Finding the Magic Cottage was tricky. I asked directions from a sulky young girl in a red hoodie. “Get lost,” she said, “I’m morphing awkwardly into adulthood. Subtext too subtle for you?”
I summoned the great god Pan. He was adjusting his loincloth, which was revealingly and impressively askew. “Sorry, can’t stay,” he smirked, “A wood nymph just called around; comprendez?”
I eventually tracked down the cottage by the pricking of my thumbs, and judicious use of sat-nav. Reality was on holiday, shacked up somewhere with the laws of physics.
I stepped inside, accidentally squashing a pixie. It was your average magic cottage—ancient crone, gingerbread furniture, a couple of goblins molesting a squirrel—except for an expensive flat screen television and Sky box.
“Sure you’re a real witch?” I asked suspiciously. She handed me a certificate. “Member of the Royal College of Witches and Chiropractors,” it stated.
“Unbelievable,” I said.
“Yeah,” she said, “Even fairytale creatures know chiropractic is a crock of ….” She stopped. “Oi, you!” she shouted out the window, “Scram, or I’ll set the dogs on you.”
“That Terry Pratchett again,” she explained, “Always snooping round.”
Two really fat kids lounged on an Ikea settee, stuffing themselves with doughnuts as big as my head.
“I’m worried about Hansel and Gretel’s weight,” she said.
“Plenty of exercise, a balanced diet ….” I began.
“No, doctor,” she said, “I need to beef them up, poor little things, they’re wasting away before my eyes.” Hansel belched loudly and pungently in agreement.
“What have you been feeding them?” I asked.
“The very best,” she said, “Home cooked, organic, natural, gluten-free and all.”
I lifted a supersize McDonalds Happy Meal wrapper.
“So what’s this?” I accused.
She looked embarrassed: “The new cooker was being installed, so we had to order in.” The traditional oven, I noted, had been replaced by an enormous Aga.
But cometh the hour, cometh the doc; stories have their own atavistic power, and I understood my obligations. “Very country kitchen chic,” I said, “Show me how it works.”
House proud, she bent down to twiddle the knobs. I shoved her inside and, in tribute to Spinal Tap, turned it up to 11. Build a witch a fire and she’s warm for a day, throw her in the fire and she’s warm for the rest of her life.
At least we won’t need the Liverpool care pathway, I thought.