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The sound of the Great Bell echoed across a snow-capped mountain range in far-off Japan, heralding the dawn of a new day. The monks of the temple of Gentle Contemplation and Harmony, a place for those who sought spiritual balance, went about their centuries-old rituals. Among them was Ambrose Popperley; a year had passed since that unfortunate incident in the village with Tom Scallion, a cricket ball and some missing teeth.

His exuberant approach to everything had expressed itself as a full toss which planted itself firmly in Tom’s mouth. Seeking a way to moderate his behaviour Mr Salt’s advice had led him to this place. His life in the monastery had been tedious, hours of endless contemplation punctuated by tending a garden to the precise instructions of an exacting Sensei. None of this was easy to bear for a person of Mr Popperley’s energetic disposition.

It was testament to his determination that he had persevered. So it was on this foggy morning that he found himself before the Sensei. He had been standing here now for around ten minutes, watching the Sensei observe the random motions of a feather drifting across the room.

“You are not at ease my son,” said the Sensei without taking his eyes off the feather. “I am pleased to see you have kept yourself in check during your stay here, but have you understood how you will contain your enthusiasm once you leave?”

Ambrose’s face became pensive. “Breathe into a paper bag and release my energy into it?”

The Sensei serenely raised an eyebrow, “nooooooo.”

“Count down from ten and take slow breaths?”

Again came the answer, “Ehmmm, no.”

“Knitting?”

The Sensei rolled his eyes. “No Ambrose-san, the answer has been before you all the time. It lies in the radishes we have had you tending all year. As you have stated on many occasions they are difficult to grow requiring great patience and perseverance. Now relax, it is time you tasted the fruits of your labour and the results are well worth the effort – here try this Wasabi paste.”

Ambrose dipped one of his popcorns into the green paste and ate it. Instantly a bead of sweat formed on his brow as a growing sensation of intense heat spread through his sinuses, making his nose water and precipitating a state quite akin to enlightenment.

The Sensei smiled as he saw the familiar transformation wash over Ambrose, who in turn was looking around himself in wonder and clearly enjoying the state of calm which had replaced all other sensations.

Ambrose had found his answer, and his new mission, and took it back with him when he returned to Ten Acre.

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