Chorlton, the slightly clueless Happiness Dragon was not at his best. He was tired, he was pissed off, and he looked even dopier than usual. Wheelie World wasn't a fun place to live for a lonely, broke dragon. Nobody in the non-animated world wanted to watch Chorlton and the Wheelies anymore. Fair enough, but he'd been typecast as a gormless reptile and couldn't find other more normal work. He was desperate. Without a home, without regular work and without love, he had done something he'd always vowed he'd never do. He had allowed his desire for mouth-fire to get the better of him and tried an old witch's suggestion of drinking meths to stoke his missing flames. He tried more and more and more of the stuff till, inevitably, he was addicted, broke and useless - sleeping on the street, eating all the wheels he could scavenge, and exploiting those who thought he was their friend. His life was a total mess.
Even Jenny, the blonde cutiepie of a wheeliegirl that Chorlton could always rely on for a good time in past happier days, had forsaken him. Well, to be perfectly honest, he had actually forsaken her by selling her, her family and friends and almost all the other residents of Wheelie World to a Korean adult toy manufacturer along with his wonderful patented design for world's best toy. The resulting, vibrating massaging contraption had become an immediate hit worldwide, especially in Japan, where the 'inventor' Chorlton had been acclaimed as a modern day business hero... But he wasn't. He received no royalties and no fame or fortune. He was a failure and all around him lurked misery and unhappiness. Actually, that wasn't quite true. There was one person who was happy about Chorlton's reduced circumstances - Fenella the Wicked Welsh Witch from Spout Hall whose greatest pleasure was the misery and misfortune of others. But Chorlton, in his naive ignorance believed she was fond of him.
So, what to do? Well, Chorlton, (now living in a rather large home-made wheelie bin) went to see Fenella, his little old witch lady friend-stroke-enemy, for advice. They'd become a lot closer since she realised how clueless and derelict he really was. Oh how she loved seeing the unhappiness writhing on his trusting and gormless face...
"Hey up", he said, slurring slightly and looking pretty confused. He's forgotten why he'd visited her. His rainbow top hat was at a jaunty angle, he thought, and his huge black nose was cool and wet. He was confused but at least he looked smart. He admired himself for a moment.
"What's occurring, boyo?" Fenella cackled meanly, scowling and looking for her giant son, Clifford just in case things got alcoholically violent... Admittedly, Chorlton had changed and, in her eyes was most refreshingly seedy since the sex toy incident, but she was still sceptical about his motives for visiting her. Would he, perhaps attack her or even, perhaps undo all her wonderful bad work and inadvertantly become the hero of the episode once again?
"Ooooh, well I don't know, little old lady. Well, ermmmmm....". Chorlton couldn't finish his sentence, so addled was his brain on meths and wheelspoke-porridge (a local hallucinogenic delicacy). He looked at her. She looked at him. And in that second, the resentment of past years of disappointments and Chorlton-related cock-ups swam before her eyes. Fenella realised she was completely sick of the sight of him forever stoned and drunk. She vowed in her blackest of hearts to get him out of Wheelie World forever. And she knew just how. He was going to be an easy dragon to manipulate, hahahaaaa!
"Chorlton, you're not talking sense. You must be tired. You need a holiday". He nodded dumbly. She pretended to consider the matter, waggling her head in an alarming manner. A light bulb pinged above her head... "You could always go stay with my friend..." she suggested.
"Yes", she said, pushing the point a little more. "He's a great boy. Magic dragon, he is. Name of Puff. You'd love him. Mind, he lives a fair old bit away. By the seaside. Well out of Wheelie World. Would do you good to get there for a visit. Well lush there, it is". She was being polite for a change but was really thinking "Ooh, you great spotty lump, I wish you were gone and I could get some peace and escape from your unending gormlessness".
Chorlton stood round for a minute, scratched, sniffed, took a swig from his bottle wrapped in a brown paper bag. Clifford's DIY Store. He would miss that enormous cavernous repository of methylated spirits if he went on holiday. He stood a bit longer. The toady toadstools were quivering massively with excitement. Fenella was squidging in and out of reality, appearing here there and everywhere all over the place. Behind clumps of grass, inside plantpots, on top of wheels... It wasn't helping Chorlton's concentration one little bit.
"Alright " he said, finally, draining the last drop from his bottle and throwing it at the kettle house with a massive crash. "Puff.... hmmmm.... yes... hmmm... smokes, does he?? I think, I really think that I will visit him".
Fenella just cackled. Oh yes, he smokes in all ways of the word. For a moment she considered warning him of the journey's perils and what he might find at the end, but aaaaaah, what the hell, it would be far more fun to let Chorlton find out for himself! And, handing him a map to the magical land of Honor Lee, Fenella departed, leaving Chorlton to trudge back to the wheelie bin to get ready for his inspirational adventure. He had high hopes. Perhaps this would help to put right all the things he'd done wrong. He packed his massive frame rucksack with a light heart, a crate of meths and fifty seven yellow t-shirts. It was going to be a long journey...
There was nobody to see him off, to wave at him or to say goodbye without moving their lips properly (ah the joys of animation!), so off he plodded, alone, his frame rucksack now on eight wheels all pillaged from local fields, and dragged by him through and out of Wheelie World for now... or maybe even for good.
Not long after he started, after about two hundred clumping dragony footsteps, he became hungry so settled down for a drink of meths and a fried toady butty. And as he settled onto the rock to rest his tired tail, he realised that he could hear a boinging noise. There it was again, boing, boing boing getting nearer... And someone shouting "Zebedee, Zebedee, bring back my bloody speed... don't you think you've had enough?". The voice tailed off into the distance and the boinging got quieter till there was no more.
It sure was weird when you weren't in Wheelie World.
But all was forgotten after a chomptastic meal and a good slug of the hard stuff. Chorlton was soon on his way again.
Plod, plod, plod. Out of the animated safety of Wheelie World. Plod, plod, plod. Into a place he'd never even dreamed of. A city. A cartoon city, complete with semi-dressed cartoon cats
and a cartoon policeman. Cartoon cats with undecipherable accents and fast-talking ways emerging from dustbins. It was too much for the gentle Yorkshire dragon. And when he heard the cat who called himself Top Cat impersonating someone called Officer Dibble on the police telephone, Chorlton knew he must escape, lumberingly, before he got involved in even more criminal activity. As if selling his friends as sex toys wasn't bad enough!
So, plod, plod, plod he went through the city streets paved with gold and, at a crossroads, while taking a break to siphon a tad more meths into his toothless dragon mouth, he took another look at the map to Puff's Place. It was full of scribbled notes and advice he could barely read. Oh no. This was really, really confusing. Normally he just muddled through and things always turned out ok in the end but this time it wasn't going to be as easy as that. He had to take control for once in his life...
He stared stupidly at the map for a good twenty minutes before it began to make sense. It seemed that he had three options... Number one - to leave the city and clamber through a cave system to a little place called Fraggle Rock (on the map was written, "Beware of the Gorgs", so he wasn't overly keen on the sound of that route). Number two - via an address called 52 Festive Lane where he would have to meet a Mr Benn and be transported to another colourful world temporarily while learning something dreadfully important about his inner self and the universe in the process -hmmm, he wasn't sure. And, number three - through even more urban streets to an inner city school called Grange Hill, filled with drugs, underage pregnancy, obesity and generally annoying teenagers. "Ooooh", thought Chorlton, "Got to choose...errrrrr......". He wasn't the brightest of creatures and hadn't worked out that this map was a bit different. It wasn't an A-Z of dragon locations. It was a one-of-a-kind map.
You see, the thing was, as he was going to visit Puff, a very magical dragon who lived by the sea in a land called Honor Lee, his whole journey there would have to be, by its very nature, magical. Hence the map. Of course. It was the most magical map ever. It led the reader only in the directions it fancied sending them in. Kind of temperamentally magic. So, instead of giving Chorlton a clear and straight route to his destination, it gave him a route through hills and valleys, cities, gardens and caves... Chorlton really wasn't sure what was going on and even if he wanted to continue. The wheels kept coming off his rucksack and he was running out of toadies to eat.
Then all of a sudden it came to him. He would ask somebody for help. He vowed to ask the first creature, person or talking 'thing' he met. So he turned his big bulky body round to look this way and that to see what he could see. Nothing was there at first, but from the road to Fraggle Rock he suddenly could see something moving. Hurtling towards him at an enormous speed. A big red post van.
"Stop, errrr, stop" bumbled Chorlton, waving his tail and his hat and anything else that would move. "Stop".
The post van screeched to a halt right in front of him. Phew that was close. Chorlton took a sneaky swig of meths before talking.
"I need to get to Puff", he said to the van in general. "Magic puff... can you help?"
Postman Pat, the driver of the steaming van, hopped out of the car. "Yeah mate", he said, "hop in. Just been down to the rock. Man, those fraggles are crazy..". He laughed throatily and Chorlton did hop in, sitting on Jess the cat's car seat, which didn't impress Jess who ended up being towed out back on the rucksack. Soon, rucksack and Jess fixed onto the back, Pat started the van up and off they went, up into the sky. Wow, that post van could really fly! Faster and faster they flew, over Greendale, through clouds, over walled gardens, over fields and seas and flowerpot men. Chorlton had to keep swigging from his bottle to retain a sense of normality, it was all so very odd! And then they slowed, hovered... and plop... they landed in a garden on a pointy, pointy hill at the top of which was a horribly dreary house... and at the bottom of which was a really quite normal looking peach tree and a truly enormous peach. In fact it was a GIANT peach.
Chorlton hopped out, knocking his hat against the van's doorframe. And out of his hat fell hundreds of wiggly, wiggly wormy creatures who wiggled and jiggled their way into the soil and down into the ground. Then, before everybody's eyes, the peach began to shrink with a little squeal like a balloon being deflated - "Eeeeeeeeeee" it went "eeeeeeeeeeee"... The noise brought a little boy out of the house. He ran down the garden and flung himself at Chorlton. "Please don't shrink my peach" he yelled, "It's my only chance to get away". Then desperately, and increasingly loudly, James (for it was he) flung himself onto the ground and flung his arms round his ever diminishing peach.
Chorlton looked at him. "Oooohhh", he said, "are you Puff?".
"No", said James, crying, "But I know where Puff lives".
"Ooooh", said Chorlton (he was a dragon of few words, especially when intoxicated). "Will you take me there?". And he told James about his short day of adventures so far.
"Alright", said James. "But to get to Puff, you need to go visit a friend of mine. He lives in a dark blue house and has a dopey dog and a magic torch. The torch will show you where to
So Postman Pat, James, Chorlton and an unwilling Jess (clinging once again onto the rucksack for dear life) all set off flying through the air to the house of Jamie and Wordsworth. It didn't take long, because in the land of 1970s and 1980s children's television, everything tended to happen pretty quickly to accommodate juvenile short attention spans, but mainly so they could fit more adverts in...
Soon they were there, in Jamie's room. Jamie's mum was saying goodnight to him while our little crowd of friends sneaked in through the window and hid behind the curtains. They whispered and laughed under their breaths. For some reason they just couldn't stop their little giggles. And they were also really excited because they were off to see Puff!
Mum was suddenly gone with a kiss and a wave and a switching off of the light. So it seemed a good time to creep from behind the curtains and introduce themselves. Their presence came as no surprise to Jamie. He was a curiously unshockable lad. And here came Wordsworth the dog from his cowering under the bed (he wasn't unshockable!), big red hat covering his eyes. Wordsworth passed the torch to Jamie and, from the shadows, a hole appeared. It seemed that was the route they'd have to take.
And suddenly Jamie was on the helterskelter down under the floor and Wordsworth followed behind. Both cried out "Come on Chorlton". "Alrighty", thought Chorlton, "I think I gotta go too" as he squeezed his large behind onto the fairground attraction and squidged stiffly onto the curly slide grabbing his rucksack, swigging from his bottle and saying goodbye to James, Pat and Jess as he did so.
Well, that helterskelter ride really was a riot. On and on it went. Round and round till they were all pretty dizzy. Wordsworth clearly didn't like the speed overly much because his big hairy paws covered his eyes just like his hat had done back in the bedroom. And Chorlton wondered just where this torch with its magical beam was going to take them. But as he was wondering this, the helterskelter opened out into the base of a tree trunk and all three of them catapulted onto a bouncy target - boing, boing, boing. Rip. "Oops", thought Chorlton, "I think my scales ripped the bouncy thing"... so he sneaked away while the others weren't looking, and pretended nothing had happened.
"Well", said Wordsworth - his first words of the evening - Chorlton was surprised because he hadn't realised he could even talk, least of all in a regional accent - "there be no-one about so we may as well go back to bed". But from a hole appearing in the floor of Cuckoo Land something was about to emerge. And who should it be but a big, magic dragon. Name of Puff, of course. Who else could it possibly be?
After warm introductions (hugs from Chorlton and smokering/firebreathing displays from Puff), Chorlton told Puff about his day's adventures.
"My oh my" said Puff. "Well, well, well", said Puff. "Oh golly googoos", said Puff.
Puff puffed out his chest and puffed a little flame in Chorlton's general direction. "Well I never", he said. "Sex toys, hmmmm?"... "Well, aren't you an interesting boy my sweet little Chorlton in your rainbow hat and vest top?". Chorlton was confused. He'd never met anyone quite like Puff before. He was used to being confused but as Puff walked up to him and blew a smokey, flamey, enticing blast into his face, Chorlton, all of a sudden (oh no!), exhaled and (oh no, yes, no), the alcoholic fumes from his previously flameless mouth mixed and melded with Puff's fiery breath and, oh my goodness, oh my goodness.....!
You will never guess what. Not in a million, trillion, zillion years.
Chorlton, the previously fire-free dragon was suddenly breathing fire! Chorlton was breathing fire! Really, he was.
Oh, you guessed. That's so not fair.
And that is the end of this part of the story. Chorlton learnt to breathe fire. Jamie and Wordsworth left with happy smiles and Puff and Chorlton settled into a life of fiery domestic bliss. Puff forgave Chorlton his previous misdemeanours and saw him through the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 step programme towards addiction recovery. Chorlton helped Puff get over his obsession with the young boy, Jackie, who had once been his closest companion.
And when Fenella the Welsh Witch found out what had happened she was flaming furious!!!