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Knot meets Albert!

by Anne-Marie |  10 Feb 2019

It was the first night of the New Year. Albert woke up at eight o’clock in the evening, just as he always did, gave his beloved tedman a big squeeze, stretched awake and then rolled out of bed – thlump – onto the floor. It was a quiet, cold night, the sort where there wasn’t always an adventure to be had, but if there were to be one, it would certainly find Albert.

Albert is a bear. Just like any other bear. He is about a foot tall, with brown, curly fur and an old, faded woolly jumper that was once green. He has bright, shining round eyes and a mischievous brow – but it’s his guitar that really makes him stand out from the other bears. Albert is rarely seen without his guitar slung over one shoulder.

Well, no point standing round here, thought Albert to himself, and he headed for the door.

Albert lives in an old house in a village near Cambridge, England, and has done so for a very long time. No one else has lived in the house in the six years it has been his home, or at least, as far as Albert is aware. Every evening Albert leaves his house and goes Outside to have adventures with other Actuals. Actuals are the creatures that are around at night; you won’t see Actuals playing in the daytime.

This evening started out the same as every other: Albert climbed the banister and positioned himself on the handrail at the top of the stairs ready to start his long but very fast commute to the Outside. Then suddenly, something caught his eye. He narrowed his eyes in the gloom to make sure he’d really seen it. There it was again. Something moved, halfway down, just where the handrail curved off to the right on the half-landing. It was hiding behind a wall. He was sure of it.

Now, Albert isn’t what you’d describe as an impulsive bear and so he had never stopped at the half-landing before. He had never had cause to, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to now. But then he saw it again; something peeping out at him from behind the wall. That was it – curiosity grabbed his tail, and before he knew where he was, he had pushed himself off and was whizzing down the handrail. As the half-landing came into view, he lurched bravely to the left, flinging himself sideways, doing a double tuck jump, one and a half forward rolls and landing… face down in the old hall carpet.

“Bleurgh! Moths!” Albert sneezed, his face in the carpet. Then, remembering why he was there, he lifted his head and peered into the gloom.

Just in front of him stood a bear, only a little smaller than Albert, with a purple scarf and golden fur.  Really golden, that glowed as if the bear was luminous on the inside. Smiley little eyes topped with two wiggly ears looked down at Albert, face down on the floor, and then the golden bear couldn’t contain itself any longer and gave a little giggle.

“Yes, ahem, well,” coughed Albert, trying very hard to sound like he’d meant to land in a heap, “first things first… I’m Albert, who are you?”

Finally, nervously, the little bear found its voice. “Thatwaswaycool couldyouteachmetodothat?”

“That’s your name?” asked Albert.

“Oh! No. My name’s Knot.”

“Not what?”

“Just Knot – that’s my name. Knot.”

Albert recovered himself and his guitar, which had somehow become separated from his back during the descent. He shrugged OK, nodded goodbye and turned to go.

“Where are you going?” asked Knot.

“Outside. To have my breakfast,” said Albert.

“Take me with you?” asked Knot.

Now, that was a thought. Not one that had ever occurred to Albert, but a thought nevertheless. Albert and his guitar were loners. He’d never really gone anywhere with another Actual before; but then, he didn’t see why he shouldn’t start now.

“OK then, let’s go to breakfast. Together.”

Knot looked relieved, and the smile returned to those little eyes.

Feeling quite happy about his decision, Albert turned and began to climb back up the banister.

“What are you doing?” asked Knot.

“Leaving, for the Outside,” said Albert – surely that much was obvious?

“But I’ve never been to the Outside before!” stammered Knot.

In his surprise, Albert lost his footing and tumbled backwards from the slippery handrail to land, for the second time that evening, at Knot’s feet. Recovering quickly, he shimmied back up the banister. Reaching the top, he sat astride the handrail and looked down at Knot with curiosity.

“Why have you never been to the Outside before? Oh, never mind,” said Albert, his grumbling stomach taking control of the situation. “Let’s talk about it when we get there. Now, to get to the Outside – watch me carefully – you slide down this handrail, getting a good speed up, use your tail to help you steer and get some lift-off at the end. Then, make like a starfish and flip-flop through that small slot in the middle of the door, with the metal cover. And whatever you do, don’t forget to tuck in your chin… Get it?”

“Got it!” said Knot, trying to sound like a bear who really had got it. “Just one question – you steer with your tail?”

“Of course!” said Albert. And with that he kicked off, whooshing down the handrail at an astonishing speed. Knot watched him lift off at the bottom and glide through the air, face up, arms and legs spread out, before expertly tucking in his chin and disappearing – with a schoomp – through the gap in the door.

Knot stepped back in fright. It looked exactly like Albert had been swallowed whole. But, desperate not to be left behind, and trying hard to remember all the instructions, the brave little bear climbed up the banister and launched off.

What a wonderful feeling it was, whizzing down the handrail. But, as the bottom of the handrail approached, the little bear realised, just too late, that it was carved in a spiral at the end. Caught in the wooden spiral, Knot was sent wildly off course, heading north-east of the targeted hole in the door. Knot panicked. There was no time to make like a starfish, or any other kind of fish for that matter, let alone tuck in his chin, and before you could say, “Crikey!” there was a soft boink and then a softer thud as poor Knot bounced off the door and was received, dizzy and bewildered, by a welcome mat below.

There were a few seconds of confusion during which Knot remained motionless, until Albert’s voice came from the other side of the big oak door.

“Are you there?” Albert asked.

“Yes…”

“Where?” Albert asked again.

“Well, here,” said Knot, rather weakly.

“But where exactly is ‘here’?” asked Albert, sounding a bit exasperated.

“On the other side to you?” came Knot’s small voice.

A deep sigh came from through the door, and then: “Hang on, don’t move – I’ll be right back.”


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