JUST A LITTLE BIT OF HARMLESS FUN
BUNNY BOILING FOR BEGINNERS
by Norma Williams - illustrated by Sadie James
"I make it a rule always to believe in at least three incredible things before breakfast" - Merlyn the Magician in "The Once and Future King" by T.H. White.
At the bottom of the lane which leads to Bog Wood there is an old wooden gate, and in late September, when all the crops had been harvested and the blackberries were nice and juicy, a sign appeared on this wooden gate, it said:-
G.Ferret Enterprizes present
A MAGIK NITE
Bog Wood at Midnite 31st October 2002
Ordishuns this way -
50 pence a go
Deep in the wood a clearing in the dying bracken formed a little natural theatre. In the middle of the clearing there is an old hollow log, the middle of this is filled with moss, and the moss forms a natural sort of stage. On this stage a nervous looking mole was standing, blinking. He was surrounded by a large and lively audience of weasels and ferrets, barn owls, the buzzard family, a few sleepy crows, and Sid, who was looking rather stern. (Stoats do not approve of magic).
George was sitting at the front of the audience, looking important.
"Go on, then," he said to the mole, "get on with it."
The mole cleared his throat, then said shyly, "My name's Maudlin, but my friends can call me Snuffles." He squinted down at his audience hopefully for signs of friendship, saw none at all and added nervously, "I juggled conkers."
"That's not bloody magic, is it?" demanded George.
"It is if you can't see," said Maudlin/Snuffles indignantly.
"Oh all right, go on then," said George. "No, wait a minute, I've got to announce you."
He stood up, turned to face his audience and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen…"
A juicy blackberry whistled through the air and splattered against a tree, and a familiar voice shouted, "Drop dead ferret!"
A chorus of giggles - weasels are easily amused - echoed round the little glade. George glared at them and continued, "young Snotty here…"
"Snuggles," - reproachfully from the stage.
"Whatever. This mole will now juggle his conkers," he looked up at Snuffles, "How many conkers exactly?"
George stared at him incredulously, "that's not juggling is it? You stupid…"
"I'm working up to two."
"Get off," shouted George, waving a paw at Snuffles, "go on, put your fifty pence in the box and get off…"
"Shan't," said Snuffles, showing unexpected spirit and standing his ground.
"Everyone's to ignore him then," said George. "Next!"
Three sleepy looking crows climbed onto the stage and Barry gave a little squeal of terror and shuffled off behind some bracken.
"What do you do, then?"
"They've gone to sleep," said Alice.
George poked one of the birds hard with a bracken frond, it jumped slightly, woke up then said, "We, er, like, we sing. We'm a pop group."
"Called 'The Caws'," said a second crow dozily.
"Only we'm usually asleep after dark," said the third.
At this the birds' heads all slipped to one side and they began to breathe deeply. One snored gently through its beak.
"Oh brilliant," said George, "after the juggling mole who can't juggle, we've got the singing crows who can't sing."
He glared round at his audience.
"Is there anyone else who can't do anything? Perhaps they'd like to come up here and show us! No! Right, that's it then, I'm off."
And he stamped off through the wood, kicking up the yellow leaves as he went, muttering to himself.
From the stage behind there was a gentle plopping sound… "Whoops… nearly got it that time," said Snuffles happily.
1st October 2002.
"Are you sure about this?" asked Mother anxiously, "I mean, some of it looks a bit, well, strange."
"Just shut up and type," said George from his perch on the back of the chair.
And this is what he made her type:
G. FERRET ENTERPRIZES INTERNATSHUNEL (Inc)
Introduction - G. Ferret
Jugglin - M. Mole
Fortoon Telin - Gt Aunt Ada Doom Wesul (assisted by A. Ferret)
Find the Ladi - Orris
Mouse Vanishin - O.B. Owl
The Telephone Trick - G. & J. Bats
A Pome by - H. Ferret
A Recitashun - S. Stoat
The Rabbit Trick - Darren & Roger
Refreshments by Darren & Roger
Musik by The Caws (If awake) and Lowlife (boyband)
Clokes by Brian
Entry £1. (exit £5)
All proceeds to go very close to the Church
"Who on earth," said Jim is going to visit Bog Wood at midnight on Halloween, never mind pay for the privilege?"
"The Vicar's very kindly going to let us use the Church Hall," said Mother proudly.
"Is he aware of the content of this show? What's the position of the Church of England on black magic these days?"
"Don't be silly," said Mother with a sniff. "It isn't black magic at all, it's Just a Little Bit of Harmless Fun."
"I'll keep that in mind when they're burning you at the stake in the market place." Mother hesitated slightly, as well she might. A brief historical note here; the last person to be burnt at the stake for witchcraft in England met her fate in Lichfield Market Place, and quite close to the statue of Doctor Johnson (just opposite MacDonalds and Specsavers) there is a sad little plaque which commemorates the event. You do not mess with alternative religion in our diocese.
"She probably wasn't a witch at all, poor soul," said Mother eventually, "Just a harmless old looney."
"I'd keep that in mind too if I were you."
31st October 2002.
It was Halloween, and the villagers clustered eagerly round the village hall, which was brightly lit and looked warm and welcoming - or at least it did until you saw the hunched figure of Brian lurking in the porch. He was wearing a little hat that said "Clokes". He tore a nice burbury from a visitor's hand and flung it over his head onto a growing heap on the floor.
"Do I get a ticket?" asked the visitor nervously, then as Brian screamed and advanced a couple of feet, added hastily, "It doesn't matter."
It was time for the show to start and the first act - Snuffles and his conker - waited nervously in the wings.
George swaggered onto the stage, and the - literally - captive audience fell silent. They all looked at him and George found this intensely pleasurable. He sat down and stared back.
"Get on with it Ferret," yelled Wayne, "we haven't got all night."
"All right, all right. Ladies and gentlemen and weasels, the first act tonight is a mole who's going to juggle his conkers. So pay attention." He waved a paw towards the wings and shouted.
"Take it away Snotty."
But Maudlin/Snuffles was turning into something of a prima dona. He wandered onto the stage and glared at George.
"No," he said crossly, "I won't." He turned to the audience. "I know he…" he pointed a trembling digit at George, "thinks it's funny to call me rude names, but my name's Maudlin, or Snuffles - " he added plaintively, "and I'm not doing anything until he says 'I'm sorry Snuffles'."
"You'll have a long wait Mole," jeered his tormentor, and added, "Snotty, Snotty, Snotty."
Enraged the mole advanced uncertainly across the stage and swung a punch at George, who promptly clouted him across the snout.
The audience, not sure if the fisticuffs formed part of the act, stared up at the stage, confused. George clarified the situation for them.
"What are you lot gawping at?" he yelled, holding his adversary at arms reach, and easily avoiding the mole's flailing fists. "Go on, push off and spend some money." He waved a paw towards the interior of the hall, before swinging it back and smacking Snuffles round the ear.
The audience wandered off, all except for Sid, who stood there looking very, very disapproving.
George wanted to be careful said Sid. Moles could be Funny. They had long memories and the Got you Back. Mark his words, said Sid, George would regret this.
"Animals have senses that we can only dream of." - Gil Riley (One of our vets)
The first attraction - and we use the word very loosely here - was Wayne's Great Aunt Ada Doom Weasel from Hoppy Woods. Weasels do not, generally, age gracefully and Great Aunt Ada was not a pretty sight. She was fat, squat, had no teeth and only one ear and her fur was turning yellow and dropping out in clumps. What fur she did have was covered in clusters of little grey lice, which had to huddle together to make full use of the limited facilities. Aunt Ada sat nastily in a wooden booth made out of an old apple box. Her acolytes, Alice and Tracy sat eagerly by her side. A sign said:
The lack of customers might have been explained by the enticing addendum:
"Find out eggaxtley when you're gonna dye."
A friendlier touch was added by a little sign that said:
"Ears washed, 5p extra"
(This had been Alice's idea).
Ollie, the Barn Owl, was the next attraction. He perched shyly on the back of a chair, and had a box of live mice with him. Chief Owl Handler was Darren, a little boy from the village who you may remember was adopted last Christmas by a badger. The badger (now called Roger) was also standing by, as assistant Owl Handler.
"Right," said Darren, "this owl will now make a mouse vanish, but you've got to watch real close." His audience - perhaps unwisely - clustered round eagerly. Ollie dragged a wriggling mouse out of the box, swung it round three or four times by its tail, chucked it in the air, leaned back, and swallowed it whole.
"Ta Da!!!" said Darren triumphantly.
An uncertain round of applause was led by Roger. One or two of the more sensitive children started to cry.
"That's not the best bit," said Darren excitedly. "Now watch."
He nodded at Ollie, who gulped, hiccupped, heaved, then retched and deposited the unfortunate mouse - still more or less recognisable - on the floor at the feet of the horrified audience.
"Cool or what?" asked Darren proudly. "Do you want to watch him do it again?"
The next attraction was offered by the bats, Gordon and Jeremy, who were sitting by a computer, scanner and printer. This seemed almost normal. At first. A sign said:
"Mobile fone messages recalled and reprinted at your request."
Gordon explained squeakily that every single mobile 'phone call ever made was still floating about in the ether, and, at request and on payment of 50p, the bats would, as the sign promised, call it up and print it out for you. This sounds an innocuous little trick, and indeed it is, as long as you have a clean conscience. Several husbands (and one or two wives, including Darren's mum who has a very lively social life) began to look nervous and queue up. Soon Gordon was doing a roaring trade and the "50p" had been crossed out and "£5" substituted.
"I'm not sure if that counts as blackmail or extortion," said Jim uneasily, "but whichever it is, he's making quite a lot of money at it."
The musical entertainment had not materialised. The Caws were fast asleep at home in Bog Wood and the promised band "Lowlife" (Wayne and six other weasels with musical pretentions) were clustered greedily round Horace who sat at a table. On this table were three little brass bells and and acorn. Horace carefully placed the acorn under a bell, shuffled it round, then looked innocently at Wayne.
"That one, that one!!" screamed Wayne, pointing.
Horace moved the bell and sure enough, there was the acorn.
"You're too clever for me fella," he said, and chuckled. "I don't suppose," he hesitated slightly, "that you'd like a bet on it?"
"Too right I would," said Wayne eagerly, "two million quid."
"Done," said Horace smoothly.
Back on the stage a cultural break was offered in the nervous form of Henry, who had written and was to recite a poem. Henry has always lacked the self-confidence of his brother, and the prospect of a public performance had quite unmanned - or unferreted - him and he was hiding in the wings under a pile of rope. After trying encouragement (Mother) persuasion (Sid) and violence (George) a compromise was reached and Henry tottered onto the middle of the stage, hanging weakly onto Trigger's fleece for support. He buried his face into Trigger, and gasped out the immortal lines:
There was a young ferret called Fred
Who never got out of bed
And one day
He was Dead
He shot off the stage and he and Trigger vanished into the night.
"I hope he's going to clean up after that sheep," said the Vicar disapprovingly.
The cultural theme was continued by Sid, who strode (stoats can do this) onto the stage and recited Kipling's immortal "If". He did it beautifully and soon there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Some of the men even stood to attention. Sid left the stage, very dignified, to a storm of applause.
"Well," said George, unmoved, "I thought Henry's poem was rubbish, but at least it rhymed. Is this Kipling bloke still writing poems?"
"Good job too, he should stick to making cakes."
"Darren's doing well with his stew," said Mother fondly, who like most middle aged women has forgotten more than she'd learnt about children. "And he was going to do a trick with a rabbit, he'd seen it in a film, I expect it was Bambi," she said sentimentally, or Alice in Wonderland."
"I don't think it was," said Jim grimly, "look at the pot."
The stewpot bubbled busily. A strange greyish scum formed on the top, through which Darren was sorting to find the meat. As they watched Roger shuffled up with a heaving hessian bag, which he emptied into the pot.
"It's to bulk it up a bit," explained Darren innocently, "the rabbit doesn't go far, even if you leave the innards in."
"Oh brilliant, " said Jim, "road mash and earthworm butties."
The Vicar wandered up. "That child's a good cook," he said, "pity about the stringy bits, but quite a nice flavour."
So, the show ended. The audience put on what was left of their coats and went home to bed. Except for Horace who was chasing Wayne and the weasels down Main Street.
"That little ginger bugger owes me five million quid," he yelled.
And I think we all wish Horace the very best of luck.
"Thank goodness that's over," said Jim as they turned down the drive.
"That's funny," he said, looking at the stubble field, "Peter must have been doing overtime, the field's been ploughed."
They drove on.
"The paddock looks a bit funny," said Mother uneasily. "As if it's been dug or something. It must be the moonlight."
But it wasn't the moonlight.
"Look at my lawn," screamed Jim, "look at my bloody, bloody lawn. The bloody moles have had it."
"Don't swear so much."
"Don't bloody swear! You batty mare, that lawn was the only piece of land I owned that hadn't been galloped over, jumped on or trotted round by you and your crazy friends. It's like being married to Ghenghis Khan, but at least I had my lawn, until tonight." He pointed and screamed, "it's upside down, there must have been thousands of the little sods."
"If it's upside down perhaps you could put some grass seed on and…"
"You silly cow, it's take 300 years to get like that - I can't just chuck some…" he paused and swung round.
"It's all his fault!" He pointed at George. "He got the bloody moles all wound up. All he had to do was apologise - he didn't even have to mean it…" He knelt down by his lawn - or patch of mud - and began scrabbling around whimpering.
George watched keenly. Just when you thought humans were never going to do anything interesting again, they suddenly surprised you. He trotted off to the ferret pen. Alice was already there, asleep, clutched in her tiny paw were the Vicar's credit cards. Alice showed promised thought George.
And the sound of triumphant moley laughter echoed in the misty autumn night.