Choir Outing
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From the Swamp Stories by Anne Cooper.

Chapter 5

THE CHOIR OUTING

Sophie was going on the annual choir outing. She got up early, preened herself and had breakfast, then she flew down to the swamp with her bucket and spade to join the rest of the choir. Uncle Bron had arranged for the Sea Serpent Taxi Service to take them all to the sea side, at nine o'clock promptly. The sea serpents were already waiting nicely decorated with ribbons. Sophie took her place on a small five seater sea serpent with Sonya, Sibilla, Bruce and Rupert, who were the two Stegosaurus who stood behind them in the choir. As soon as everybody was ready they set off through the swamp, at a good speed with Uncle Bron and Clara leading the way. Soon they were in the river which led down to the sea. Every one was in holiday mood, laughing and joking and guessing who would be the first to see the sea. At last they rounded a bend in the river, and there before them was Brontaugusta on sea.

There were brightly painted shops and stalls along the beach, and a long pier stretched into the sparkling blue sea. Uncle Bron and his friends set out to the pier with their fishing rods for a restful days fishing. Clara strolled along the beach with Sir Edward Eel Gar discussing the choral symphony that he was composing for the choir, and at the same time keeping her eye on the younger members of the choir, who had made tracks for the beach with their buckets and spades. Sophie and her friends had decided to make a sea serpent taxi in the sand. They dug out the long lumpy body and made nice comfy seats. Then they stuck in shells for eyes and nostrils and decorated it with strands of seaweed. After playing on it for a while, they decided to go for a walk along the sea front. They had a go on the dodgems, then they went into a shop and bought some little flags for sticking in their sand castles. Sophie also bought a camera and a pot of honey to take home for a present for Mum and Dad. They walked on past the gambling machines that a few young crocodiles were putting their money in. The crocodiles had pasty faces through being indoors too much. They were drinking from cans of lager, and stared rudely at Sophie and her friends as they walked past, one stuck out his tongue. Sophie paid no attention. A lovely smell wafted from across the street. They went and bought fish with oven fresh home made chips, and giant jam doughnuts. Then they went back to the beach for a paddle in the sea.

Suddenly they heard a loud commotion coming from the direction of the pier.

“I bet it's those crocodiles making trouble.” Bruce said, It was. They had fed all their money into the machines and now they were bored. They were running along the beach pushing over the smaller animals and snatching their buckets and spades. Clara came running to pick them up and comfort them, but she could not catch the crocodiles who were running into the sea. The leader was making straight for the end of the pier where Uncle Bron and his friends were fishing.

“Look at those old fools fishing, let’s grab their lines and pull them into the sea.” he yelled. Each crocodile grabbed a line and started rushing out to sea with it. They did not get far, Uncle Bron and his friends were far too big and strong to be pulled into the sea. Instead they began to wind in their lines. The crocodiles had got the hooks and lines stuck between their teeth and began to panic, but the more they dashed about the more entangled with the line they became, and by the time they were reeled into the pier they were all trussed up like turkeys. Sophie got some fantastic photos.

“You hooligans need some lessons in manners.” Uncle Bron said.

“You will not be untied until you promise to apologise to all the animals you pushed over, and find their buckets and spades for them.” The crocodiles promised, and did as Uncle Bron had ordered them. The one that had stuck his tongue out at Sophie came and said.

“I'm sorry I was rude. I'll be careful to drink less lager in future.”

“That's OK.” Sophie said, and offered him a mint humbug.

“Thank you.” he said, Sophie thought that perhaps he was not quite as awful as she had thought.

At five O'clock the sea serpents arrived to take them all back to the swamp. On the way back they sang songs, some of the words were rather rude, but Uncle Bron and Clara did not seem to mind.

“Just listen to little Sophie,” Uncle Bron whispered to Clara, “She has a very promising voice."

Boy and lady were waiting at the swamp, and flew back to the cliffs with Sophie. They were delighted with the honey, and the photographs came out very well, so they all had a good laugh at the trussed up crocodiles.