Chapter One: A Busy Street
At number 1 Oak Avenue, Justice Quidfibble was down on his hands and knees on his lawn. He had a magnifying glass in his hand, using it to hunt out tiny weeds.
"If Oak Avenue wins the Tidiest Street Competition, it will make me well-known," said Justice Quidfibble to himself. "I'll be asked to judge important trials in the highest court in Trimtown. More money for me!"
"So out you go, weeds," he ordered. "No mercy! Absolutely guilty! Out, out, out!"
Why was Judge Quidfibble behaving like this? Well, there was only one week to go before the judging of the Tidiest Street Competition. So everyone in Trimtown was busy. Clip and cut! Prune and polish! Clear and clean! Brush and broom!
Oak Avenue had won the Tidiest Street Competition two years in a row. If it won for the third year, the street would be famous.
The Trimtown mayor would give the people in the street a gold cup. The town would be on TV all round the world. It would even have its own web-site! There would be brass-bands, balloons, speeches, delicious food and drink.
At number 2 Oak Avenue lived Councillor Humplebag. He was measuring his hedge with a ruler, because he wanted the hedge to be exactly the same height all the way along. No bumps, no lumps - exactly the same height.
If Oak Avenue wins the Tidiest Street Competition," he said to himself, "I'll be famous. That means I'll be re-elected to the Council. That means I'll get more money. A hedge that’s straight - no bulge or sag - means lots of votes for Humplebag!"
At number 3 Oak Avenue, Colonel Bigshot was vacuuming up an oak leaf that had dared to fall onto his lawn. He wanted to win the Tidiest Street Competition because he'd be so famous he'd become a general - and make lots of money.
"It is very important that we win the competition, leaves," thundered Colonel Bigshot. "So stand to attention, leaves! Salute the vacuum - and disappear!"
At number 4 lived Granny Green and Scraddle, her small black cat.
Chapter Two: Granny Green Decides
Granny Green wasn’t happy.
"Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot say my house has to be painted grey," she said to Scraddle.
She sighed. "They say grey is safe. They say grey is tidy. They say grey will help Oak Avenue win the Tidiest Street Competition. What do you think of grey, Scraddle?"
Scraddle hissed and twitched his tail.
"Quite right," said Granny Green. She wondered if Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot might let her have yellow window-frames - to remind her of a lovely poached egg. Or blue spouting - to go with the sky. Or an orange door-knob - like the inside of a tasty pumpkin.
"I'll go and ask," she said to Scraddle - but she was back in two minutes. Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot were far too busy to talk to her.
Granny Green was angry. Silly competition! she thought.
"Why be tidy if you’re too busy to say Hello?" she asked Scraddle.
Scraddle’s green eyes blinked and his tail twitched. Then Granny Green had such an exciting thought that her knees wobbled.
"It’s my house," she said to Scraddle" - so I'll choose the colours!"
She rushed to the paint store and filled her shopping trolley with tins of paint and paint brushes. When she got home, she put on her apron and climbed up the ladder to her roof. She opened a tin. With a deep breath, she spread the first brushful over the grey chimney.
Chapter Three: Trouble
It was red - bright red, brilliant red, blazing red. "Red for danger," shouted Granny Green. "And fire-engines and tomatoes! And roses and sunsets!"
"Ahem" coughed someone very loudly. It was Colonel Bigshot. He spoke to Granny Green as if she was a naughty leaf. "Red is a bad colour," he boomed. "Red will not win the competition. Stop it at once, Miss Green! Do you hear?"
Granny Green put down her paint-brush. Colonel Bigshot himself was red in the face. He looked about to explode and send bits of Bigshot all over Oak Avenue.
He marched back to number 3. Granny Green sighed again. you’re not Colonel Bigshot, she thought. you’re Bully Bigshot.
Then Scraddle climbed onto the roof, meowed, blinked his eyes, and twitched his tail. Granny Green suddenly picked up her paint-brush and slapped on the red paint until the chimney was finished. When she looked at it glowing in the sun, she was so excited she could scarcely breathe.
She opened the next tin and began on the roof. It was bright green. "Green for frogs!" said Granny Green. "And grass and lettuce - and Granny Green!"
She sang as she painted:
Colours gleam, colours glow,
Colours fly, colours flow.
With tin and brush and slap and swish
I'll paint my house the way I wish!
She looked over the roof. Looking up at her were Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot. They were fuming! They were frowning! They were furious!
Chapter Four: Grey, Grey, Grey!
"Your house looks like a rainbow!" yelled Judge Quidfibble.
"Stop it at once!" shouted Councillor Humplebag.
"Or earlier!" spluttered Colonel Bigshot.
They stomped over to the shopping trolley with all the paint-tins and threw them into the rubbish-bin. "Hey!" said Granny Green - "They're mine!" They didn’t listen to her.
Instead they came over with a hose which snaked all the way from Judge Quidfibble’s house. They pointed the hose at Granny Green’s roof.
Water splashed all over Granny Green and Scraddle, and all over the new paint. The water gurgled down the spouting. It swirled along the guttering. It gushed down the drains. It swished and spurted over the chimney and the roof like a river.
And it washed away the red paint and the green paint, to the very last drop.
Chapter Five: Rainbow
"Meanies!" shouted Granny Green. "Miserable meanies!" But Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot just laughed as the hose spouted water onto the house.
Then Granny Green noticed a tiny rainbow glinting in the spray from the hose. Scraddle noticed it too. A twitch from his tail and the rainbow grew bigger.
Scraddle purred and twitched his tail again. The rainbow bulged. Soon it covered the whole house.
Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot turned off the hose - but the rainbow stayed. It seemed to have a life of its own. So did Granny Green’s house. It started to float up one side of the rainbow.
From the top of the roof, Granny Green looked over the side. The ladder was left on the ground, but it hung in the air, like magic.
Below her, she saw Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot. They were standing with open mouths, staring at the house as it rose higher.
A flock of swallows passed underneath. Oak Avenue and Trimtown began to look like a map. Cars and houses became little coloured squares. Rivers and roads were silver threads.
Clouds passed by, like big wooly cushions. Granny Green felt as light as a feather, as light as a thread of spider-web, as a ray of sunshine. So did everything else in the house.
The television and the fridge floated round the room. The cupboards opened and the pots and pans danced in the kitchen. A cookbook sailed out of the kitchen window and flapped around in the air like a butterfly. The sofa and three cushions glided out the back door.
Scraddle swooped and soared through the sky with the birds. Granny Green trampolined on a cloud.
The house shone with colour - red for juicy apples, green for jungles, blue for ice-caves and dolphins, yellow for bananas, purple for grapes and thunderstorms.
Granny Green wanted it to last for ever - but very slowly the house began to sink. Everything floated back into the house. Tiny things on the ground became larger. Soon Granny Green could see Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot.
With a tiny bump and a puff or two of dust, the house landed - and the rainbow disappeared.
Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot were standing in exactly the same position. Their mouths were so wide that a passing bumble-bee flew in and out of all of them. They were staring at the house. From top to bottom it was coloured like a rainbow.
Chapter Six: Judging Day
They hosed it with water and scrubbed as hard as they could. It didn’t work. The rainbow colours stayed. They were still there when the judges came to decide which street would win the Tidiest Street Competition.
In their shiny black suits the judges peered and peeped and poked round Trimtown all day. They made lots of notes in their little black notebooks.
At four o'clock, everyone met in the town square to hear what they had to say..
The smallest judge mounted the stage and cleared his throat. "Ladies and gentlemen of Trimtown, boys and girls - and cats and dogs," he said. "How tidy Trimtown looks! How hard you have worked! Congratulations, one and all! Now I announce the winner!"
There was a long pause. Breathlessly, Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot waited. "The winner," said the judge, "is not Oak Avenue. Oak Avenue had a house of very bright colours - and we all know that bright colours are not very tidy. This time the winner is Petunia Place!"
Judge Quidfibble and Councillor Humplebag and Colonel Bigshot were so angry that smoke almost came out of their ears. No gold cup! No nationwide television! No web-site! No more money!
In their anger they quite forgot that it wasn’t Granny Green’s fault. It was all because they started a rainbow with their hose - though maybe Scraddle had something to do with it.
They sold their houses in Oak Avenue and moved to Petunia Place, never speaking to Granny Green again.
A week after the competition three new families shifted into the street. They loved Granny Green’s rainbow house.
They painted their houses the way they wanted, too. Granny Green smiled and Scraddle purred when they saw them. And the neighbours came and visited Granny Green each day.
We should have a Happiest Street competition, thought Granny Green. I know which street would win that!
© John Parker
Read our interview with John Parkeropens a new window.