Once upon a time Mr Wilkins was a young, fit bear who dreamt of seeing different countries and travelling to all the corners of the world. He wrote several lists of places he wanted to go and he hung up a huge world map on his wall and he stuck green dots onto all the places he wanted to see. He also bought red dots ready so that when he had visited a place with a green dot he could change it to a red one. He also polished his piggy bank and started to work harder and save money for his travels. He was so excited about his plans.
Mr Wilkins worked his socks off trying to save as much money as he could, but somehow something always happened and his piggy bank just didn’t seem to fill up. The car broke down or his household bills went up or he had to go to the dentist. But he was not to be defeated and he took a second job and worked even harder. He was doing rather well for a while, but because he worked so incredibly hard he got exhausted and had to take some time off and that resulted his piggy bank getting emptier.
As the years went by Mr Wilkins started to peel some of the green dots off from his map and eventually he rolled the whole map up and hid it in the furthest corner of his attic. He had given up all hope that he would ever get to travel at all.
Then one particularly windy and rainy day, Mr Wilkins received a letter in the post that congratulated him upon winning a trip to France to the place where Roquefort cheese is made. He had completely forgotten about the competition that he saw in the paper’s food section and he couldn’t believe his luck.
He went straight to the attic and dug out the old, now slightly faded, map and hung it back on his wall. He then added one green dot over southern France north-east from Montpellier. Mr Wilkins had never felt happier!
Mr Wilkins didn’t own very much and it didn’t take long for him to pack. He put on his green coat, beige flat cap and red and blue scarf and he was ready to go.
On his journey to France his long forgotten dream of travelling the world got reignited and he once more wrote a list of all the places that he wanted to see. Perhaps his luck had turned and he would get to see them all!
Whilst visiting the caves where the famous Roquefort cheese is left to mature, he got talking to a grey mouse with a red beret. He was a very well spoken little mouse and his English was excellent. He introduced himself as Monsieur Roquefort.
Mr Wilkins and Monsieur Roquefort got on really well and Mr Wilkins enjoyed hearing extra information about the area and its famous cheese from Monsieur Roquefort, he seemed to know every little detail about the place.
They stopped for a delicious lunch of bread, cheese and wine and Monsieur Roquefort showed great interest in Mr Wilkins and where he came from. Mr Wilkins told a little bit about his life, but he didn’t feel that he had a lot to tell really, just broken dreams and a lot of boring work related stuff. But Monsieur Roquefort was an excellent listener and Mr Wilkins even showed him his list of places he would like to visit.
And then the most incredible thing happened.
Monsieur Roquefort took Mr Wilkins’ list and said that he would like to travel to all these places too and if Mr Wilkins would only accept, he would like to travel with Mr Wilkins. Mr Wilkins didn’t know what to say or how indeed to have the money to do all this, but Monsieur Roquefort waved his long arm dismissively and simply explained that after he sold his secret recipe how to make the original and the best Roquefort cheese he hasn’t known what to do with all his money and this would seem like the best solution.
Mr Wilkins was over the moon with excitement, but Monsieur Roquefort had just one condition and then they could set off to see the world: he asked if Mr Wilkins could put the list of places he wanted to visit to one side and write a new list that would have words describing what he had experienced so far in his life even if he hadn’t had a chance to see the world. Mr Wilkins started immediately and put on the list words like hardship, illness, poverty, exhaustion and as he continued Monsieur Roquefort commented that even though Mr Wilkins had had a hard time in life he’d still lived through all those hardships and so had learned a great deal about life and now he would travel the world with very different eyes and ears and he wouldn’t just be ticking off places from his list. He would be appreciating the journey as much as the destination and as Monsieur Roquefort is very keen on popular music he quoted the last two lines of lyrics from Snowpatrol’s song Warmer Climate:
“I'm so glad that this has taken me so long
'Cause it's the journey that made me so strong”
From then on Mr Wilkins and Monsieur Roquefort have been travelling the world together and Mr Wilkins’ list now includes words like: friendship, laughter and fresh mountain air.