(In a real-life theatre situation, we should, by rights, have paused for an interval by now, but it has been very busy here at Much Malarkey Manor what with the baking of the Christmas Cake, the chocolate cake and the panettone, and the making of the door wreath and the decorating of the tree, and the wrapping of the presents and the writing of the cards, not to mention fulfilling our hectic diary of social engagements, and to be frank, there is no time for swanning about in theatre bars drinking luke warm orange juice and guzzling Maltesers as if our lives depended on it. So cross your legs, fidget if you must, and on with the performance toute de NutCracker suite...)
Mrs Drosselmiggins and Mrs Bennett set off on their quest to find the hairy, barefoot man with the magic nuts. (Gosh, that sounds ridiculous, but we shall plough on.) They had planned to travel by public transport - buses, trams, trains - but because they did not know how long their quest would take and Mrs Bennett had packed a particularly large and comprehensively equipped ruck sack, they went by elephant instead.
They travelled through country after country, across continent over continent. They travelled through blistering sun, blizzarding cold, enough rain to fill a reservoir twice over and then some, and overcame many a trial and tribulation involving, in no particular order, a kangaroo, a kakapo, a chocolate fountain and some sticky-backed plastic. But could they find the man with the magic nuts? Could they cocoa. They even ran out of that after two months and had to rely on camomile tea for their bedtime drink, which pleased Mrs Bennett not a jot because she was firmly of the opinion that camomile tea tasted of mouldy old hay no matter how much honey you dolloped in it.
Eventually, they had to make the decision to return to the King and inform him of the failure of their mission.
'He won't be happy,' said Mrs Bennett.
'Which is why I think we should wear full body armour when we tell him,' said Mrs Drosselmiggins.
'We don't have to go back,' said Mrs Bennett. 'I mean, we've seen some lovely places on our travels. We could settle in one of them. You could carry on inventing and I could carry on astrologing.'
Mrs Drosselmiggins sighed. 'Sadly, we have to return,' she said. 'I think I left the gas on.'
And so, togged up in their armour and with a pair of sturdy sticks, just in case, the pair of intrepid explorers returned to their home land to face whatever Fate had in store for them.
At the gates of the Palace, they stopped for a brief moment at a coffee shop to gather their thoughts and partake of a slice of lemon drizzle cake. It was almost Christmas again - they had been gone nearly a whole year - and the coffee shop was cosy and warm. Mrs Drosselmiggins had bagsied them a table in the window and they sat and stared into the late winter afternoon, the street punctuated by strings of Christmas lights lifting the winter gloom.
'Was that there when we left?' said Mrs Bennett, pointing to the building on the opposite side of the street.
Mrs Drosselmiggins squinted. 'I don't think so,' she said. 'What does the sign say?'
'It says, 'Nuts and Crackers - For All Your Crackatook Needs,' ' said Mrs Bennett.
'Well, there's a thing,' said Mrs Drosselmiggins. 'All the time we've spent searching for a crackatook nut and there is a shop of them right here on our doorstep.'
'I suppose at least we shall be able to take the right nut back to His Majesty,' said Mrs Bennett. 'That'd be something.'
They trooped across the street to the little shop they had never seen before and entered therein.
'Many nuts,' observed Mrs Drosselmiggins.
'Many, many nuts indeed,' agreed Mrs Bennett. 'I wonder which are the crackatooks.'
'I suspect,' said Mrs Drosselmiggins, 'they might be in that basket there marked 'Crackatooks - seven gobreigns a kilonitch.' '
'Well spotted,' said Mrs Bennett, making a mental note to get to the opticians as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, back at the Palace, the King had made a promise, as in all good fairytale traditions, to give the hand of his daughter, Princess Pearly Pants, to whomsoever could crack the crackatook nut, if and when Misses Drosselmiggins and Bennett every returned to Court with such a thing. There was a goodly gathering of potential nutcracker-types lounging around the Palace, all gnashing their teeth and practising jaw strengthening exercises. The King was hoping Mrs Drosselmiggins and the Court Astrologer would return soon because the potential suitors were beginning to cost a small fortune to feed as they waited to display their nutcracking talents.
At last the crackatook nut was presented to the King. Well, a fairly hefty sack of them, to be honest, because Mrs Drosselmiggins wasn't taking any chances and thought that if things went wrong at least she and Mrs Bennett could use them as missiles as they made their escape.
The process of cracking the crackatook nut began. It was a dental nightmare! Shattered enamel and blobs of dentine all over the place. There was quite a bit of screaming and swearing, too, but we shan't go into that here and now because it is a Sunday and the 'Songs of Praise' carol concert is on in the background.
Gradually, the hopefully suitors fell aside and left the Palace, clutching their sore jaws and wondering how much their dentists were going to sting them for the repairs. All looked lost and Mrs Drosselmiggins and Mrs Bennett were feeling a little on edge. And then who should appear to try his luck but Mrs Drosselmiggins' own nephew, NutCracker Pete!
'NutCracker Pete?' said Mrs Bennett, as the young chap, who happened also to be sporting a very long beard and no boots despite the chilly weather, approached the King and Princess Pearly Pants.
'Yes,' said Mrs Drosselmiggins. 'Well, just Pete, really. We call him NutCracker Pete in the family on account of his uncanny knack of being able to crack even the hardest of nuts with his teeth...'
'You are kidding, aren't you?' said Mrs Bennett, who was seeing a wasted year of a life on an elephant flash before her.
'Absolutely not,' said Mrs Drosselmiggins. 'I am telling the truth as surely as I am able to miss the bleedin' obvious standing right in front of me.'
Mrs Bennett sighed. 'Oh, good grief,' she said.
Anyway, NutCracker Pete stepped forward and the King presented him with the crackatook nut, rather wearily now because he was becoming rather fed up with all this curse malarkey.
And NutCracker Pete took the nut, closed his eyes and with one skilful chomp, broke its shell in two. His eyes still closed, he presented the nut to Princess Pearly Pants and, to break the curse completely, began to take seven steps backwards.
The Court held their breath and counted, which actually is a bit impossible but this is a fairytale where anything is possible and pedants are banned.
'One...two...three...four...five...six...' they chanted. And then, on the magical seventh step, that naughty minx of a Mouse Queen, Madame Mouserinks, flung herself onto the floor behind NutCracker Pete and...
'WATCH OUT!' shouted the Court.
But it was too late! NutCracker Pete stumbled and fell flat on his tush. Oh no he didn't! Oh yes he did!! The curse placed upon Princess Pearly Pants was broken, of that there was no doubt BUT it flew from the Princess and landed on NutCracker Pete instead! And as she turned into her former beautiful, if shallow, self, he took on the appearance of an ugly, huge-headed, wide grinning mouthed, cottony-bearded NutCracker.
It wasn't the best of outcomes.
'I am NOT marrying THAT!' shrieked the ungrateful Princess Pearly Pants. 'Yuck, yuck, YUCK!!!'
And so it was that the brave, kind and all round good guy, NutCracker Pete, was banished from the Palace purely on the grounds of looking a bit different to everyone else. And we all know how wrong that is, don't we, children?We should never judge by appearances.
('This is dreadful!' says Camilla. 'What an ungrateful little mare that Pearly Pants is.'
'I know,' says Primrose. 'She saw straight past his internal beauty and thought only of the wedding photos.'
'Well,' says Camilla,'I hope she wakes in the morning with an enormous pimple the size of a volcano crater on her nose. And breath that could make an onion cry. And hair the texture of wire wool. And an arse the size of...'
'Steady on there,' says Primrose. 'Remember it is Christmas. Peace and goodwill to all folks, including spoilt little madams.'
'If I must,' sighs Camilla.
'You must,' says Primrose. 'Have some panettone. It's fab!'