At the back of Grannie’s house, way down at the bottom of the garden, stood the wingeing tree.

It had big strong branches that reached far out across the sky. It had big strong roots to sit on. It had a smooth trunk to rest your back against. It had a hollow side like a deep cave which was good to hide in. You could sit inside the trunk and pretend that you had run away from home forever.

When you stayed at Grannie’s place you had to be happy and kind. You had to share everything and look after one another. You had to smile and say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’. If you started fighting or wingeing Grannie would say, ‘Take that wingeing down to the wingeing tree. Tell the tree about your problems. If you listen carefully the tree will tell you what to do. I don’t have time for wingeing, fighting kids.’

She would say this very kindly but very firmly while she stood on the deck and pointed to the path which wound through the tangled garden all the way down to the tree. Nobody dared refused to go when Grannie stood there pointing.

Sometimes Grannie’s pointing made kids sad. All the way down to the tree they’d feel angry. Sometimes they would pick up a stick and slash at the shrubs and weeds that lined the path. They would mutter, ‘It’s not fair! It wasn’t me. I’m always the one to miss out!’ That’s what they would tell the tree.

Sometimes the kids would go inside the dark hollow and practice being sad and lonely. Then the tree would tell stories. You could hear the leaves far above in the wind. They would rattle and whisper about the little tree that lived in the thick forest long, long before Grannie came to build her house. Long before the garden. In those days there was just a forest and a skinny little tree who had to fight hard to reach a little bit of sunshine. The big trees got all the golden sunlight. The little tree had to fight hard to find a place to put her skinny little roots down in the thick dark forest soil.

Sometimes animals came and scratched themselves on the skinny little tree. They rubbed so hard that she bent right over and sometimes her skinny little branches broke right off.

While all this was going on the skinny little tree sighed and winged till all the other trees said, ‘Do stop wingeing. Your turn will come. One day you will be so big you will be able to reach up to the sun and push your strong roots down into the soil. While you are waiting to grow bigger you must learn to be charming. Then we will enjoy your company. We might lean over a bit to share our sunshine. We might leave room for your roots in amongst out own. We would try harder to share with you if you were a happy tree.’

As time went by the skinny tree grew fatter, and taller and stronger. As time went by the tree learnt to winge less and less. Soon the sunlight was sparkling on her leaves each day. Soon her roots were strong enough to push deep into the soil. Soon her trunk was thick and strong and the branches did not break off easily. The wingeing tree was getting happier and happier.

When it was time to clear the forest to build a house for Grannie the bulldozer man said, ‘That’s a lovely sturdy little tree, we’ll leave that one for the garden.’ So it stayed and grew and looked after all the kids in Grannie’s garden. It taught them to reach up and shine, to be strong and flexible, and that not even trees wanted to be friends with wingers.