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There once was a busy country with a Prime Minister who was determined to do well. The people worked hard and kept the fires of the power stations burning all day and all night. But the fumes from the burning of coal and gas made the air catch in their throats. The smoke blocked out the moon and the stars and dimmed the sun. The sky disappeared behind a blanket of cloud. “Do something,” the people said. The PM ordered them to build taller chimneys. “So the smoke will blow further away,” he said. “Paint blue sky and clouds all the way round the cooling towers. Then everyone will feel better because they’ll remember the colour of the sky,” which was true. A high-pitched screeching was heard from the cages of the canaries that the people kept for their sweet songs. The screeching got louder. “What a terrible sound,” said the PM. “Release them.” So the people opened up all the cages and the canaries flew this way and that searching for air that they could breathe freely. Many birds coughed and some died from air poisoning. “Let’s stick together,” said the chief of the birds, “and head for the clouds.” So the canaries flocked together to make a giant bird with a sharp beak and two huge wings and a tail. They flew vertically up into the air and though many were scattered by the strong winds and more were injured by the fumes, enough birds broke through the thick cloud for the rest to follow through the gap that they made. Free at last, the remaining birds glided on the jet stream over unknown miles of sea. At last, the clouds thinned and the shore of a faraway land came into view. The air was fresh and clear and the birds spread out and drifted gently down to the beach where a father was teaching his young daughter to count. The little girl looked up at the first yellow bird. “How many?” she said. “One,” said her father and when more arrived, “two, lots,” as the yellow birds drifted down like yellow snow. The canaries made a home in that new land and back in the busy country the PM was voted out of office and the people went on holiday.

by Nigel Smith


Budapest Anthology 2013  

The Dovetail project gives people in Nottingham, Karlsruhe and Budapest the opportunity to tell each other their stories using creative writ...