Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The little donkey

When my daughter was four years old, she came out of her Nursery school proudly proclaiming that she was to be "the little brown donkey" in the Christmas play. Her teacher asked if I could produce a simple costume of tights, hat and jumper within the next few days. "No problem," I cheerfully replied.

Brown was definitely not a fashionable colour in the winter of 1983. I scoured the shops of Portsmouth, I rang around all my friends and r
elations but no brown jumpers, hats or tights were to be found. I contemplated asking the teacher if she could change her script to "a little grey donkey" but instead I bought grey tights and a jumper and dyed them. (To be perfectly honest, I had several failures until I found the right combination of wool and dye, so this was a time-consuming as well as expensive enterprise.) Then I contacted the local Brownie pack and persuaded them to let me have one of their hats. I made a tail and some ears and heaved a sigh of relief that I hadn't let Tanith down. All parents know that feeling at school events! I did think it was rather ungracious of the teacher to look so surprised when she opened the bag, though.

My husband's ship came into port on the morning of the performance and we dashed to Nursery to take our places among the other proud parents. The play began and our little brown donkey came out on cue and performed perfectly as the teacher read a lovely poem:The Donkey

I saw a donkey
One day old,
His head was too big
For his neck to hold:
His legs were shaky
And long and loose
They rocked and staggered
And weren't much use.
He tried to gambol
And frisk a bit,
But he wasn't quite sure
Of the trick of it.
His queer little coat
Was soft and grey
And curled at his neck
In a lovely way.
His face was wistful
And left no doubt
That he felt life needed
Some thinking about.
So he blundered round
In venturesome quest,
And then lay flat
On the ground to rest.
He looked so little
And weak and slim,
I prayed the world
Might be good to him.


  1. Maureen,
    My mother and I have been chuckling over this for quite a while now.
    Had I been the teacher I would have read brown instead of grey - I don't think anybody would have noticed that it didn't rhyme on way.

  2. Margaretha,
    Had I been the teacher, I would have changed it, too. I suppose that all the other parents were so absorbed in their own little sheep and angels that they didn't notice our confusion. It was really very funny and we are still laughing about it 25 years on.

  3. Thanks for posting the poem. I wanted to post it to a facebook picture and had seen it many many years ago in my kids book of animal poems.


    1. I'm glad that you found it here, Ellen.

  4. My teacher in primary school used to recite this poem, I'm 41 now and still remember it

  5. I'm happy to have revived the memory. My family can never forget it after the brown fiasco!


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