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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA


Lisa’s Winter Tail
Lisa, our friendly fox, has another adventure with her cubs this month to start the Family Pages. Then we have some puzzles, including a Sudoku and lots of quizzes with flags, kindly created for us by The English International School. Passport is keen to publish new writing, so if you have a story that would fit in the Family Pages, and would like to see your name and work in print, please send it to us. 500-800 words, not longer, with or without illustrations. It must make the Editor smile. Happy writing!
Ross Hunter, illustrations: Nika Harrison

UK! ‘I hate winter!’, sighed Lisa as she peered out of the burrow window into Moscow’s snowy dawn. The four cubs were still asleep, curled up in their usual hopeless mess, so she had time to think while doing the day’s dusting, scrubbing, washing and brushing.

Christmas had passed, the trip to Lapland now only a fading memory. They would not fall for playing Santa, Elves and Reindeer again. It had been fun, with Sasha curling his white tail tip round to make Santa’s beard, and Boris playing sleigh for the twins to ride on. But that was past.

Four very hyper cubs to amuse in one small burrow, every day.

What to do? Hide and seek is too easy in the snow, despite bushy brushes shuffling snow over the footprints. Fishing through the ice is hard work and Dasha and Masha get bored. Stay inside and the boys will wreck the place. Winter sports! Lisa groaned to herself as she muttered it, knowing that the cubs will have fun, and she will be exhausted.

First, persuade them. A good goose-rich breakfast for stamina, hot honey for energy, and suggest reading. Collecting firewood. Writing thank you letters. Or a winter pentathlon: skating, sledging, snowballing, ‘White Fox’ and a BBQ. Sorted. Out they went.

Build the BBQ fire first. Now, hauling frozen fir cones and fallen branches from the woods is a normal winter chore, but made into a race with prizes, even the boring can be fun, and soon they had ten times what they needed, and Lisa could use the rest for a week afterwards. Job done. Inevitably, the snowballs flew as each tried to destabilise the others’ loads. Another tick.

Skating is much easier for foxcubs than for you and me, as they have long tails for balance, although this wasn’t obvious when they were getting going on the ice. Only Sasha found it easy, and was soon sliding and skidding, pirouetting, dancing and prancing. Until Boris caught him. Boris lacked style and grace, but he did have sharp shoulders and elbows, and nobbled Sasha every third circuit.

The girls got nowhere, frozen to the edge, gripping each other, tripping and stuttering. Boris spotted their struggles and went to help. ‘Mum!’ they yelped, thinking he was about to tease them. But Boris slowed down, eased them apart and away from the edge and back again, until they gave it a go themselves. Even Sasha stopped showing off and lent a paw, and there was applaws when Lisa said ‘Enough! Next sport’.

Sledging was a bit the same. Sasha sped, slalomed, scythed and swooshed showily. Boris bounced, bundled and bonked into unyielding yews. ‘Oww! By Dose Hurds!’ he boaned, sorry, moaned.

Masha and Dasha scratched slowly down the slope, paws and tails braking hard and breaking speed.

‘Boring!’ Said the boys, ‘come on, let’s do it properly’, and grabbed and dragged sisters and sledges back up again. With the girls in front, they gradually got them to open their eyes, unclench their paws and enjoy steering the sledge a bit faster and a bit faster each time.

‘Yeheey!, they whelped, this is great!’

They had so much fun, it was dusk before they even remembered ‘White Fox’, their favourite game, which we’ll save for another story. Lisa eased four very tired and very happy cubs back into the burrow, and sat them down for tea. When they had wolfed their goose and feather fritters, and while their hot milk was cooling, Lisa checked on the day’s experiences.

Sasha burst first: ‘I was great today, Mum. I can skate backwards in circles both ways, and I taught the girls how to sledge!’

‘We learned lots, Mum...,’ piped in the twins, thoughtfully, as Sasha puffed his chest out ‘ .... from Boris!’

Everyone stared. In Boris’ case, from behind a bandaged nose.

‘Boris isn’t that good at skating or sledging, Mum, but he was really good at helping us, and showing us how to do it – badly is a good start, and better than not at all’.

Boris blushed a bit, and Sasha unpuffed himself.

‘So, what have you learned?’

‘Easy, Mum: You can if you think you can!’

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