After Eight Minty

By Cosmic Gerbil

Chapter one: Dear Dairy

January 1st, 1979, 20:16

Dear Dairy,

Well, today's the first day of the New Year and it's been quite boring so far. I'm sorry about that. (Having to start writing in you on a boring day, I mean).

The problem is, Christmas is over and all the excitement is wearing off now. School doesn't start until next week (which is both good and bad). Bad because, well, it's school! Good because I'll see my best friend again. She's been on holiday over Christmas, staying with her Grandparents up in Yorkshire.

It isn't even snowing! It's just rain, rain and guess what? It begins with R and rhymes with pain. Which is very suitable because it IS a pain.

It's not fair, really. It hasn't snowed once yet and there SHOULD be snow at Christmas. There always is on TV, in films, in comics and on Christmas cards. I bet it's going to rain until school starts again, then it'll start snowing but won't snow enough for us to have an extra day off!

Oh, I haven't introduced myself. My full name is Araminta Bradstock but most people call me Minty. My older brother Floyd says it makes me sound like an ice cream but I think it's a great name. Araminta sounds super posh, the sort of name that somebody would have if they went to boarding school and had at least five ponies.

I'm nine years old and I live with my family at 36 Willoughby Terrace, Perfield, Worcestershire. I am tall for my age and I have blonde hair like Floyd and my Dad. I like to wear it in a ponytail, then it doesn't get in the way when I'm playing sports.

As well as Floyd, I have a little brother called Pickles who is 7 and a little sister called Teddy and she is 5. Floyd and I share a dog, a bloodhound called Humphrey. Sadly, I don't have a pony because our garden is too small and Dad says they cost a fortune to keep. Humphrey is lovely though. He's dark brown with big floppy ears and a wrinkly face, like an old man. He has a really deep bark and when he goes WOOF, his jowls quiver and his tummy rumbles. Pickles says he is like a dog aeroplane.

Sometimes he sleeps in my room and sometimes in Floyd's. He's on my bed at the moment, probably because Floyd has got his music on loud. He's sleeping at the bottom and Whiskers is at the top, on my pillow.

Whiskers (named after the cat food) is Pickles and Teddy's cat. He's a ginger cat, which is very suitable because they've both got ginger hair. He sleeps a lot, especially after Christmas because he's full up with the last remains of the turkey.

Well, that's all I've written so far. I'm sitting here, chewing my pen (Mom says that's a very bad habit), thinking what to put next. The first two pages in my dairy are covered with my writing. Miss Cox says I write very neat but sometimes a little small. I explained to her that I write small so I can fit more words on the page.

It's kind of a shame when you write in a new book though. I love how clean they look, with their white, crisp pages. Though it would be silly to never use them. I look over at my bookcase, which is FULL of books. There wouldn't be any stories to read if nobody could bear to write in their books.

As I'm thinking, there comes a loud knock at my bedroom door. Whiskers doesn't stir (he's too full of turkey) but Humphrey twitches his nose and lifts his ears curiously.

"Yes, come in", I call out.

The door opens and Pickles enters my room. His real name is Rory but he's nicknamed Pickles, though nobody is really sure why. Dad says it's because he's always getting into pickles. Mom says it's because when she was pregnant with him, she had "cravings" for the food, pickles. (Cravings are when a pregnant lady wants to eat certain foods. I hope when I grow up and have babies, I get cravings for sweets. Then I can eat as many sweets as I want without the grown ups telling me off).

"Hi Minty" Pickles says, brushing his hair out of his eyes. His fringe is always really long; it's a wonder he can see where he is going.

"Hello Pickles. What did you want?" I asked, hoping that he wasn't going to interrupt my diary writing.

"I'm bored" he said. "I came to see if you were doing anything interesting". Before I could reply, Pickles walked right over to my desk and peeped over the top.

"No reading, it's private" I said, shutting my diary up.

"Oh, are you writing stuff in your new dairy?" he asked.

"It's a DIARY, not a DAIRY" I corrected him. Boys are silly, sometimes. A DAIRY is where cows go to be milked".

"I know that" said Pickles, putting his hands behind his back. "What are you writing in your dairy?"

"Private things, I already told you that" I said. Boys are nosey too!

"Oh go on, tell me" Pickles begged. "Say, if I guess and I'm right, will you tell me then?"

"No" I said, impatiently. "Go and find Teddy to play with".

"I can't" said Pickles. "She's already here". Sure enough, Teddy was standing in the doorway, dressed in her pyjamas and with Cresta (her favourite teddy) tucked under her arm. Cresta is a white teddy so he's named after the Cresta bear off the pop bottles.

"Minty!" Teddy exclaimed, as if she hadn't seen me for a million years. "What you doing?" She pushed her glasses up her nose and padded over to me.

Oh dear! Now I have Teddy being nosey too and I can't tell her to go away because she shares my room. Luckily, while I'm thinking what to say to her, Pickles speaks.

"Hey Teddy, let's go to my room and play cars!"

"Teddy's going to bed now" said Mom's voice. I looked up and saw she was hovering in the doorway. "And it's time you were in bed too, young man" she said to Pickles.

"Aww, that's not fair" he protested. "I'm older than Teddy, I should get to stay up later".

"Yes but eight thirty is your bedtime and Teddy has already stayed up later than she should".

"Well if Teddy stayed up late, can I?" Pickles asked hopefully.

"No" said Mom in her That's final voice. "And don't make that face at me either".

Pickles un-frowned his face and slouched out of the room. I was relieved; my diary had survived his onslaught. However, trouble wasn't over.

"What's that cat doing on the pillow?" Mom exclaimed. "Minty, you know perfectly well you're not supposed to let Whiskers sleep on your pillow! He gets hair over everything. Where's his blanket?"

"I don't know Mom" I said. "He's Pickles' cat, not mine".

"Don't you be rude to me, young lady!" Mom scolded.

"I wasn't" I insisted. That was so unfair of Mom to think that. I give her a truthful answer and get accused of rudeness.

Before Mom could speak again, Pickles came back, scowling again.

"Mom, tell Floyd to turn off his music" he said. "It's too noisy and I can't sleep".

"Oh very well then" said Mom, still sounding grumpy. "Pickles, take your cat with you and make sure he is on his blanket".

Pickles went over to where Whiskers was sleeping and Mom left the room. Teddy headed over to her bed but before getting into it, she pulled back the curtains and peered out through the window.

"Teddy, what are you doing?" I asked her.

"Looking for Santa" Teddy said, squashing her nose against the glass.

"He's not here now, dumdum" said Pickles. "He's back at the North Pole".

"Pickles, don't call teddy names!" I said. "If Mom hears, you'll be in a cooking pot of trouble".

Teddy ignored us both, gazing through the window. She giggled and held up her teddy.

"Look Cresta" she said. "White rain".

"White rain?" I repeated. I got up from my seat and (holding my diary firmly) went over to the window.

"Maybe it's milk from your DAIRY!" Pickles grinned.

It wasn't. I was something much better.

Something, cold, soft and fluffy.

Something drifting down from an inky black sky, covering the lawn in white.

"It's snow!" I exclaimed.

"Snow?" said Teddy eagerly.

"Snow!" said Pickles squeezing in between us. "Oh yeah! We can go out and play in it tomorrow".

I watched the snow falling, suddenly feeling much more cheerful. I would have something interesting to write in my dairy for tonight and a LOT more for tomorrow!