An unusual amount of traffic

For all the Luke Walker chapters click here 🙂

Chapter 18 continues from last week:

He stepped off the bus and looked up just in time to see Joe peering down at him from the top deck asking inaudibly what was going on. When the bus pulled away Luke felt like going home to bed. Why not? he thought. After all, he’d made every effort to catch the bus; it wasn’t his fault the driver was unreasonable. If he went to school now he’d be in trouble for being late whereas if he called in sick he could avoid that and have a day in bed. It was very tempting. However, today was woodwork and he didn’t want to miss that. It was the final day for working on his toolbox. Next week they’d got to start making picture frames. His toolbox was brilliant. He already had a padlock for it. It would fit his walkie talkies, the wire cutters he’d bought with his Christmas gift voucher and Jared’s Swiss Army knife for which he was currently in negotiations. With obvious effort, Luke hitched up his heavy rucksack and set off at a brisk pace. It was quarter past eight. If someone gave him a lift, he might still make it before the bell.

As he walked past the village shops, the pub, the cemetery and the allotments, he noticed that there was an unusual amount of traffic coming through the village, but his hoped-for offer of a lift didn’t materialise. Normally, since the dual carriageway had been built, the only vehicles entering the village belonged to residents or delivery vans. It was quicker now for drivers to bypass Gingham if they were headed anywhere else. But as Luke approached the northern edge of the village it was clear that today, for some reason, the main road was closed. Not only cars but vans, lorries, even ambulances, were taking the slower route, too fast, through the village. It was noisy and smelly. Luke kept walking.

When he crossed the boundary into the adjacent town he saw, across the road, a horse, tethered on the grass verge. She recoiled every time a vehicle rushed past her and if it was something big like a lorry she tugged and pulled at her reins, trying desperately to get away. She was tied to a wooden fence on the other side of the grass verge. She had no room to retreat from the traffic and was in considerable distress. Luke, no longer caring how late he was, crossed the road towards her at the first opportunity.

“Easy girl, easy,” he spoke soothingly in an effort to calm her and carefully took hold of the reins under her chin. Thanks to a brief lull in traffic she calmed and watched Luke as he smilingly whispered these same words to her over and over. He rested the heel of his left hand between her nostrils and softly stroked her beautiful nose. The next few passing cars were considerate, giving the horse a wide berth and driving slowly. Now that she was more relaxed, Luke took the opportunity to drop his bag to the floor and rummage in it for his apple. When he turned to look back up at her he was startled by a huge lorry that came out of nowhere. The horse panicked again, pulling her head up and back, trying desperately to free herself. Luke knew he had to get her away from the road. On the other side of the fence was a meadow. No crops, no animals. She would be much happier in there. Luke unbolted the gate and pushed it wide open. Then he stood with the mare, stroking her and talking to her to keep her calm while he waited for the traffic to die down again. Once he was sure she was calm, he untied her from the fence and encouraged her to come with him. Happy to move away from the road she followed him into the field.

“This is better isn’t it?” he smiled, “you’re safe from the traffic in here. The grass is short but there’s plenty of it. Oh, and there’s this,” he offered her his apple and she took it eagerly.

As the traffic built up again Luke was relieved to see that she remained relaxed. When she’d finished the apple, she bent her head to the grass at her feet and grazed comfortably. In this position her reigns dragged on the floor so Luke was worried she might trip on them. Best to take them off, he thought. He gently unfastened all the straps and lifted the bridle over her ears. She dropped the bit from her mouth and was free. Luke disposed of the tack over the fence, out of harm’s way. Now she looked happy and so was he.

He wondered how someone could just abandon her on the side of the road.

“I should think of a name for you,” said Luke, “erm, how about Cocoa? Yeah, that suits you.” He realised he was going to have to come up with a very persuasive argument to get his parents to let him keep her. Then again, maybe that wasn’t the best idea because she’d be lonely without another horse to keep her company. A better idea would be to ask the horse sanctuary to take her. The one that Isabel had told him about. Yes. Then she would have friends.

Just as Luke was deciding that he couldn’t possibly go to school now, a car pulled up at the gate.

“What are you doing?” said an angry man.

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Story concludes tomorrow but if you don’t want to wait you can read it here now 😀

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vegan, vegetarian, veggie kids, vegan children, animals, horse, vegan children’s story, vegan children’s book, humour,

Sheep treats

For all the Luke Walker chapters click here 🙂

A few minutes later, Luke and Dudley were en route to the allotments to see Curly and Squirt. It was cold. The scarcity of light before sunrise made it feel even colder but when they got there they were eagerly welcomed by mother and son. Luke reached into his pocket for the expected treats. He let his friends choose who had which. Squirt snatched the carrot before his mother got a look in but that was okay because Curly liked parsnips. Little Squirt had learned not to hesitate when it came to accepting treats because Dudley was rather partial to carrots too. In this instance, Dudley was compensated for his lack of carrot by the tasty piece of cardboard which had fluttered from pocket to ground, unnoticed by Luke, when he pulled out the sheep’s treats.

Luke let Dudley off the lead while he went to the big shed. He refilled the nets with alfalfa hay and cleaned up the muck before laying down a thick bed of clean straw. Then he went back outside to check on the water trough. As expected, it had frozen over. He looked for the trowel they used to break the ice. Mum had done it yesterday. Where had she put it? Luke looked at his watch: 7.35. It would take ten minutes to get back home and another five to return to the bus stop so he didn’t have much time. He looked under the tarpaulins at the back of the shed; he looked in the old wooden chest under the tarpaulins. Where was it? He didn’t have time for this! He went back outside and scanned the area. Hurrying around the whole of his plot, he looked under shrubs and behind the wood pile. Nothing. He tried without success to break the ice with his elbow and then rushed over to his dad’s plot, maybe she’d left it there. Finally, he found it. She’d stuck it into the ground behind the coiled hose. He tugged on it but it wouldn’t move. The ground was frozen and the trowel was stuck.

“Great,” thought Luke, “thanks Mum!” Then he had an idea. The tap to which the hose was connected had its pipe lagged. With any luck it hadn’t frozen. He attempted to turn it on. The cold metal hurt his hand but he tried as hard as he could to twist it. It was stuck. He looked at his watch again: 7.46. He pulled his hand into his thick coat sleeve and tried again. The padding helped. The tap started to give and then, finally, there was running water. He wet the earth around the trowel to soften it, turned off the tap, agitated the trowel back and forth until it came free and then ran back to the water trough. With all his strength he hacked into the thick ice and broke it into floating chunks. As fast as he could he tossed the chunks over to Dad’s plot so that they wouldn’t re-join. Luke’s gloved hands were wet and stinging with cold. Curly and Squirt ambled over for a drink. The trough was half empty now. Would that be enough water for them for today? Maybe not. But he didn’t have time to refill it. He’d tell Mum to do it. No, Mum said she was going to be out all day. She’d probably left already. He ran back to the tap, turned it on and directed the hose at the trough. It took two minutes to fill. Finally, everything was done. Luke unfastened the gate.

“Dudley,” he called, “c’m ‘ere boy, quick!” Dudley was so busy playing with Squirt that he didn’t notice he was being summoned. Luke made his voice deep and stern. “Dud-ley!”

Dudley looked over at Luke, thought for a moment, and then resumed his game. Luke growled. He re-fastened the gate and ran after his dog. Dudley and Squirt were very happy Luke had decided to join them and ran ahead of him around the shed, wagging their tails and shouting with joy. After three circuits of the shed and one sudden and uncomfortable slip to the ground, Luke changed tactics. He went into the shed where Curly was enjoying the hay.

“Alright Curly?” he asked as he gently stroked her back. She turned to nuzzle her nose against his hand briefly before resuming her meal. In less than a minute, Dudley and Squirt put their heads around the door, wondering if they could get some of whatever Curly was getting. Luke smiled and put his hand in his pocket. The playmates hurried over for whatever he’d got for them and Luke clipped the lead to Dudley’s collar before they realised their mistake. They got over their disappointment easily while Luke, with a quick goodbye over his shoulder, ran with Dudley all the way home.

It was gone eight when he passed the bus stop which was still crowded with people. There was still hope. Luke stopped to catch his breath and Dudley took the opportunity to sniff for evidence of interlopers on the grass verge.

“Come on Dudley!” Luke chivvied, and the two of them pushed themselves to the limit. As soon as they got home, Dudley headed back to bed for a well-earned rest and Luke envied him. When he rushed back down the hill, slowed only slightly by his heavy school bag, he was relieved to see the bus had still not arrived. It pulled up just as he crossed the road to join the back of the queue. Ten past eight. Not bad considering. Sweating and out of breath, Luke undid his coat and took off his scarf as the queue moved forward. Passengers raced up the stairs and threw themselves onto the seats, making the bus sway. With just a couple of people now ahead of him, Luke put his hand in his pocket for his bus pass. Not there. He checked his other pocket. No. He checked his back pocket, he checked his coat pockets. Nothing. He looked up to meet the driver’s weary gaze.

“I can’t find my bus pass,” he confessed.

“I can’t let you on then,” returned the driver.

“I have got a bus pass,” Luke explained, “I am s’posed to be on this bus. I’ve just lost it.”

“You’ll have to get a new one then won’t you?”

“Yeah,” said Luke, relieved, and climbed aboard.

“Not without a bus pass. Step down please.”

“But I’ll be late!”

“So you will. Not my problem. Get. Off.”

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Story continues on Monday 😀

but if you don’t want to wait the whole chapter is right here 😉

Have a great weekend 😀

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vegan, vegetarian, veggie kids, vegan children, animals, sheep, dog, vegan children’s story, vegan children’s book, humour

Stickers!

Luke Walker: animal stick up for-erchapter 17, continues from yesterday:

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Inside the busy department store Luke and Joe headed to the food hall at the back. It was like a supermarket only posh. High on the walls were colourful photographs of grazing animals alongside stylish pictures of meat and fish dishes with captions like “Committed to Animal Welfare” and “RSPCA Freedom Foods”.

Luke turned to Joe.  “The leaflets said this shop is sellin’ ducks from factory farms so stick these on anythin’ with ducks in,” he said, handing Joe half the stickers. Then he reconsidered and took them back. “No, it’s busy so we’d better stick together. You pretend to be shoppin’ – get a basket – an’ I’ll put the stickers on.”

Joe fetched a basket and the two outlaws headed for the chilled section. They walked along the large glass-fronted cabinets and whenever they saw anything labelled ‘duck’ Joe reached up and pretended to be rummaging, picking things up, looking at them, putting them back, choosing something else. All the while Luke, screened from onlookers by his friend’s authentic movements, commenced putting stickers on plastic-wrapped trays of duck spring rolls, duck breasts with plum sauce, and duck legs with Hoisin sauce. Then they moved on to the freezer section and Luke stickered a pile of whole ducklings with giblets while Joe casually kept watch. After that they progressed to the tinned meat aisle but there was a man restocking the shelves. Luke whispered something to Joe who shook his head.

Luke frowned. “If you won’t do it, I’ll have to do it and you’ll have to do the stickers on your own!” he whispered.

Joe accepted the commission, preferring that to the alternative, so Luke approached the shelf-filler.  “’Scuse me,” he said politely, “I’ve lost me mum, can you put an announcement out for her?”

“Sure,” said the man, helpfully, “come with me.”

As soon as Luke and the man were out of sight Joe, as fast as he could, began stickering stacks of tinned duck cassoulet, duck confit and duck liver pãtè. He had to keep pausing, trying to look casual, every time someone entered the aisle, but as soon as they left he resumed. Sometimes the stickers were frustratingly difficult to peel off their backing paper but he took deep breaths to calm himself and persevered. When he heard the announcement for Mrs Kathryn Janeway to meet her son at the customer service desk he knew his time was up. With only one sticker left, he made his escape before the shelf-filler returned. The two boys rendezvoused in the toy department and left the shop unhindered, but not before Luke affixed their last remaining sticker to a yellow toy duck.

****

“What’s your name?” asked Isabel.

“Andy,” said the suited man, “what’s yours?”

“Isabel. Why do you dress like that?”

“In a suit you mean?”

“Yeah.”

“To look respectable.”

“Like an estate agent?”

Kris laughed.

“Well, that wasn’t exactly what I was going for,” said Andy.

“Oh, sorry,” Isabel apologised. “Like a bank manager then? Or a teacher?”

Kris laughed again.

Andy sighed. “Not like anything in particular,” he said, “just a regular upstanding citizen as opposed to a scary, pierced, tattooed, hippy dippy punk, like someone I could mention.”

“Heyyy!” Kris was mock-offended.

“I think she looks nice,” said Isabel.

“Yeah, she’s cool,” Tania agreed.

“Thanks guys,” Kris smiled.

“Yes yes yes, she’s very cool,” said Andy, “but she looks like a weirdo. If we want to persuade ordinary, mainstream people to take us seriously they have to be able to relate to us. We have to look ordinary. Approachable, respectable, non-threatening.”

At that moment a policeman arrived.

“Afternoon folks, have you got a permit for this stall?”

“Don’t need one officer, we’re not collecting money,” Andy replied.

“How long have you been standing here?”

“Got here about twelve o’clock didn’t we?”

“Yeah,” said Kris.

“And you’ve been here the whole time? All of you?” Kris and Andy nodded. “What about you two?” he asked Tania and Isabel.

“We got here about quarter past one,” Isabel told him.

“And where were you before that?”

“The library,” said Tania, deciding that their brief time in front of the RSPCA shop wasn’t worth mentioning.

“Nowhere else?”

“No.” The girls felt their faces flush.

“Can anyone vouch for that?”

“Is there a problem officer?” Andy intervened.

“Spittles have found stickers on a lot of their duck products. They’ve had to take a couple of hundred pounds worth of stuff off the shelves.”

Everyone behind the stall tried to keep their faces expressionless.

“Any stickers here?” the policeman asked as he browsed the stall, “you’ve got leaflets about Spittle’s factory farm duck. Did you do it?”

“Certainly not,” said Andy truthfully, “we’re just here to provide information.” The policeman looked sceptical. “Look,” Andy gestured to all the literature on the stall, “no stickers.”

“Nevertheless,” the policeman continued after a moment’s pause, “Spittle’s would like you to move away from their store.”

“We have every right …” Kris began to object.

Nevertheless,” the policeman repeated with emphasis, “I would like you to move your stall away from this store.”

“No problem officer,” Andy replied, “we can do that. No problem at all.”

Wearing a serious, ‘don’t mess with me’ expression, the policeman looked hard at Andy and Kris before nodding and turning away.

“This is exactly the kind of thing I was trying to avoid!” complained Andy. “Now they think we’re thugs.”

Kris shook her head. “I call that a win,” she said, “we weren’t going to get that duck off the shelves by just standing here handing out leaflets.”

“We’re playing a long game here Kris,” Andy argued, “we have to keep to the high moral ground. We can’t force the issue or it won’t stick. We’ve got to persuade people to do it for the right reasons, so they won’t renege later on.”

Kris shrugged as she continued piling leaflets into her battered shopper on wheels. The girls, who could see both sides of the argument, quietly exchanged glances before retrieving their clipboard. Andy folded the table and all four of them relocated outside the Arndale Centre.

“D’you think Luke and Joe will be able to find us?” Isabel asked Tania.

“I hope so,” said Tania, “if they don’t get here soon we’ll have to go. Our bus leaves in ten minutes.”

“Are you all going home together?” Kris asked.

“No, we don’t live in the same village,” said Isabel.

“Don’t worry then, if you’ve got to go, you go. I’ll explain it to them when they get here. If they get here.”

“Thanks.”

“Did you reach your target?”

“Nearly,” said Isabel, smiling, “Two hundred and ninety four.”

“Not a bad day’s work then,” said Kris.

The girls thanked her, said their goodbyes and made tracks for the bus station.

****

At the public toilets Luke was having trouble with the automated hand-washing machine. He’d been dispensed liquid soap, no problem, but after covering his hands with it he’d been unable to get any water. He moved his hands from left to right, trying to activate the sensor, but nothing happened.

“Don’t bother,” said Joe, wiping his hands on his trousers, “it doesn’t work.”

Luke was annoyed at the sticky mess. “We’d better get back to the others,” he said, grabbing a handful of toilet tissue.

“They’ll be gone by now,” said Joe, “their bus was at three.”

“Oh. Shall we go then?”

“Okay. Unless you wanna see the new Spiderman.”

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For more Luke Walker chapters click here 🙂

Chapters 17 to 24 are available in paperback:

Luke Walker and the Secret Society of animal stick up for-ers

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Something unexpected that brightened my day

Recently I returned to my home town to visit family and, compared to where I live now, it’s like stepping back into the 1980s in terms of vegan options.  My dad was in the Coronary Care Unit of the local general hospital and there wasn’t a single vegan option on the hospital menu, for breakfast, lunch or dinner! The Coronary Care Unit!

Well, I’m sure you can imagine how I felt but on my way home my spirits were lifted.  I popped into the local library and look what was on the wall!

So don’t get disheartened, I said to myself – there are vegans everywhere, plugging away.

Whoever put this board up – thank you so much 😀

Basking Sharks

Photo by David Mark of Pixabay

Basking Sharks are so named because they’re often seen feeding at the surface of the water where they look like they’re basking in the sun!  They are enormous and often spotted in UK waters during summer months.
APPEARANCE:
Apart from their large size, Basking Sharks have:

  • a very large mouth – this can be well over 1m wide!
  • 5 huge gills which almost encircle the head
  • and a powerful crescent-shaped tail

COLOUR:
They tend to be greyish-brown with a lighter underbelly. Often they have irregular patches, patterns and streaks on their flanks and fins. Using photo-ID we can use these distinct markings to identify individual Basking Sharks.

SIZE:
The largest reported Basking Shark was 12m long. But most don’t get bigger than 9.8m.

WEIGHT:
The average Basking Shark weighs 4.5 tonnes. Yet, they can weigh up to 7 tonnes!

DIET:
Basking Sharks eat zooplankton. This includes small copepods, barnacles, decapod larvae, fish eggs and shrimp.  They’re one of 3 filter-feeding sharks but are the only species that feeds entirely passively. They swim through the water with their mouth wide open, rather than actively sucking water in. Only closing their mouths to swallow their food. Long comb-like structures on their gills (known as gill-rakers) trap and filter zooplankton. These can strain up to 2000 tonnes of water per hour!

REPRODUCTION:
It’s thought that Basking Sharks live for at least 50 years. Males reach maturity at 12–16 years. And females at 20 years (around 4.6-6.1m in length).
Females produce eggs, which develop and hatch inside their body. They then give birth to fully developed young, which are around 1–1.7m long. This makes Basking Shark pups larger at birth than many species of shark are fully grown!

There’s little data on Basking Shark reproduction. But pregnancy is thought to last around 14 months. There’s only ever been one reported catch of a pregnant female (1943), who was carrying 6 pups. This suggests that Basking Sharks give birth in areas of low, or no fishing pressure.

BEHAVIOUR:
Basking Sharks are quite social. They can be seen on their own, in small groups, or, schools of hundreds. There are many reports of same size and sex groups. Suggesting a strong sexual and age segregation within the species.

Despite their size, Basking Sharks are capable of leaping clear out of the water. A behaviour known as breaching. They seem to breach most when in large groups and during courtship, so this may act as a social or sexual function. It could also help to dislodge external parasites.
Info from sharktrust.org/about-basking-sharks

Basking Sharks are long lived, slow growing and produce few young. This makes them extremely vulnerable to human impacts.  Although Basking Sharks are now one of the most heavily protected sharks in UK and EU waters, they continue to face threats from human activities:

ENTANGLEMENT
Basking Sharks easily become entangled in fishing nets and ropes. Unless fishermen are on hand to quickly release them, they often die. Although some do manage to disentangle themselves. You can sometimes see scarring and abrasions caused by nets on their dorsal fin.

BOAT-STRIKE
Propeller and boat strikes remain a serious danger for Basking Sharks. Particularly in summer months when they’re feeding at the surface. Basking Sharks rarely evade approaching boats. So it’s common for them to have scarring and sometimes horrific injuries from collisions.

HARASSMENT
Basking Sharks are very sensitive to disturbance and harassment by people. In all the excitement of seeing Basking Sharks, boats and jet-ski’s often end up striking them. As well as causing physical harm, water-users can also disrupt their natural behaviour. Such as feeding, courting and mating.

FISHERIES
Basking Shark fisheries worldwide have all but collapsed. Although in some parts of the world they continue, driven by demand for shark fins. Basking Sharks are also still caught as bycatch in nets intended for other species.

Info from sharktrust.org/basking-shark-threats

To learn how you can help basking sharks go to sharktrust.org/how-can-you-help-basking-sharks

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