Christmas had been and gone, but the snow had stayed!
Unfortunately, when January came, all the children had to go back to school despite the bad weather. They were encouraged to wrap up warm and take care when walking to school, making sure you leave a little earlier.
The whole village seemed to be getting used to the snow by now, it was part of their everyday lives now. However the local hospital was overflowing with sick patients: many had fallen in the ice and hurt themselves, sledging and skiing accidents, and of course, flu.
The hospital was incredibly small, and very, very old. Drafts came in through the broken windows and under the door; the roof wasn't really built for such a long period of snow. The only electricity in the hospital was connected by two very old wires, and they only powered the flickering dim lights. There were plans by the local council to build a new hospital, but fundraising was due to start over the summer. Since building a new hospital in the middle of winter with no money wasn't exactly possible, they were just going to have to 'make do' with what they had.
There was one doctor and two nurses, and three beds in the hospital. Roxy Renard, a local charitable resident, who usually did all the hospital's washing and cooking, was now working flat out trying to keep the hospital running.
The Mayor (Bill Waddlington) was due to make a speech that afternoon. The children had been dismissed from school early, and everybody was gathering in the centre of the village.
'Hello, everybody,' The Mayor began.
'Thank you for making your way here today, I understand some of you live on the outskirts and have had to make quite a journey to be here!
I am afraid, that the news I am going to bring you is not very positive.
Many of you are aware that our village hospital is not coping under the extreme amount of patients. The roof is beginning to leak and the hospital is cold and small. There are only three beds in the hospital, and they can only be given to the gravely ill. Doctor Murdoch has informed me that he has had to send home people who need to be in the hospital being taken care of, however there is simply not enough beds to accommodate them.
Those who are lucky enough to be offered a bed have to sleep in a cold, draughty hospital.
We are planning to build a new hospital, however currently we have no money to build one.
Healthcare is free in the village of Little Chestnut, and I wish it to remain free, as we all do. However, we need help. The hospital, the doctor, the nurses and the patients need our help. If anyone can make a donation; not to building the new hospital, but to help pay for food, heat, and medical supplies for hospital, they would be greatly appreciated.
We would also like to send out a plea for volunteers. Everyone knows that Roxy Renard is currently in charge of cleaning the hospital, washing the bedding, and feeding the patients. However she cannot do it all alone, she needs some help. A receptionist would be useful, too! The nurses are spending a lot of time answering telephone calls and booking appointments when they could be helping patients. If anyone can fix the roof and the windows, that would be greatly appreciated.
If you would like to be put on the receptionist rota, you can help fix the roof or you can help in any way, please see Camilla Hunter-Smyth at Highfields Farm, who I have put in charge of this village effort. Donations can be given at Highfields Farm or the hospital.
Thank you so much, residents of Little Chestnut! We'll only make it through this harsh winter if we work together!' The Mayor finished and everybody clapped, nodding and agreeing. People arrived at Highfields Farm in huge crowds. Mrs Hunter-Smyth was already prepared, she ordered them into different queues and soon the noisy crowds were all organised.
'Maybe we could do something?' Said Juniper Moss to her brother.
'What would we do though?' Buck Moss sniffed. He still wasn't quite better from his illness. They sat on a bench watching all the volunteers.
'We need to boost morale, try and get people to donate more money or volunteer,' Juniper thought aloud.
'It won't work, Juniper,' Buck admitted. 'Even with all that money and all those volunteers, the hospital is still too small. There simply just isn't room, money or no money, volunteers or no volunteers,' Juniper sighed, she knew he was right.
'Well maybe we could start fundraising for the new hospital,' Juniper suggested. 'Come on, let's go home now and ask Mother about it,' They began to trudge home in the thick white snow.
'Mother, we were wondering if our family could start fundraising for the new hospital?' Juniper suggested, excitedly. Her Mother frowned.
'The Little Chestnut Newspaper has made a sizeable donation towards the hospital, which we will mention on tomorrow's front page story, and I do not believe any more is required of us,' Her Mother replied in her professional 'spokeswoman' voice, whilst she took off her coat. After all, the Moss family ran the local newspaper.
'But that money won't make the hospital bigger,' Juniper exclaimed.
'At the end of the day, they just need a new hospital, that is managed better, and has a few more staff with better facilities,' She continued. Rowena actually began to look interested.
'You're on to something there, Juniper!' Rowena said, thoughtfully.
'Actually, it was Buck's idea really!' They beamed.
'Why waste your money on a derelict hospital? Save your coins for a better hospital...this just brings a whole new angle to the story!' Rowena said, animated. 'Thank you sweethearts!' She began to put her coat back on.
'No! Wait!' Juniper cried. 'You can't stop people making donations - it wouldn't be fair!'
'Well that would just ruin the point of the story, darling,' Rowena explained.
'It's not all about the story, Mother!' Buck said, crossly. Rowena stopped and looked at him - he rarely spoke out like that. 'You should encourage them to donate some money, no, enough money to keep the hospital going, however just gently remind the readers that they shouldn't waste all their money on that old shack,'
'Alright! Alright! We've got to make the hospital habitable and ensure there are enough supplies and volunteers,' She kissed both of them on the head and ran out of the door. 'Goodbye sweethearts, stay safe!'
They looked at each other. They both knew that their parents were journalists, they wouldn't be afraid to contradict the Mayor's message.
Before bedtime, they had a quick conversation.
'She'll tone it down a notch,' Juniper swallowed.
'Of course, Father likes to be on good terms with the Mayor, they wouldn't risk it,' Buck agreed. They turned to the opposite ends of the landing to their bedrooms.
'Oh Buck!' Juniper said. 'Please don't be late for school tomorrow, we have to leave early remember?!' Buck laughed.
'Don't worry, I won't!' He replied.
To be continued...