Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Bedtime Story (18/7/2018)

This week, I've been thinking a lot about a close friend of mine who is unwell.  This story is dedicated to her - may she make a full recovery and be back to her fabulous self, soon!

Apologies for the lack of a podcast all July.  My throat is very sore and just not up to recording the stories.  Here's hoping the podcast will make a triumphant return in August.

Charlie's Hospital Stay

Charlie blew out a long huff of air, as she watched her mum packing a bag.  "Maybe they'll let me come home today?  I might not have to stay overnight?"  She suggested, holding Grimpy, her teddy bear, very close to her chest.

"Sweetheart, you heard the doctor at your appointment, last week," her mum replied, patiently.  You have to stay in hospital just one night, so they can keep an eye on you."

Charlie rolled her eyes.  "But it's not like they're cutting my leg off or anything!  I'm only having my tonsils out.  It's no big deal!"  Charlie's cheeks turned red as soon as she spoke the words - she knew she was lying.  Ever since the doctor had told her she had to have an operation to remove her tonsils, Charlie had barely slept, for worrying.  She had never stayed overnight in hospital before and she'd never had an operation!

"I promise you," her mum replied, breaking Charlie's thoughts, "it's not going to be too bad.  You'll be back home this time, tomorrow."

Charlie sighed and cuddled Grimpy even closer.

She didn't say a word all the way to the hospital.  She sat in the back of the car, watching trees, houses and shops pass by in a blur.  Her baby brother gurgled from his car seat.  Mum and Dad tried to chat from the front.  But Charlie stayed silent, lost in her own little world.

The hospital ward was bright and busy.  There were pictures of balloons painted on the walls and the little girl in the bed next to Charlie's waved, as she sat up, drawing pictures.  A friendly nurse came and put something called a "cannula" in Charlie's hand, which she said was going to help the doctors put medicine into Charlie, so she would fall asleep for her operation.  The nurse had to use a needle and Charlie jumped.  It stung!  But it didn't hurt for very long.

Everyone was talking around her, but Charlie was too nervous to join in.  Before long, a smiling man came over and told Charlie it was time to go to theatre.  Charlie sighed, wishing it was a theatre like the one Nan had taken her to at Christmas, to watch a pantomime.  But she knew that this theatre was where they performed operations.  Her stomach lurched as she lay back on a trolley bed and was pushed down the corridor.  Mum walked beside her, holding Charlie's hand.  Mum had Grimpy tucked safely under her arm.  She promised he'd be waiting for her when Charlie woke up.

Finally, they reached some doors Mum wasn't allowed to go through.  Mum gave Charlie a kiss on her forehead and as the doors closed, leaving Mum on the other side, Charlie took a long, shaky breath and tried not to cry.

A lady wearing a green hat and a matching green outfit, came over to say hello.  She was smiling and talking, whilst some other people fussed about, around her.  "We're going to put some special liquid into your hand, now," she told Charlie.  "It'll make you go to sleep, okay?"

Charlie's lower lip wobbled and she struggled to nod her head.  This was it - the moment she'd been dreading!

A strange, cold sensation flowed up Charlie's arm, as the lady injected a needle into the cannula in Charlie's hand.  She lay back and stared at the ceiling, waiting to fall asleep.  Her dad had told her to count to ten, but Charlie was so nervous, she was counting much quicker than usual and she was horrified when she reached ten and was still awake!  She wanted to open her mouth and shout, but she suddenly felt very strange and woozy.  Out of nowhere, she blinked once, twice and fell into the deepest sleep she had ever had.

When Charlie woke up, she was a bit confused.  There was a radio playing, somewhere, but it seemed ever so far away.  She was in a small room, with peachy-pink walls.  Her throat felt a bit sore and she felt very groggy, but other than that, she was fine.  She could hardly believe that the operation was over - it felt like only five minutes ago, she'd been counting to ten in her head!

"Oh, hello there!"  A man grinned.  "We've been waiting for you to wake up.  Your parents and your baby brother can't wait to see you."

Charlie frowned.  This definitely wasn't the ward she'd been on, before.  "Where am I?!"

"You're in Recovery," the man replied.  "This is where people come after their operations, just to wake up nice and slowly, whilst we keep an eye on you."  He smiled again.  "I'll take you back down to the ward, soon.  Everything looks okay."

Before long, the man was as good as his word.  The brightly lit ward came back into view as Charlie was wheeled down the corridor.  She saw the same little girl in the bed next to hers, no longer colouring anymore, but instead sitting up and talking to a lady that Charlie assumed was her mum.  And even better, Charlie's own parents were sitting, waiting for her.  Charlie's baby brother was smiling as he perched on Dad's knee.  To Charlie's amazement, there were two brightly coloured balloons tied to the little cupboard next to her bed, and Grimpy was sitting on top of the cupboard, next to a bubblegum pink, cuddly unicorn toy!

"You've been so brave," Mum explained, as Charlie gazed at the gifts.  "We wanted to get you to something nice to come back to."

"I love it all," Charlie beamed.  She picked up the unicorn and stroked its rainbow hair.  "I'm going to have to think of a name for this little one..."

"What about Beau?"  A voice piped up.

Charlie looked round.  The little girl in the bed next to hers was grinning over at her.  "I like the name Beau, because it sounds like the end of the word 'rainbow,' and that unicorn has really cool rainbow hair!"  She waved her hand.  "My name's Beth, by the way.  I broke my leg and I had to have an operation on it."  She pointed down to a plaster cast on her leg that Charlie hadn't even noticed, before.  "It was so gross," she laughed.  "The bone was starting to stick out and everything."

Charlie pulled a face, but she laughed, too.  "I'm Charlie," she said.  "And I like the name Beau!  Thanks for naming my unicorn!"

Soon, a lady in a stripy apron came over to Charlie's bed, with a big bowl of ice cream.  "Here you are," she told her.  "This will make your throat feel better."

Charlie couldn't believe it - first she'd gotten a cool new toy, then she'd made a funny new friend and now she had ice cream?!  Being in hospital suddenly wasn't so bad.

In fact, soon, Charlie was enjoying herself rather a lot, despite still feeling a bit tired and fuzzy from her operation.  She didn't even mind when Mum and Dad had to take baby Ben home.  They kissed her goodnight and asked if she was okay.  Charlie pointed to the little TV monitor by her bed.  "Beth's going to show me how to get cartoons on TV," she giggled.  "I get to wear headphones," she added, pointing to a pair.

That evening, Beth ate chicken pie and mashed potato for her tea, whilst Charlie had a few bites of a sandwich.  She wasn't feeling very hungry, but she was in a much happier mood than she'd been when she came into hospital, earlier that day.  After dinner, the girls chatted about school, their friends and what their favourite hobbies were.  It turned out that they both liked collecting shells from the beach and they didn't live very far away from one another!  Charlie thought it felt a little bit like a sleepover, albeit a slightly strange one, with nurses coming over to check their blood pressure throughout the night.

Beth showed Charlie the little shower room, where they could clean their teeth before bed.  She also introduced Charlie to another little girl called Sabrina, who was in the bed opposite Beth's.  Sabrina had bad asthma, and she showed Charlie how she had to take her inhalers.  She was nice, too.

When Charlie's eyes finally started to close, once again, she couldn't believe what a big day she'd had.  She'd been braver than she ever thought she could be, and now she'd realised that sometimes, even the big, scary things don't turn out to be half as bad as you imagine they will.

With the soft bleeping of hospital machines in her ears, Charlie drifted off to sleep, with her mind full of ice cream, friends and rainbow-haired unicorns...


Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Bedtime Story (11/7/2018)

This story goes live an hour before England play in their first World Cup semi-final in almost 30 years.  What else could I write about?!

This story is dedicated to Gareth Southgate and the England team - whatever happens tonight, I'm so proud to support you! 

Apologies for the lack of podcast the last two weeks - I've had a terrible sore throat and not much of a voice, recently.  Hopefully it'll be back very soon!

Harry The Football Hero

Harry liked lots of things.  Cars, dinosaurs and chocolate spread on toast, to name a few.  But he loved one very special thing.  Harry loved football.

As soon as Harry got up in the morning, he wanted to kick a ball around in the garden.  He wanted to practise penalties when he was supposed to be getting ready for school.  And he had a football at his feet the very second he got onto the school playground at break time and lunch.

When Harry was supposed to be doing maths, he was usually planning the perfect pass, instead.  When his whole school gathered for assembly, Harry would close his eyes and imagine himself scoring the winning goal for England.  He wanted to be a footballer more than anything in the world.

Harry belonged to a football club.  Every Saturday, he practised with his teammates and hoped that maybe next time they played against another club, he'd be picked to play.  The trouble was, Harry was the youngest player and he always seemed to sit on the bench, waiting for his chance.  He was starting to think it was never going to happen.

This Saturday was no different.  Harry's team were playing a club from the next town down the road.  He was on the bench, digging his studs into the ground, fiddling with his football shirt and sighing loudly.

His team were losing one nil.  Harry wasn't very impressed.  He stared down at his hands.  In fact, he was looking so closely at his bitten nails, he didn't even notice the team's best striker slip and twist his ankle.  He barely spotted the club's coach dashing over, waving his hand at Harry.  Before Harry knew it, he was being ushered onto the pitch!

Harry jumped from side to side, trying to calm his nervous legs.  The ball was being passed between his team and it seemed to be getting closer and closer.  Harry could hardly breathe.  He found himself jogging backwards, watching the ball all the time as he got closer and closer to the other team's goal.  He knew someone would pass the ball to him soon and he knew exactly what had to happen.  Sure enough, soon the ball came flying towards him.  Harry didn't even think.  He caught the ball with his foot, quickly turned on the spot, shifted his feet and booted the ball as hard as he could in the direction of the goal.  He watched, his heart in his mouth, as it sailed past the goalkeeper and landed safely in the back of the net.  The crowd went wild, Harry's teammates came rushing over to hug and cheer him.  He couldn't believe it - he'd equalised!

"Ten minutes left," one of Harry's teammates whispered.  "We need another goal to win!"

Harry knew what he had to do.  He ran down the pitch, jumping carefully in front of one of the other team's players, nipping the ball out from under their feet.  He turned, keeping the ball close and ran as fast as he could, ducking and dodging the other team's players as they chased him, desperately trying to get the ball back.  Harry could see the goal getting closer and he darted around the other team's last defender, walloping the ball in the direction of the net.  

"GOAL!"  Harry's teammates were shrieking and jumping.  He'd done it!  They'd won!

The rest of the game passed by in a blur.  Harry's team carried him on their shoulders around the pitch, all of them shouting his name.  Harry was overjoyed!

That night, Harry lay in bed, exhausted, but with a wide smile on his face.  His mum came in to kiss him goodnight.  "I'm so proud of you," she told him.  "You should sleep well, tonight!  You've probably worn yourself out.  And have a lie-in tomorrow morning.  I think you've earned it."

Harry grinned, shaking his head.  "Oh, Mum," he smiled.  "I've got to practise!"  He closed his eyes.  Suddenly, he didn't think he'd be sitting on the bench too often, anymore.  

Harry still had a smile on his face as he drifted off into a wonderful dream about scoring the winning gold for England...


Saturday, 7 July 2018

Arguing With Homophobes on Pride Day...

Homophobes are, as is turns out, much like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense:  walking around like regular people.  They don't know they're homophobes.

Today, as it's Pride Day and lots of members of the LGBTQ+ community (and their allies) are marching through London, many organisations have chosen to show their support.  M&S, The Royal Navy and The Royal British Legion to name a few.

I've spoken about Pride and about sexuality on this blog before, so I don't feel any great urge to repeat myself too much, but I've never said this, so I'll say it now:

Last year, I realised that sometimes, I find women attractive.  Sometimes, I like a woman in that way.  Sometimes, I find it very easy to imagine myself with a girlfriend.  I get girl crushes and they're exactly the same as my guy crushes.  What I realised last year, was that I wouldn't turn someone down, just because they weren't my usual preferred gender.  If I liked someone, their gender wouldn't necessarily have to be a factor.

I've not really put a label on it.  I guess if I really wanted to, I'd put myself as the "Q" in LGBTQ+.  But I don't feel any pressure to label myself.  I am what I am and sometimes, that means I think "she's hot" and sometimes I think "he's hot."  It's not a big deal.

So, this year, when I spotted the inevitable dissent from the homophobes of the world, my actions were the same as they always are.  I called them out on their ignorance.

Because that's what it is.  And this year, I've seen some fabulous examples of ignorance.  Behold, some of my personal favourites:

  • "I don't hate all gay people.  I just hate the whole LGBTQ+ community."
  • "The gay agenda is disgusting.  Why must they flaunt their sexuality?  Straight people don't."
  • "I will be complaining about this.  The Royal British Legion should not support Pride.  They should support ALL service men and women and their families."
  • "Pride is just virtue-signalling, political correctness gone mad.  Why SHOULD it exist?!"
  • "Indoctrinating children to believe being gay or transgender is okay is unreasonable."

Here's the thing: Straight people flaunt their sexuality all the time.  What was The Sun's Page 3 if not aimed at placating a straight dude's sexuality?  Have you ever seen a straight couple holding hands, or kissing in public?  I know I have.  I don't get my knickers twisted about their agenda.

Also, the whole "support ALL service men and women" comment goes against the "they should not support Pride" thing, rendering it one of the most wilfully stupid arguments I've seen all day.

And I've seen many.

The trouble is, I've made the mistake of trying to speak reasonably.  Trying to explain how horrific it is that a person's sexuality could be illegal.  That loving someone could be reason for you to be attacked, persecuted or made to feel so isolated that you consider taking your own life.  That love is love and that rising above all of that horrendous history (and for some LGBTQ+ people in other countries, it's not even history at all) is worthy of celebration and pride.

And I shouldn't have bothered.  Because I'm arguing with the wilfully deaf.  I'm talking to people who use the word "hate" freely and yet call you a "virtue signalling, SJW snowflake" when you highlight the fact that all they're doing is hating for hating's sake.

So, I've stopped.  

I haven't stopped supporting Pride, or being supportive of all my LGBTQ+ friends (or being comfortable in myself).  But I have stopped trying to speak reason to those for whom reason has long since been thrown out, in favour of hateful, often far-right rhetoric.

I haven't stopped believing that using religion as an excuse to pour scorn on gay people is abhorrent and that no God I will ever believe in could persecute a person just for who they love.  But I have stopped trying to make the indoctrinated see sense.

And you know what?  I feel better for it.

I'm not saying I won't speak out, where I see hateful words spat all over a computer screen, or where I see intolerance preached as though it has any place in our society.  But I will know when to shrug my shoulders and say "what a sad little life you must lead, if this is how hateful your views are," before walking away with my head held high.

Sometimes, that's the best thing to do - leave them to stew in their juices, posting far-right propaganda about how hating the entire LGBTQ+ community doesn't mean they're homophobic, as though that makes any sense...

I'm off to enjoy the sunshine and bite my nails off whilst watching the World Cup.  I'll leave the idiots to argue amongst themselves.

Happy Pride, everyone.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Bedtime Story (4/7/2018)

I may not be American, but how could I ignore the fact that this week's bedtime story goes live on 4th July?!  So, this story is dedicated to my American readers.

I'd Like To Be A Firework

I'd like to be a firework,
Fizzing through the sky.
Illuminating the darkness
Whenever I pass by.

I want to zoom into the stars,
bursting with energy.
I want to paint my colours
Onto people's memories.

I'd love to dance through the night,
Sparkling like the stars.
Leaving my troubles far behind,
In that dark, grey world of ours.

I'd sprinkle rainbow flashes
As I burst into the night,
Breaking up the darkness
With colour and with light.

I'd like to soar high in the air,
Effortless and free,
With glitter trails in my wake,
As far as I can see.

I want the crowd to gasp,
As I put on my show.
I want there to be no limit
To how far I can go.

I'd like to be a firework,
That's what I'd like to be.
But I'll sparkle and be colourful,
Even just being me.


Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Bedtime Story (27/6/2018)

I am the granddaughter of a Greek Cypriot immigrant to this country.  I am enormously proud of my mixed heritage and of the contribution my much-loved Paps made to Britain.  If there is one thing I think it is utterly vital to uphold, it is acceptance of the multicultural society we live in.  It is with that in mind, that I present you with this week's bedtime story.

Feel free to listen to me reading this week's story, by clicking here.

All The People In My Street

All of the people in my street,
Are the nicest folk you'll ever meet.
They don't all look or sound like me,
But there's nowhere else I'd want to be.

There's David, who drives a red Ferrari,
And Nisha, who's so pretty in her sari.
Old Mrs Peak lives alone with her cat,
But Sam next door lives with a guy called Matt.

Mr Shah's beard is ever so long.
Shanise teaches me Jamaican songs.
Shayla wears a scarf over her head.
Jakob bakes us Polish bread.

Some live in couples and some live alone,
But inside each house is a cosy home,
Where just like me, people live, laugh and love,
Regardless of which God they believe is above.

Some people are rich, others don't have much money,
But here's a fact I find ever so funny:
No matter their skin colour or family name,
Deep down, the folk on my street are all the same...

We all love our families as well as our friends.
We all fall asleep, when a busy day ends.
We all need to eat and drink to live,
And all of us each has something to give.

We learn from each other every day,
We listen to what everyone has to say.
We comfort each other, when someone is sad.
And when things go right, we all feel glad. 

Just because someone is different to you,
There's still a fact that will always be true:
We're all just people, living in the world,
Whether brown or white skinned, whether boy or girl.

Whatever someone believes, whoever they love,
They can all be happy, they can all find things tough.
Sometimes I think life would be ever so sweet,
If we could treat the whole world, like the friends on my street.


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Bedtime Story (20/6/2018)

I desperately need new bedroom curtains.  This has made me realise I'd actually like to re-paint my bedroom walls and that, in turn, inspired this week's story!

Annoyingly, I won't be painting my room any time soon - I haven't the time or the finances - but I have recorded this bedtime story for you to listen to as a podcast!

"What Colour Shall I Paint My Room?"

Maisie was very excited.  Now that her older sister had been given a bedroom of her own, it meant that Maisie had their old room all to herself.  Mum had promised her she could decorate it and today, they were off to the shops to buy paint.

The trouble was, Maisie wasn't exactly sure which colour she wanted to paint her room, yet.  Her sister, Sophia, had painted hers turquoise, which all cream furniture.  It was very pretty, but Maisie wanted her room to look different.

As they entered the DIY store, Maisie gasped at the shelves, piled high with tins of paint in all the colours of the rainbow.  "So," Mum said.  "What colour shall we paint your room?"

Maisie thought for a second.  "Green!"  She exclaimed.  "Just like the trees and the fields, outside.  I like green.  It'll make me feel like my room is in a forest!"

Mum headed to the selection of green paint.  "Which shade?"  She asked.

Maisie wrinkled her nose.  "Well, not that one," she said, pointing.  "That looks like something that comes out when you sneeze."

Sophia pulled a face.  "Charming!  What about this one?"

But Maisie wasn't keen on that shade, either.  She frowned at her sister.  "What colour shall I paint my room?"

Sophia shrugged.  "What other colours do you like?"

"Blue!"  Maisie grinned.  "Then my walls will be the colour of the sky.  And if it's rainy outside, I'll still have pretty blue in my room."

They headed to the selection of blue paints.

"Oh!"  Maisie gasped.  "But my bed covers are pink.  Does that go with blue walls, do you think?"

"I'm sure it will..." Mum began, but Maisie had already darted off to look at the pink paint selection, instead.

However, by the time Mum and Sophia caught up with her, Maisie had come up with another problem.  "Pink bedcovers and pink walls...  Isn't that too much pink?!  Perhaps I should go for purple, instead?"

And before anyone could say a word, Maisie had rushed off, again.

For what felt like ages, Maisie dashed from colour to colour.  She chose everything from red to grey, yellow to black.  But she still couldn't fully make up her mind.

"I really want to decorate my bedroom,"  Maisie sniffed.  "But I can't choose.  I like all the colours."

Sophia held up a mini pot of paint.  "Why don't we get a few of these and you can paint a little bit on the walls and see which you like best, once the patches are dry?"

Maisie frowned.  "But my walls are that strange, peachy colour.  The new colours might not show up, properly.  Maybe I need to paint my walls white first and then..."  Her words trailed off and her eyes widened.  "Mum!"  She gasped.  "I'll paint my walls white!"

"Okay..."  Mum said, slowly.  "But... I thought you liked all the colours?  White's a bit... Plain."

"But what if we got some of those mini pots of paint?"  Maisie beamed.  "Then I could paint a rainbow on one of the walls!  I'd have all the colours and I wouldn't have to choose!"

Mum paused for a moment, looking like she might say no.  But it was obvious Maisie's mind was made up.  She smiled and slowly nodded her head.  "Well, I guess we're going home to paint your walls white, then.  And when the paint's dry... We'll give you a rainbow, too."

Maisie was thrilled.  She darted around the shop, collecting the mini pots of colour, as Mum added two tins of white paint to her basket.

When they arrived home, Dad was waiting.  "I've moved all the furniture and put down some sheets, so we don't get paint on the carpet," he told them.  "What colour did you choose, Maisie?"

Maisie grinned.  "All of them!"

And before Dad could say anything else, Maisie had rushed upstairs, to plan exactly where her rainbow was going to go.


Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Bedtime Story (13/6/2018)

Sometimes, we get opportunities to push ourselves out of our comfort zones.  I've had such an opportunity, recently and I'll be trying something new, soon.  I'm nervous, but excited!  This story is dedicated to everyone who has ever braved stepping into the spotlight, in whatever way they did it!

You can listen to the podcast version by clicking here.

Gilbert, Guitar Hero!

The first thing Gilbert did every morning was reach for his guitar.  Nothing made him happier than strumming the strings, humming along and, when he was feeling really adventurous, playing some funky riffs.  

Playing the guitar made Gilbert happy.  It made him relaxed.  It helped him to let out any anger or sadness he was feeling.  There was nothing in the world he'd rather do.

So, when his Miss Mitchell informed Class 4 that they'd been chosen to put on a special assembly on Friday of that week, it was no surprise that she turned straight to Gilbert and asked him if he would play his guitar up on stage, in front of the whole school.  Gilbert was thrilled!  But Miss Mitchell wasn't quite finished, yet.  "We all know Harry and James are learning the guitar as well," she told the class.  "So, Gilbert, I'd love you to teach them the chords to the song we'll be performing.  You'll be our lead guitarist, so it'll be up to you to help keep rhythm all the way through, before breaking out into a solo."

Miss Mitchell carried on talking for a while, but Gilbert wasn't entirely listening, anymore.  She said something about Jessie singing lead vocals, because she'd been having singing lessons and she nodded over at Gilbert and reminded him again that he'd be in charge of keeping rhythm, since they didn't have a proper drummer.  The rest of the class would be given shakers and bongos etc, but they'd be following the rhythm Gilbert had to keep to.

At first, Gilbert could hardly wait!  He loved playing his guitar and rhythm guitar was pretty easy for him; all he had to do was keep time and play the right chords, after all.  He was really excited to practise with Harry and James, too.

But, as the week went on, Gilbert started to realise how important his role was.  Harry and James were looking to him to show them what to do.  If he played the wrong chord, they played the wrong chord.  And if he lost his rhythm, the whole song either slowed down or sped up and poor Jessie was left having to sing slower or faster, to try to catch up, again.

The rest of the class had taken to referring to Gilbert as "the band leader."  He had to count everyone in, at the start of their performance.  He was so focused on making sure everyone started at the right time and stayed at the right pace, he hadn't even thought about his guitar solo.  He was starting to worry that he wouldn't have long enough to practise it, before the big day arrived.

The night before the special assembly, Gilbert lay in bed, worrying.  What if he wasn't up to the job of leading the class band?  What if he made a mistake and it caused everyone else to go wrong?! 

He climbed out of bed and grabbed his guitar.  Humming the song to himself, he tried to come up with a solo, but it was no use.  His fingers merely fumbled with the strings and nothing good happened.

The following morning, Gilbert was exhausted.  He almost felt like "accidentally" leaving his guitar at home, so he wouldn't have to play.  The weight of the world lay upon his young shoulders as he trudged towards school.

Finally, the moment arrived.  The whole school filed into the hall, as Gilbert and the rest of Class 4 sat on the stage, watching.  Gilbert's heart was in his mouth.  He was in charge.  He had to keep everyone at the right rhythm.  And what about his solo?!  He didn't even have one...

Before Gilbert could think of the worst things that could go wrong, Miss Mitchell was on her feet, introducing the class band.  All of the watching teachers and pupils were clapping their hands.  This was it...

Gilbert rose, a little unsteadily, to his feet.  He cleared his throat and counted, in a slightly shaky voice: "One, two, one, two, three, four!"

Harry and James started playing along with him at just the right time.  The rest of the class began shaking shakers and beating bongos, in time with the guitars.  Lily Metcalfe started playing the keyboards, just as Gilbert nodded his head at her.  And, with perfect timing, Gilbert nodded at Jessie and she started to sing.

Gilbert could hardly believe it was all going so well.  He'd gotten everyone into the right rhythm!  They were keeping time and getting everything right!  Gilbert had never thought he was good enough to be a leader, but for a brief moment, he felt on top of the world.  Then, he remembered... His solo!

The moment was getting ever closer and Gilbert didn't know what was going to happen.  He hadn't had much chance to practise and every time he had, he'd failed to come up with anything good.  Gilbert started to panic that he was going to make a fool of himself, in front of the whole school...

He started counting backwards in his head.  He knew the solo was coming up and he didn't have a clue what was he was going to play.  But he didn't have any time left to wonder!  Three, two one...

Gilbert's fingers began dancing along the fretboard, pinching the strings at just the right moments.  The sound that blasted through the school hall was incredible - Gilbert couldn't believe it was coming from him!  He suddenly didn't have to think about anything; the music flowed through his veins and seemed to be guiding him, somehow.

By the time the solo was over and Jessie had begun to sing again, everyone in the hall was on their feet, cheering.

From that day on, Gilbert was known as Gilbert, Guitar Hero!  Of course, he was much too humble to use that name himself, but he secretly loved other people saying it.  Gilbert had learned that he could be a leader, if he wanted to be.  He soon joined the school band and loved taking charge of songs, whenever he was allowed to.

But for all the praise and all the excitement, Gilbert was still happiest, up in his room by himself, playing his guitar, humming along and forgetting the world for a while.