals.
Busy Bees Nursery was humming with activity; six children were to be chosen to go and help at the cake stall. Dressing up was involved and one child must don the yellow fur suit. Oscar was chosen for his outgoing personality.
‘Remember to hold his hand as we can’t get the reins on over his outfit’ were the teacher’s last words to her young assistants.
As Christine chose her cakes, a posse arrived, two young women and six strangely attired little children, firmly attached to reins and adult hands. The little ones gathered behind the wooden trestle table.
‘Would you like to guess the weight of Pudsey Bear?’ asked one of the cake ladies.
Christine looked around for a teddy, then her attention was drawn to a sweet little boy in a yellow furry suit. The other children were eyeing up the cakes and one of the young ladies was trying to take photographs.
‘Shall I still hold on to them?’ asked the other girl.
‘I should certainly hope so’ Christine replied, uninvited.
Cake lady produced a flimsy sheet of paper that flapped in the wind.
‘Just put your name and phone number and the weight.’ She turned to her friend. ‘Are we doing Imperial or metric?’
‘You should have a clip board’ said Christina as she deliberated. ‘How old is he?’
She wrote down three stone and set off for the butchers. When she emerged, laden down with shopping, she caught a glimpse of yellow out of the corner of her eye. It was Pudsey Bear, about to walk into the road. She had no free hands to grab him and looked around for his companions. There was no one else in sight. She put two bags down and tried to locate a hand inside his suit, hoping no one thought she was a kidnapper. If she edged him back towards the cake stall, she was sure to meet a search party. The child’s hands had disappeared back inside the suit and the best she could do was place herself between Pudsey and the road.
‘Anyone seen the nursery outing?’ she asked passers by, but they just smiled and said how sweet her grandson was.
The cake stall had gone, only an empty trestle table remained. Even if Christine had any hands free to dial her mobile, she had left it at home. Lost children should go to a police station, but that was miles away. Pudsey was bouncing around in excitement at his adventure, at any moment he could bolt. She herded him into the newsagents, they could phone the police. The lone man was busy serving. Christine tried to get his attention and block the doorway at the same time. Finally he looked up.
‘One pound twenty five, thankyou.’
She looked down to see Pudsey had found his hands and was holding packets of sweets and crisps.
‘No, you don’t understand, he’s not mine, we have to ring the police.’
At that very moment, two policemen swept into the shop. One talked into his radio.
‘Can you confirm description; white male, three foot tall, wearing a yellow furry suit.’
The other officer thanked the shopkeeper for looking after Oscar. Christine slipped out of the shop; perhaps it was better to be a guardian angel than be arrested. Though if the shop had CCTV, that could be a problem.