Once upon a time there was a little girl who had long golden red curly hair, blue eyes and pale skin. She lived with her father, mother and younger brother, but they were of completely different appearance. These three had soft brown eyes, thick curly brown hair and skin that was always wind-burnt, but became rich bronze in summer. Whilst Goldilocks was slender, or even, thin, the rest of the family were robust and some might even have called them chubby. Although her little brother had a perfectly nice name, he was so round, brown and cuddly that his parents always called him ‘baby bear’. They intended to stop doing this as soon as he learned to walk, but for some reason the name stuck and this was what he was called both by the family and by the neighbours. I should say that they lived in a rustic and rather isolated cottage at the edge of a small village and the father, who was very big and strong, was of uncertain temper and probably a little too fond of the bottle, so that even the closest neighbours treated him with caution bred of experience and no one in the village would have considered the family to be their friends. They might have had a different attitude to little Goldilocks, but they did not dare to befriend her too much because of their uncertain feelings about the parents.

 As for Goldilocks herself; she knew that she was different, but she did not know that the rest of the world would have considered her to be pretty. Instead she envied ‘baby bear’ because he seemed to have such a warm relationship with his parents, which she could not share. Now for the parents themselves. They were the type of people who tended to react without thinking. That was what the neighbours knew and that was why they were isolated. Nobody ever tried to explain anything to them because they knew that they would be met with baffled incomprehension.

 Of course one of the more obvious questions was where Goldilocks came from, as she was so very different from her parents and brother, but no one ever asked that. However it was thought that her maternal grandmother might have been fair skinned and some folk seemed to remember her visiting around about the time that the family moved in. That was about as far as speculation went. There is no doubt that Goldilocks herself felt that she was different from the others and began to live in a world of her own, inhabited by fairies, princesses and handsome princes. Of course the family noticed the effect all this was having, but thought, in a rather uncharitable way that she might be getting above herself and would benefit from a ‘good talking-to’. Another consequence is that in contrast to the others, she became very picky at her food and really only enjoyed eating when the rest were not there. As you can imagine, this only widened the rift between her and the rest of the family.

 In one respect Goldilocks’ assessment of the situation was not entirely correct. Her resentment for ‘baby bear’ increased daily because she thought he was getting everything his own way and especially that he was his father’s pet. Although there was truth in the last part, it was not quite as much fun as she thought. Being unable to escape the attention of a doting but nevertheless irascible parent brings its own problems and the one thing in the world baby bear wanted was to be left alone as much as his sister. Very largely this is because he had two traits that his father was determine to cure him of; untidiness and fidgeting. At mealtimes he had an irresistible urge to swing on his chair and his father often shouted at him and not only threatened to box his ears, but sometimes did so, only not as hard as he would have boxed Goldilocks had the need ever arisen, which (he rather regretted, it never did). Quite often his father would shout. “You will break that chair if you carry on like that and then I will take you outside and give you a good hiding!”.

 Now it happened that one morning when the three early risers were about to start breakfast, the mother was making porridge whilst the father was just coming in after inspecting his garden and making sure that the bee hives had not been disturbed or anything stolen from the garden shed where he stored the honey and also had large jars, bottles and vats in liquids bubbled and frothed and emitted very attractive odours. As usual baby bear was swinging on his chair when there was a sharp crack. It was obvious at once to mother and son, both what had happened and what was going to happen in a few minutes. Although she could not see how it would help, his mother improvised a quick plan. Just before the father had finished washing his hands she called out, “Oh dear, I think I’ve made this porridge much to hot, we had better all go out into the garden while it cools down.” She was taking a risk doing this because it could easily have triggered off one of her husbands frequent outbreaks, but, happily, not this time. She helped her son put on his coat and sent him out to his father. Then she served out three dishes of porridge and very quickly found a tube of glue and stuck the broken bars of the chair together, trying as far as possible to conceal any visible evidence. Then she closed the door quite loudly and they all started to stroll around the garden again.

 This was just the kind of situation Goldilocks hoped for. She came downstairs and saw all the porridge dishes and suddenly felt very hungry. She tried all this plates in turn, but her fathers was too hot and her mothers too cold. However. When she tried her brothers she found that it was just right. Stepping completely out of character she climbed on the chair and ate it all, then leaned back with a feeling of satisfaction, only to hear a dreadful crack. Appalled by what had happened, and with a fairly shrewd idea of what the consequences would be, she started to cry and rushed back upstairs and threw herself on the nearest bed, sobbing bitterly.

 As it was quite a nice morning the others enjoyed their walk, at least one of them did, whilst the others just hoped it would go on for ever, but eventually they had to return.

 It did not take long for them to find out that someone else had been at the breakfast table while they were out and to see the awful inevitability of events. Baby bear started to cry from a mixture of relief, shame and guilt.

 Goldilocks was never seen around the village again. That day there seemed to be a lot of activity around the house and much coming and going. Nobody ever asked the family about her, but the gossip was that she had probably gone to stay with her grandmother who lived in a mountainous country further south where the air would be much kinder to her undoubtedly delicate constitution.