It was a beautiful day in the Night Garden. It’s always a beautiful day. The sun shines brightly, the temperature remains at a perfectly balmy, but not swelteringly hot, twenty-five degrees. Makka Pakka’s stones are warm to the touch, but his cavern under the bridge remains refreshingly cool, as the mighty Ha-hoos keep watch over the flowers and trees. But at night, when the stars come out, the Night Garden turns into an altogether different place; dark and dangerous, a place of sleep, where the inhabitants dare not defy he who never goes to bed, as he sails off into the gloom on the everlasting ocean, to return each day, to reclaim his kingdom…..
It was one bright, sunny day, in the lush fields of this hidden land, that a romance started to blossom.
Everyone thought it would be Upsy Daisy and Iggle Piggle who would be the first to succomb to their baser instincts. All those kisses under the trees, and evening dances under the gazebo. And who could forget the times that Iggle Piggle, with a crude giggle and a toss of the quilt, had taken the liberty of getting into Upsy Daisy’s bed?
On this occasion, however, it was a different, lesser known and altogether smaller romance that was starting to bud…….
In a tiny house, underneath a big tree, lived a family of ten. Mr Pontipine ruled the house with a rod of iron. No one would mess with him and his abundant moustache. The Pontipine children were well drilled. They would carry the table, laden with food, on family picnics, often trudging for miles over bridges and twigs, even taking the occasional bumpy ride in the Ninky Nonk. But there was one Pontipine child who wasn’t satisfied with his lot. Carrying the dinner table and hiding behind logs wouldn’t satisfy him forever. He wanted more. Even the majestic views from the balcony of the Pinky Ponk had lost their lustre. He was in love, in love with a peg he had glimpsed but twice, on the rare occasions that the shy, retiring neighbours had come out to play.
“Wave!” they said, “Wave! Wave to the Wottingers!” and lo, he had waved. He had waved until his tiny wooden hands were sore. He had waved until he could wave no more. He had waved until he nearly fell out of the Ninky Nonk.
For there, on the other side of the Garden, was a vision, a vision in blue.
It was like looking at a mirror image of himself, a beautiful blue peg of a girl.
“You will NOT see her!” Mr Pontipine had cried, banging his fist on the dinner table so hard that the hundreds and thousands shook in their vases.
“Don’t you know that her cousin is Iggle Piggle? The tyrant of the Garden?” gasped Mrs Pontipine, squinting through her binoculars to check that there were no giant bean-headed fluffy blue creatures watching.
Young Pontipine had heard it said that Iggle Piggle was quite the man about the garden. He squeaked and he squawked, he giggled, he harassed Upsy Daisy, who was a good deal bigger than any Pontipine, and more than capable of fending for herself, not least with the dulcet tones of her voice and her seductive dancing that held the whole Garden in thrall. If a giant with an inflatable skirt and a bed that could move of its own accord couldn’t defend herself against the attentions of Mr Piggle, what hope did a Pontipine have? Why, he could crush you like a fly, Mr Pontipine roared. You must NOT, under any circumstances, cross the path of anyone blue.
But Young Pontipine was a fool, and he was in love. He knew the menace of Iggle Piggle, and he knew the feud that had been raging for years-possibly eternity-between the red and the blue. The Pontipines and the Wottingers had been at each other’s throats for generations, so it seemed. Over time, the Wottingers had retreated to their side of the house and boarded themselves up inside. They had literally built walls between themselves and the Pontipines, and the best that any hopeful young Pontipine could do was to wave from a safe distance. God knows they had tried, they had invited the Wottingers on more family picnics than Young Pontipine could remember, but the result was always the same. A funny Ninky Nonk would come, doubtless at the request of the fearsome Iggle Piggle, and spirit away the Pontipines before the Wottingers could find them. The very best they could hope for was a snatched moment on the Ninky Nonk, a glance across to the seats on the other side as they were driven upside down, roundabout and under and over the trees, before being dumped humiliatingly back home, covered in their own dinner.
However, Young Pontipine was a determined young peg, and he knew that his affections were returned. One night he had waited until nightfall, until all were in bed. The sun went out, the stars appeared in the sky, and President Piggle had finally given up his bedtime watch, and retreated to his boat on the Invisible Sea. No Pontipine or Wottinger had ever stayed up before. It was simply impossible to resist the lull to sleep that came with their signature music and the whisper of “time to go to bed Pontipines” from the Great Voice in the sky. Many times, Young Pontipine had wished for a story, only for the story to send him into waves of sleep so deep and so all-encompassing that it was as if he would never wake up.
Now, finally, his chance had come. His love for the Wottinger peg was so great that even the Great Voice in the sky couldn’t stop him from breaking the cardinal rule of the Night Garden.
His courage would not fail him, he would go to bed AFTER Iggle Piggle.
And so, that night, after the music had played and the ship had sailed, he crept out of the family bedroom, and positioned himself in the darkness, outside the Wottingers’ window.
It was at that point that he heard a soft voice.
“Pontipine, Pontipine, wherefore art thou, Pontipine?”
He looked up, and in the slivery moonlight, he saw her, in all her blue, peglike glory.
“Come down!” he hissed, aware that at that moment, anything could happen. The whole Garden could cave in before their very eyes, such was the secrecy about what happened there after dark. It was a closely guarded secret that not even Upsy Daisy was privy to. Young Pontipine could see her huge frame, snoring loudly in her bed under the trees. He could see the Tombliboos house, looming like an enormous threatening shadow in the moonlight. He could see the outline of the gazebo, and behind it the deflated Ha-Hoos, their plastic skins spreading out across the grass for what looked to the Pontipine eye like miles.
He turned around and looked up. The beautiful blue Wottinger peg had gone. Was his nighttime escapade all in vain? Had she been a mere chimera, a beguiling figment of his his sleep-deprived imagination? A dream that was gone all too soon?
He looked again, and there she was, his Wottinger, enemy of his family, wearer of the hated blue. Her wooden face shone in the moonlight.
Gently, she took his hand, and led him down, down to the bridge. Would they throw themselves from the bridge, these star-crossed lovers who could never be together? Surely they had only tonight, this one night before Iggle Piggle surely returned and discovered their rendez-vous, and banished them from the Garden forever, like Adam and Eve from Eden; the gates of the Garden to be guarded by fearsome Ha-hoos for all eternity, preventing their return. And surely they would have to work for their food, and no more would there be abundant ice cream sundaes and plates piled with jelly, and no more would they be sustained by the music of the gazebo, and the sweet sounds of the Tombliboos’ xylophone.
“Shh” was the only sound that came from the Wottinger’s sweet wooden lips.
For miles they walked, and it seemed like forever to two tiny pegs, but eventually they were at their destination, the Bridge of Sighs, the scene of the consummation of their love.
A little squeak came from underneath.
Was this it, wondered Young Pontipine. Had they been rumbled by the Garden’s favourite piler of stones?
An enormous furry face was bearing down on them both.
“It’s OK,” whispered the Wottinger, “he’s here to help us.”
Of course. He should have known. There was no malice in Makka Pakka. He thought only of others, of the cleanliness of their faces and the neatness of their household stones. He was no threat.
“I now pronounce you…Makka Pakka….husband and wife! MAKKA PAKKA!”
Young Pontipine didn’t know where Makka Pakka had obtained a marriage licence.
All of a sudden, there was the sound of distant splashing. Makka Pakka picked up the two tiny pegs and before they knew it they were under a stone. A splash could only mean one thing: Iggle Piggle had returned, and this time it was personal.
Never before had ANYONE gone to bed later than Iggle Piggle, and he was going to make sure that there wasn’t a second time. He was hell bent on destruction, and on the preservation of the honour of his fellow Blue. No one was allowed to touch a Wottinger. There had been whispers about it at home. Mr and Mrs Pontipine were not the most loving parents, but they knew how to gossip, and gossip they did. Many times the Pontipine children had listened intently inside the chimney breast as their parents discussed the comings and goings of the Garden. They were small, but they were no fools. Everyone suspected that Iggle Piggle was behind the Wottingers’ segregation from the rest of the Garden. He was too afraid of their power, as fellow Blues, that they might topple him and cause an uprising, that they might even GO TO BED AFTER HIM. Even the Great Voice in the Sky would be shaken to the core by such an outcome. It just couldn’t happen.
There was a rustling from under the stone. The Wottinger jumped, and Makka Pakka’s hairy hand appeared, swathed in a red blanket.
“MAKKA PAKKA I took it. Take it MAKKA PAKKA, and escape MAKKA PAKKA as fast as you can. This blanket will grant you safety, but…”
Both Pontipine and Wottinger looked up expectantly.
“You must go one by one.”
Young Pontipine looked, aghast, upon the face of his beloved for what felt like the last time.
“Until we meet again, on the other side,” said the Wottinger.
Young Pontipine kissed her wooden face. She was far braver than he.
In the morning, Young Pontipine awoke, believing it was all a dream, until he saw that instead of being in the bustling family bedroom at home with his brothers and sisters, doing the Pontipine dance, he was in Makka Pakka’s cave under the bridge. Makka Pakka had disappared, along with his trusty Og-Pog. Off washing faces like nothing’s happened, he presumed.
He walked back through the Garden to the family house, not sure what to do, until the Pinky Ponk came down to land, and opened its tiny door. Despondent, he mused that a third class ride was better than a first class walk, and got in. It was at that point that he realised that they were going a little further than usual. Instead of the usual round trip around the Garden, they appeared to be flying further and further from civilisation. They hadn’t even crashed into any trees.
Eventually, they came to a vast ocean, where finally the Pinky Ponk set him down and the tiny doors opened. There, fluttering in the breeze, was a red blanket, and beneath it, a teeny tiny Wottinger, apparently lifeless.
Young Pontipine looked out to the vast ocean beyond. Whether this was the work of Iggle Piggle, or of a malevolent ocean that would swallow up young pegs and spit out their stiff wooden frames onto the beach, they who had been so full of love, he couldn’t say. He placed his hat on the lifeless peg, and off he bobbed into the ocean. There was no more point to life.
Just a few hours later, a young Wottinger woke up, dazed, but otherwise well, and in good spirits. Makka Pakka had promised that he would send her Pontipine, and had engaged the Pinky Ponk to assist, should he be unable to fulfil his promise. Now all that remained of her Pontipine was his little red hat. He had abandoned her. Terrified of what might happen when Iggle Piggle got wind of this, and discovered that not only had his dear Wottinger cousin disgraced herself by secretly marrying a Pontipine, but they had STAYED UP LATER THAN HIM, into the water she waded.
It was later that day that the Pontipine and Wottinger families heard the terrible news.
“Oh well,” said Mr Pontipine, ever the pragmatist, “we have seven other children.” And Mrs Pontipine promptly invited the Wottingers for a picnic.
They never came.