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Story 20: Phoebe chooses the Christmas tree


Unusually there was a lull in the lunchtime conversation so Phoebe randomly asked if anyone wanted to decorate a Christmas tree this year. Although to some the question may seem odd to Phoebe it wasn’t because she is lucky to have a wood at the bottom of her garden, and she loves watching the trees change through the seasons. Phoebe knew that if the others did want a Christmas tree she’d be able to find the perfect Spruce.


Always the practical one, DeDe asked “Assuming the others do want a tree, how do you think you’re going to get the tree from your woods to the beach?”


“Oh that’s a minor detail” said Phoebe, ‘before we think about practicalities, we need to agree the strategic direction, principally, do we want a tree or not?”


Harley scratched his head wondering why Phoebe was even thinking of bringing a tree to Camber when surely they could find something resembling a tree right here on the beach.


As Harley was doing his wondering Dante chipped in, “I’d like to decorate a Christmas tree on the beach, because it’s been a funny year and I think we all need to make this Christmas more special than ever.”

Taking a deep breath Lily-Poo launched into a speech about how this year had been so difficult for so many furless two legs, and how her Mummy furless had spent fourteen whole days in doors without even taking her to the park. It was only right, therefore, that they did something special. She agreed there wasn’t any sensible reason to carry a tree from Phoebe’s house to the beach, but if their tree was going to make a statement it would have to be taller than anything growing on the beach.


“That’s agreed then” said Phoebe, “Come to my house tomorrow and we’ll choose a special tree for the beach”.


Next morning Phoebe dashed across the lawn and into the woods. She was on a mission to decide a shortlist of suitable trees before the others arrived. She knew she didn’t have much time to linger at her usual ‘sniff’ spots so kept focused and ran deep into the woods. She knew the trees well, so it wasn’t long before she’d whittled her selection down to two. Luckily they were close together and she didn’t get too tired running between one and the other to compare.


The first was tall and regal, but it did have some uneven gaps between the branches, while the other was shorter and more symmetrical. Both were beautiful in their own way, and both would make bold statements on the beach. After much to-ing and fro-ing she decided on the dumpy one simply because the doodles would be able to reach more of the branches and the tree would be more evenly decorated. Pleased with her decision she ran back home to wait for the others.


Once everyone had arrived Phoebe led them into the woods and proudly showed them the smaller more symmetrical tree she’d chosen. They all thought Phoebe had made the right decision, but Harley was uneasy about cutting such a beautiful tree down. He felt it was happy where it was and wanted to be left alone to live a long and happy life in the woods. As he was thinking he scanned the horizon and noticed another tree lying on the forest floor. “Why don’t we choose this one?” he said, “you can’t see how magnificent it is lying down, but once we stand it up I’m sure it will be every bit as handsome as the one Phoebe’s chosen? If we take this one we won’t have harmed anything and would have left the woods as vibrant as we found them”


As Harley was talking they saw he had a tear in his eye, and remembered how much he cared for nature and how upset he would be if they chopped the tree down.


“There we have our answer” said DeDe, “We can choose this tree without harming the woods, that way we will all be happy”. They agreed “That’s our tree”.


It was a bit of a struggle to roll the tree free from the brambles that were growing through its branches. But once free, Harley lifted the heavy root end onto his shoulder while Phoebe went to the other end and pulled at the top; slowly the tree lifted off the ground. Once Harley was happy the trunk was resting securely on his shoulders Dante, Lily-Poo and DeDe crept under the middle branches and evened out the load. Gently they carried the tree through the woods towards the station and Billy train.

It’s not every day you see five doodles walking down a platform carrying a Christmas tree onto a train, but when furless two legs do, they tend not to say anything, just in case others aren’t seeing what they’re seeing.

It didn’t take long for Billy to arrive at Camber and once he’d come to a complete stop, they gingerly lifted the tree out onto the platform. Even the station master, who is used to seeing Doodles come and go at Camber was startled to see a fir tree emerging through the train doors. In fact the ticket collector Cheryl, who is famous for saying, “Nothing surprises me these days” dropped her biscuit and it splashed straight into her big mug of tea.


Up until now the tree hadn’t felt too heavy between the five of them, but as they climbed the dunes they really felt its weight. On the train they’d had a discussion about where to place it. They all felt the tree would look best at the foot of the dunes near where the river flows out to sea. It was quite a walk to reach the far end of the beach, but finally they arrived at the chosen spot and laid the tree on the sand, relieved to lose the weight off their backs.


The next job was for Harley to dig a big hole. With Harley’s expert digging skills it didn’t take long before the hole was deep enough to secure the tree into the sand. They soon lifted the tree upright and slid the base into the hole. While they held it in place Harley pushed the sand back until the tree was standing proud all on its own.


It was now time for the fun bit, the decorating! Phoebe went off in search of seaweed, while the others gathered shells. They knew they didn’t want to just hang shells and seaweed randomly, they wanted every shell to mean something and be a reminder of a doodle they loved but hadn’t seen since the world went ‘funny’.


Soon they had the shells in a pile and wondered how they might decorate them. Luckily there were some dirty puddles nearby so they dipped their paws in the wet sand and then pressed it onto the shell to leave their paw print. Once their print was on the shell they sent a positive thought to the doodle it was for, simply saying, “Merry Christmas”.


They knew they wanted to hang a shell for each another and, after exchanging shells between themselves they concentrated on who else was on their list. Dante wanted to hang a shell for his brother Booboo and his sister Coco, and one for the first doodle he’d ever met at Camber, Bertie. Then he printed shells for Truffles, Bo-Doodley and Wolfie who lived over the marsh. Finally he took time choosing a beautiful silver shell for his friend Tilly, who had sadly just crossed over Rainbow Bridge .


DeDe was keen to hang one for her fashion hero Miss Darcy and George aka The Mutt. She also wanted to hang shells for Teddy, Maddie and Poppy, not simply because she loved them, but because they were the more gentle doodles, a personality trait she much preferred. She also wanted to hang shells for her holiday friends in Norfolk, Perci, Nellie, Dot, Stan, Max, Brodie and naughty Marmite.


Phoebe was adamant she would hang one for Nobby and Esme, because they always had lots of Winton’s liver cake for her and she’d missed them so much this year. She also wanted to hang one for Oti, Mickey, Arthur, Dexter and Snowball, hoping she would see them on the beach one day soon.


Once Lily-Poo had hung a few shells for her friends and neighbours in Chislehurst she remembered to hang one for Hugo, the doodle she’d found in the park earlier in the year. She also wanted to hang an extra special shell for all the doodles without a home and those who are being badly treated.


Harley printed shells for Jangles and the Doodlettes, Nellie, Bella and Lily and as he finished the last one for Bella he thought he saw Jangles in the distance. Assuming he was imagining it he carried on hanging his shells. When he looked up again his eyes blinked and sure enough there was Jangles and the Doodlettes dashing towards them. What a coincidence he thought, at the same time I’m hanging Christmas shells for them they appear on the beach. They’d not seen each other for ages, so with great excitement they greeted each other with much dancing and helicopter wagging of tails.


When they’d settled down Phoebe explained what they were doing, and asked which doodle friends they might like to hang a shell for.


Jangles went first, “I would like to hang one for Harvey and his new little sister Dolly and of course one for my brother Jasper”. Then Nellie, Bella and Lily joined in and it wasn’t long before the tree was completely covered with shells to all the doodles they knew.

Once they couldn’t think of another doodle to remember, they settled down to admire the tree. When everyone was quiet Harley asked if Jangles and the Doodlettes might have time for a Christmas song before they went home. Always happy to ‘give a tune’ Jangles agreed to sing his latest cover version of ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’. Not everyone knew the words so he sang it all the way through first and then they all joined in for the second and third renditions!


As Jangles and the Doodlettes sang, the sun fell towards the horizon and the shells started to twinkle. The combination of the evening sun, Jangles’ singing and the beautiful tree, brought a warm loving glow to all of them. It certainly had been a funny year, and they hadn’t seen much of their friends, but this didn’t mean they had forgotten them. This was why the tree was so important and why they’d all wanted to make it special. They knew bad times don’t last for ever and soon they would be together again, dashing along the sand in their special happy place. Until then these memories of their doodle friends would stay in their hearts. After Jangles had finished singing and before they all left to catch Billy train, they gave each other lingering warm hugs and wishing each other a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.


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