A frog, a dog, a vole and a hedgehog entertain us every morning on the way to school. I suspect they occasionally make us late. They live in shapes left on the road where the tarmac has worn away – potholes on most people’s complaints list. Amos and Melody stop their scooters each day to say hello, leave packets of food and admire the DIY that the creatures are involved with at the time. I enjoy to hear the children as they chatter, with their imaginations firing randomly, unconstrained by convention. And of course, I contribute treats for our friends too.
Last week, that was our experience. This week, suddenly, everything has changed. We set off one morning to find black, solid tarmac where the potholes had been. Amos was almost in tears thinking of the animals trapped beneath. I tried to reassure the children that I was sure their friends would have moved somewhere else together, but even I felt a strange loss. It felt like the end of an era, a portent that these were the last few days Amos and I would have Melody walking to school with us. That night Amos cried at bedtime because he would never see his friends again; he couldn’t be comforted.
Both children were still upset at the weekend. Melody put how she felt into words: ‘I feel really sad because I have enjoyed greeting our creatures in the morning on the way to school. Some of them have been around for years and it has become a routine to say hello to them and now they are gone.’ Amos was less eloquent, but still got his point across. ‘Stupid tarmac. I feel really cross with the tarmac and really sad and I feel like I should kick out all the tarmac so the animals can come back.’
I offered to write down Amos and Melody’s stories of their animal friends so that we can remember all the good times we had with them on the way to school. This suggestion seemed to help. So here, as promised, are Amos and Melody’s ‘Pothole tales’.
Tremendous Timmy (by Amos)
‘Timmy is a dog in the road (which got its name from [my sister] Peta’s [toy] dog Timmy). He is a very good dog and I always give him Christmas presents. Last Christmas I gave him a small trampoline to bounce with. I always say hello, and give him water and a dog biscuit on the way to school.’
Fabulous Mr Frog (by Melody)
‘So, Mr Frog lives in a pool, and for Christmas I gave him these little temperature controls so he can heat up his water, or he can make it cold on a very hot day. He built himself a scooter park so he can teach himself tricks with his scooter which I got for him for Easter. On the way to school I always go through his pond on my scooter and have a go on his scooter park quickly. Sometimes we go through the pool to warm ourselves up. There’s a little station just outside his pool, that you can stand on or scoot over, which dries you so that you aren’t soaking wet when you start scooting. Mr Frog doesn’t hibernate like other frogs because he has special heat controllers so he doesn’t have to. And when there’s a storm he has a little roof that he can put over his pond so that he’s safe if he gets hit by a storm – Timmy has one too.’
Vibrant Vole (by Amos)
‘Mr Vole is a very happy vole and lives in a house in the road. We always visit him on the way to school and he is the second closest person to home. Mr Vole enjoys his Christmas presents a lot and always gives us Christmas presents too. Last Christmas Melody gave him a mini food garden with riverside vegetation in it and I gave him an alarm clock.’
Happy Hedgehog (by Melody)
‘Mr Hedgehog is the newest resident in the potholes and he moved in just before Christmas. For Christmas I gave him a grow-your-own potato garden because hedgehogs apparently like potatoes and Amos gave him a bedside table. He lives in a small pile of leaves and twigs and he has a pond just outside his garden.’
Melody: Every morning I’d greet them, say hello, hola and bonjour. I’d complement frog on his pond. They are really happy creatures and they have brilliant personalities. I like that they are all different species and that they all get on really well together. I basically like everything about them.
Amos: They were always a jolly sight on the way to school, brightening the day.
So watch out for the potholes people – our friends are out there somewhere. And don’t forget, there could be anything lurking at the bottom of that pothole you walk past every day. Duck-billed crocodile still has his home at the moment, but you just never know when he’ll need to be on the lookout for another…