Mr. Taylor, as it happened, had had a good day at work, and was looking forward to sharing all his experiences with Mrs. Taylor, but when he opened the front door, Mrs. Taylor didn’t give him a chance to even open his mouth! She barely allowed him to get his coat off before she took his arm and dragged him into the kitchen, closing the door firmly behind them.
“Something will have to be done, Richard!” she said. (You’ve probably guessed that Richard was Mr. Taylor’s name). “Davina is really not herself at the moment. First there was the disastrous birthday party at Suzie’s, and now when she should have been at foodball practice for this Saturday’s match, she came home in a real tizzy and ran straight up to her room, slamming the door behind her, and she just will not come out!” Oooh, when Mrs. Taylor spoke in italics (slanty writing to you lot!) Mr. Taylor knew it was serious. All thoughts of the good day he had had went out the window, and he sat down at the kitchen table to hear what had happened now to cause this much upset in his home.
Mrs. Taylor continued. “Now I do know that Davina is a real tomboy, and I’ve accepted, as you have I know, that she comes home with her hair all over the place, filthy from head to toe in mud and grass from the football pitch after practice while other girls of her age are talking about the new clothes they are going to get for their birthday or Christmas, and all Davina normally wants is a pair of new football boots! But first of all, it was Suzie’s party when I thought at last we had turned the former, and she was going to look more like the lovely person she really is!” Here, Mr. Taylor nodded, remembering taking with some pride photographs of his beautiful daughter with a happy smile on her face, looking like some young model. “Then,” continued Mrs. Taylor, breaking in on his reminiscences, “it was the fact that the others who had been to the party, especially Suzie herself, were avoiding her at school. But to-day was the last straw!” Oops – an exclamation mark – not a good sign. Mr. Taylor mentally girded his loins (that just means focussed on the issue in hand, prepared to give what advice he could) and listened intently to his wife as she continued her diatribe. “And to-day, when she should have been at football practice for this Saturday’s match, she comes home about five minutes after the practice had started! She’s in her room now, and I can’t get her to come out and tell me what has happened!”
Mr. Taylor realised that this time it was serious; not just some small misdemeanour, but it was as though others were conspiring to disrupt Davina’s way of life, and he certainly wasn’t having that! Oh no! Tomboy she might be, but she was a really nice kid, kind to others, willing to help, and apart from occasionally rushing into the house with great enthusiasm to tell everyone what her day had been like, while dumping dirty football boots in the middle of Mrs. Taylor’s nice clean kitchen floor, he loved his daughter, and was not going to stand for the way her schoolmates were treating her.
OK – plan of action.
First of all, try to get Davina to tell him exactly what had happened, then work out what to do about it. He quickly drank the cup of tea (now getting cold) which Mrs. Taylor had automatically pour for him when he came home, and then stood up.
Then, he quietly went up the stairs, and when he got to Davina’s bedroom, knocked their secret know on the door. Rat tat a tat tat…..tat tat! After a moment, the door opened, and Davina stood there, her face all blotchy from crying. “Aw, pet, whatever has happened now?” Mr. Taylor said, quickly pulling Davina into his arms and giving her a cuddle.
Davina sniffed, trying to dry her face on the sleeve of her jumper, and went over and sat on her bed. Mr. Taylor joined her. “Hm?” he sort of enquired, waiting to be told.
Then she started to explain how things were at school – how Suzie and the other girls were avoiding her, and the boys in the football team were saying she was rubbish at football and shouldn’t be allowed in the school team as she was a girl! (Even Davina could now speak in italics! Obviously a trick she had learned from her Mum!) The whole tale tumbled out, and Mr. Taylor understood how devastating this must have been.
He patted Davina on the shoulder, and said “Leave it with your Mum and me, love, and we’ll sort it out!” He gently took her arm and pulled her up, persuading her to come downstairs to the warm kitchen and eat some tea. Finally, after Davina had gone up to bed for the night, he turned to his wife and said, “Well, Anne (Mrs. T’s name), I have been giving this some thought, and this is what I think we should do!” (and he outlined the following plan).
“First of all, I think we should make an appointment to see Mr. Robertson, the headmaster, and explain all that has been happening, just in case he doesn’t know. It is possible he has a plan of what he and Mr. Jackson can do to help at school itself.
“Then, we should tell him what we plan to do about it.” Mrs. Taylor started to interrupt, but Mr. Taylor was in full flow, and put up a hand to stop her.
“After that,” he continued, “we work hard on persuading Davina to put on a very very brave face, and go in to school each day as though she hadn’t a care in the world!”
“But Richard…….” Mrs. Taylor tried to say, but again, the hand went up, and Mr. Taylor continued.
“We then get Davina to send out invitations to all the members of the football team as well as the other girls in her class asking them to come to our house for a “Mystery Tour!” (Again Mrs. T drew breath to try and question him, but he quickly went on…)
“I have already worked this out! As you know, our own back garden, apart from your drying green itself, is long, and in a bit of a state! It is totally overgrown with weeds, shrubbery, and even quite a few trees! I intend to plant clues to the Mystery Tour, first of all in the kitchen, then the back garden in the drying green area, then finally l lots of clues in the shrubbery and up some of the trees! We’ll see how the girls cope with that! I know the boys will not bother if they get their clothes in a bit of a state, just as Davina will, to they won’t be a problem! But it will be a totally different matter for the girls in their nice party dresses!” And that is exactly what he did!
Though Mr. T. had already worked out how to run this particular Mystery Tour, he hadn’t quite worked out how to word the invitation, and asked Davina for her help in this. Davina was delighted to be doing this, and for the first time in quite a few weeks, had a smile on her face, and enthusiasm in her voice when she spoke – much more like the Davina whom Mr. and Mrs. T knew and loved!
Davina and Mr. T (excuse me calling Davina’s parents Mr. and Mrs. T – but it just takes too long typing up their surnames all the time when I want to get on with the story!) that very evening wrote out the invitation, and typed it up on Davina’s computer. When it was done, they both produced a list with all the names and addresses of both class mates and colleagues from the football team, and slipped the invitations into nice thick envelopes, rather like the ones Suzie had used when issuing invitations to her friends to attend her birthday party, which just happened to be lying around in Mr. T’s study among all his other equipment!
The final version, which they both agreed was the best even though it was quite simple and straightforward, went like this:-
(name of guest to be written in here)
a MYSTERY TOUR
of their back garden
Saturday of this week!
Once all the invitations had been put in their envelopes and addressed to each person to be invited, Davina happily went off to the local post box at the foot of their street, and put the invitations in! There were about thirty in all.
Mrs. T, who wasn’t quite sure what was going to happen at the Mystery Tour, just got on with baking cakes and biscuits, and making sure she had enough bread and fillings for sandwiches so that the kids could all enjoy tea before they embarked on the Tour itself.
All the invitees, without exception, were intrigued by the invitation and sent back acceptances. It was a Saturday, and a Mystery Tour of the Taylors’ back garden would make a nice change from the usual things they got up to.
Saturday came – and a very excited Davina (and her Dad, too, it has to be said) started making the preparations very early in the morning. The lawn had to be mown, of course, but after that it was all very very different! Each clue had been typed out thirty times, and each one bor the name of the guest upon it. The early clues were laid out on the grass, or on the fence at each side of the grass, moving them towards the next stage. Again at first when they got into the long grass, it was comparatively easy to find the clues and move forwards into the more tangled parts of the garden. The boys rushed ahead, following each clue as they round it, sometimes near the foot of the trees, sometimes a bit higher up so that they had to climb up to retrieve it!
It goes without saying that of the clues higher up in one of the trees, Suzie’s was usually the highest up, so she had to climb up further. At first, she tried very hard to keep her pretty frock clean, but the further into the “forest” they all went, the more difficult that became, and Suzie, being quite competitive, was anxious to get ahead, and find her clue so that she could find the prize which they had all been told was at the end of the tour! So, up she went…….and then disaster struck! There was an ominous tearing sound, and when she looked down, her pretty party dress had caught on a branchy, which had torn quite a big hole in the skirt. Suzie was devastated!! How had she been so stupid to allow this to happen; how on earth was she going to get down, as she realised that getting back down the tree would be more difficult than climbing up! How on earth, and this definitely caused her to cry, something which normally did not happen, was she going to tell her parents that she had managed to tear her beautiful dress!!
Then a very strange thing happened. Davina, who had been trying to hide her laughter, suddenly sprinted forward, got to the tree where Suzie was stuck, climbed up and untangled the torn skirt from the branch, and started to help Suzie back down to the ground. When they were both safe and sound, she put her arm around Suzie’s shoulders, and patted her back awkwardly, quite unaware that there were lots and lots of guests looking on open-mouthed!
Mrs. T. came out the back door to find out what was happening, and she too was astonished at the sight before her eyes! Being a practical sort of person, she quickly took Suzie into the house, washed her hands and face in nice warm water, then took her up to Davina’s room, and found an old pair of jeans and a jumper which would keep her covered and warm at the same time. Then she took her back downstairs, out the back door, and sort of instructed all the kids, Suzie included, to go on with the Mystery Tour until the prize was found.
Suzie recovered quickly from her bout of crying, and got back into the game, her competitive spirit rekindles by the kindness of the Taylor family, and not having to worry about keeping her party dress clean, was soon climbing up trees, finding clues, solving them, and it seemed that in no time flat, she was high up on the big tree right at the back of the garden, lifting a box out of that tree, and shouting at the top of her voice – a high smile on her face!!
The Mystery Tour turned out to be a HUGE success, with all the kids having had a whale of a time, and the Taylor family being thanked profusely by all of them once the game was over, the sandwiches and cakes all eaten, and little “doggy bags” of small gifts being handed out as they all left to go home.