from Francis Kerr Young
Pixies, Tiddlywinks and
Once upon a Midsummer's
Night I dreamed the strangest dream. I dreamt of two young girls who
visited the Island of Guernsey with their grandparents. Now in olden days,
Guernsey was a stop off point for witches that flew across the English
Channel from France to England. The fairies that lived on the island
always kept a wary eye out for these unwanted visitors.
This dream began as a
bright sunny morning, a few days after they arrived in St. Peter Port, the
capital of Guernsey. Grandfather had hired a car to visit the island's
south coast. Magnificent scenes enthral tourists for the coastal road
meanders between observation towers that follow the crests of rugged cliff
tops. Combers frequently barrel in from the restless sea and dash into
frothy spumes of cream against jagged rocks and scree.
Ashley-Anne, the elder
child, was nearly eleven years old. She had a fine complexion with
grey-green eyes. Sunlight sparkling on her light-blonde hair would gleam
into golden waves. Nine-year-old April, with red hair and heavenly blue
eyes, was a hand span shorter than her sister. Both girls wore pink
blouses, knee-length dungarees of blue cotton, brown sandals, and pink
Some hours later the
travellers stopped near Pleinmont, a hamlet on the south-west corner of
the island, to admire the view. Everyone disembarked to stretch their
legs. April pointed to a curious circle of large white stones. Gran
flipped through the pages of a book on Sarnian (The ancient Romans called
Guernsey, Sarnia) folklore and announced that it was called a cromlech,
supposedly built by fairies. Both girls cavorted on the springy turf
within the ring's circumference.
Papa hobbled towards them
aided by his dogwood walking stick. He peered down at one of the rocks for
a closer look. Eons had weathered its round gleaming surface quite smooth.
On his way back to the car he tripped, falling heavily.
"Ow!" he yelled.
Anxiously, Gran and the
children ran to his side.
"Ow!" Papa repeated,
withdrawing a reddish rock that had caused discomfort to his posterior. He
angrily tossed it away and got to his feet.
"Are you all right dear?"
"Aye, Ah'm a' richt,"
replied Papa, irritation stitching his Scottish brogue. He was about to
utter some stronger words until he reminded himself that his grandchildren
"This book says something
about a red rock," said Gran. "Ashley-Anne, would you bring that rock back
here please while I try to find that reference?
"Ah! Here it is - " and
began to recite:
Take a rock of rose from a
And seek the Fairies' Cave,
You'll find it where the seabirds wing
Above the ocean wave
Near Lihou Isle and Saumarez.
Scribe an arch on Midsummer's Day
When fairies dance and sing."
"Huh, seems mair like a
curse tae me!" remarked Papa, rubbing his tender spot.
"Can we keep it Gran?"
chorused the girls.
"Of course!" smiled Gran,
then added: "Know what? There's a place just a few miles north of here
called Le Creux es Faies - it means the Fairies' Hollow . . . And it also
happens to be the twenty-first of June. Midsummer's Day. Do you want to
see if we can find it?"
"Och, that's jist a come-oan
fur the tourists!" groaned Papa, climbing into the car. He waited until
everyone had buckled up before starting the engine.
The coastal road was hemmed
in by a massive sea wall that marked the perimeter of Rocquaine Bay. They
drove past the maritime museum at Fort Grey and carried on to L'Eree.
"Would you mind stopping at
this hotel dear?" asked Gran. "I'm just dying for a cup of tea."
"Och, a' richt," conceded
Papa, his ire having dissipated with the golden panorama of each
successive beach. "Ah think Ah'll wait tae later afore hivin' somethin'
tae eat an' drink. Whit aboot you bairns?"
"How far is it to the fairy
cave, Papa?" inquired Ashley-Anne.
He referred to his road map
before answering, "Well, accordin' tae this - it's only a hop, skip an' a
"Can we go now?" Both
girls' eyes gazed imploringly up into his craggy face.
Papa could never resist his
grandchildren. "Ok. We'll gang ower the noo . . . Be back in aboot an 'oor,
dear." He stumped off in the wake of the two girls.
Following the rocky
promontory the road climbed gradually towards Fort Saumarez. Almost
directly west of them Lihou Island was shimmering in veil of sea mist. A
cart track led off the coastal road and rose steeply towards a wooded
"Maybe that'll take us to
the fairies' cave," suggested Ashley-Anne.
"Maybe," conceded Papa,
adding: "Bit we'll no' ken unless we tak' a wee keek."
Wending their way upwards
through shrubs, low trees, and long grass that had been sun-dried to pale
dun, they saw bumblebees and butterflies bob from thistles and wild
flowers. Grasshoppers harmonised with songbirds. About halfway up, they
passed a large oak tree that had been tilted, probably by a fierce
Atlantic gale. One limb sported a fine crop of mistletoe. Burrows,
possibly dug by rabbits, ran beneath the roots exposed to the air. A black
cat with grey tufted ears slunk near the warren as if stalking for a meal.
The track grew steeper with
each step until they reached a clearing at the top of the knoll. A bronze
sign bore the words: Le Creux es Faies and went on to relate the legend of
Grandfather had to lower
his head so that he could follow the children into the shallow cave. A
couple of paces in, the visitors were confronted by a greyish-green rock
"Ah dinnae think this wis
worth a' yon trouble tae climb here tae see this!" observed Grandfather
ruefully. "Ah'm goin' back doon tae the hotel for coffee wi' yer Granny."
"Can we take a look around,
Papa?" pleaded Ashley-Anne.
"There's nuthin' tae look
aroon' for!" remarked the old man, his walking stick jabbing the bare rock
face. "Och, Ah'll gie ye fifteen meenites." He ducked back into the
sunshine and after checking his watch, said: "It's five tae twelve, Ah'll
wait for ye at the fit o' the brae. Be doon for ten-past-twelve."
"What is there to
see Ashley-Anne?" ventured April after Grandfather had left. In the cool
twilight of the cave, her pupils floated like black buttons on saucers of
Ashley-Anne withdrew the
red rock from her tote sack. "I'm going to try something. Remember what
the poem said about drawing an arch in the cave?"
Without waiting for an
answer, Ashley-Anne scribed a arc on the rock face, using the rock as
chalk. She stepped back and waited.
"Now what?" asked April.
A few seconds later,
Ashley-Anne remarked: "Now nothing!" and tossed the rock against the cave
The russet scratch marks
were transforming into a brilliant rainbow. A small rainbow appeared below
the first, then another, and then another, until a series of concentric
rainbows formed an amazing arch on rock face of the fairies' cave.
A kaleidoscope of colour
swirled briefly before surging upwards. Fiery jewels of prismatic hues
gushed upwards like an inverted waterfall. The deluge vanished leaving an
archway that led into a long narrow recess bathed in glowing greenish
The sisters gaped at this
"Well, are you going in or
The girls swivelled their
heads, their eyes boggling on the apparition behind them.
Although somewhat less than
half the girls' stature, the speaker's body was perfectly proportioned.
The little man's piercing violet eyes gazed up at them. He had a clean
shaven, pallid countenance although with white bushy eyebrows and
sideburns. He had pointed ears and a pug nose. His russet-brown trousers
and green doublet appeared to be made of flannel, as was his stocking cap
of scarlet. His feet were bare.
"It's a gnome!" exclaimed
"I'm a pixie!" retorted the
"What's the difference?"
asked April, her curiosity ignoring the elf's question.
"A gnome is a dwarf - same
as a troll," answered the pixie before continuing: "You human's know me
and my companions as pixies, fairies or elves. Now are you going inside or
not?" he repeated.
Ashley-Anne and April
hesitated, both considering about running to tell Grandfather of this
With surprising strength,
the pixie shoved both girls through the archway which promptly closed
behind them. A pinhole of bright light beckoned them deeper into the
narrowing cave. Strangely, although the cave became progressively smaller
as it dipped downwards, their heads never touched the roof. Occasionally
the children had to climb over or duck under tree roots. When a root was
touched, a ghostly feminine face would glow from the subterranean limb and
sing an eerie refrain.
"Who are these creatures?"
Ashley-Anne asked, her voice quavering nervously.
"They are the tree
spirits," the pixie replied, adding: "We call 'em dryads."
Nearing the lighted area,
it was discovered that both girls were now precisely the same height as
their elfin escort.
The tunnel opened up into
an enormous cavern. Daylight speared through various openings of the
warren to reveal an amazing spectacle.
Winged supernatural beings
were causing a loud commotion. Some were jumping up and down with
excitement as they watched their companions playing games of tiddlywinks.
Many were drinking from curiously carved flagons. A few were grouped in
circle, bowed in homage to a figure seated on a throne of purple fungus.
Females wore shimmering translucent apparel while males wore attire much
similar to the pixie that escorted the girls. Other males had very short
legs and wore gaudy doublets with trunk hose. As the pixie ushered the
newcomers through the merrymakers, their revelry gradually dwindled to
Aromatic vapour drifted up
from a footbath that the fairy queen was enjoying. Warm seawater was
helping to salve her troublesome chilblains when the court suddenly became
still. She cautiously watched the girls' approach. "How did these humans
get in here Taur?" she asked haughtily.
"Your Majesty, they used a
red rock from our dancing circle over at Pleinmont," replied the pixie.
"What do you want me to do with them?"
The Queen removed her feet
from the giant scallop shell that had been a gift from water sprites. Two
handmaidens carefully dabbed them dry. It has been more than nine hundred
years, she pondered, since the last human entered my domain and I had to
give him England to preserve our secret. Before that, we were forced to
hide down here away from evil witches and their cats. If it's not one
thing, it's another. Problems, problems, problems!
A blood curling growl from
the lowest corner of the cavern interrupted her musings. All eyes came to
rest on the snarling face of a black cat with tufted ears. It disappeared
briefly to allow a forepaw to claw upwards in order to widen the orifice.
The cat strained and squirmed with each angry effort to squeeze its
shoulders through the narrow hole.
"Quick April!" urged
Ashley-Anne, leaning over the footbath. "Grab the other end!"
The girls lifted the
awkward load and bravely crab-walked over to the cat. Baleful yellow eyes
glared up at its prey which was just out of reach. The girls poured the
liquid into the animal's face. Salt and other herbal condiments stung the
cat's eyes, forcing it to withdraw hurriedly.
The little people cheered
the predator's defeat. The Queen picked up her tiny golden sceptre to
beckon the girls closer. After learning their names, Queen Selena
graciously invited them to join the fairies' Midsummer's Day celebration.
She signalled a group of musicians to begin playing.
Strange music began,
sending haunting strains echoing through the cavern. A dryad's face
appeared in a harp's wooden pillar and began to sing while a melancholy
roly-poly troll plucked the strings. Pan flutes, a mandolin, and drums
accompanied the harp's spirit.
Trolls, decked out in
tabards, balanced sea fan trays laden with sumptuous fare: Scotch thistle
rissoles, bumblebee bread and butterfly jam, nectar of nasturtium,
pimpinella pies, marsh marigold marmalade on gnome scones, tureens of
tubers, and honey-dipped daisies dappled with dew.
A vertical beam of
sunlight, heralding high noon, pierced the cavern like a gleaming sword
blade. Motes of dust became flickering diamonds emulated by flecks on the
transparent wings of revellers in flight.
During short lulls in the
feast, Queen Selena told the children that this secret cave was one of the
places where they hid from the witches of Guernsey. But tonight, when the
moon was full and the creatures from nearby Catioroc and Rocquaine Castle
were asleep, she and her subjects would dance in the surrounding meadows.
When the music stopped,
Ashley-Anne felt that it was time to go since their grandfather would be
wondering where they were. Queen Selena thanked them again and bade Taur
to escort the girls back to the entrance. The elf said farewell from
inside the archway and the rainbow hues swirled again to fade into cold
"We'd better hurry back to
Papa," urged Ashley-Anne. "We've been away a long time and he must be
worried about us!"
They rushed down the track.
About halfway down, they ran right into Grandfather, winding him.
"Ooof!" he wheezed. "Whur's
"Sorry Papa!" apologised
Ashley-Anne. "We were away longer than we thought. Are you ok?" she added.
"Och aye!" replied
Grandfather and glanced at his watch. "Ye're no' late. Its only
five-past-twelve. Ah must hae drapped my map up here somewhur." Just
beyond his granddaughters, he could see a coloured folder laying by an
sturdy oak tree. "Och, yonder it is - ower there!"
A few paces completed his
search. As he stooped to pick the map up a black cat appeared from some
scrub and rubbed its body against his shins, purring loudly. "Man, whit a
friendly cat," he observed, patting it. "Och, the puir wee thing's a'
With Ashley-Anne and
April's approach the cat slowly flexed its tail and arched its back before
taking up a defensive position against Papa's legs. Suddenly it spat with
a growling meow and bounded into the undergrowth.
"Oh my!" exclaimed
Grandfather. "Yon cat disnae like you twa! Ah wonder why?" He paused and
staring at the mistletoe that festooned one of the oak's limbs said: "This
tree's gey like the yin that wis hauf-blawn ower." He gazed at it again
before squinting up the track to see if the other oak was in sight. He
shook his head in disbelief. "Och, it canna be!" and hobbled back down the
Smiling, the girls followed
It was well after midnight
when I awoke to relate this dream to my wife. From our hotel window, Vazon
Bay could seen as a glorious quilt of gleaming silver generated by a full
moon. Since it was a warm night, she hinted how romantic it would be if we
took a stroll along the sands and watch the tide go out. By the time it
had ebbed we had been
(This type of poem is called a villanelle)
On Guernsey Isle, we heard
strange music play.
The moon was right for sweet romantic dreams
while fairies danced in meadows near L'Eree.
My love and I strolled south
from Vazon Bay.
The notes, like motes, were trapped in silver streams.
On Guernsey Isle, we heard strange music play.
A tiny grotto named Le Creux
exuded good and rude wee folk it seems,
while fairies danced in meadows near L'Eree.
Inside the battlements of
the keep just sleeps, or ponders past regimes
on Guernsey Isle. We heard strange music play.
The fog rolled in and
swallowed old Fort Grey,
and gulls just milled and mewed in muffled screams
while fairies danced in meadows near L'Eree.
I hope, my Darling, we'll
return one day
when Queen Selena's pure enchantment gleams
on Guernsey Isle. We heard strange music play
while fairies danced in meadows near L'Eree.
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