I Should Be So Lucky
by Norma Williams - Illustrations by Sadie James
In which there is a little bit of trouble Down Under as Wayne goes the distance for luv, we meet giant bunnies, imaginary wombats, dunny jumpers, confused customs officers, a constipated crocodile called Cecil, and finally, Wendy, Wayne's true luv, who really does prove the old saying that it's better to stick with the devil you know.
"…and upward, ever upward the wild horses held their sway;
Where mountain ash and kurrajongs grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, "We may bid the mob good day,
No man can hold them down the other side."
From "The Man from Snowy River" by 'Banjo' Patterson
It was a cold winter's day as Ted came trotting briskly along the track from Bog Wood. There was frozen snow on the ground and hard white frost in the bottom of the banks; this crunched under his feet as he went. It made his toes tingle and his tummy feel empty. It was a nice feeling and he hoped that his lunch was ready.
Mother was shuffling round in the snow, throwing wheat at the chickens.
She beamed fondly at Ted.
"And what has mummy's little wombat been up to this morning?"
Ted eyed her cautiously. She wasn't a bad old bag, he thought, but he couldn't always understand what she was going on about.
"I've been in the woods," he said vaguely.
Mother looked at him sharply. The fond smile slipped slightly.
"I hope you haven't been talking to…"
But Ted was learning fast.
"No," he hastily said, "I've just been chatting to the Giant Bunny," he added as he looked hopefully towards his feed bowl.
The fond smile disappeared altogether.
"Ted Ferret!! I thought we'd agreed we aren't at home to Mr Fibby."
You just could not win with women, thought Ted bitterly. Mention weasels and she went insane, tell the truth and you got into trouble anyway.
"I'm going for a ride," said Mother, looking grim, "and when you've had your lunch and a little sleep, we'll have another chat, and remember - no more talk about giant bunnies please. There are no giant bunnies. Not in Bog Wood, not anywhere." And she flounced off.
"O.K," said Ted easily.
So Mother went for a ride, and Ted had his lunch.
Ten minutes later Zanti galloped back into the yard minus jockey, reins and stirrups flying.
"It was the Giant Bunny," she yelled, "it leapt out at me, ginning, bouncing and singing. It was horrible!"
The Land Rover lurched down to the Meadows on a rescue mission. Mother lay spread-eagled, face down on the grass. As they watched she staggered to her feet and began to wander in circles, then, as her contact lens had slipped on impact she tottered off towards Bog Wood. The Land Rover headed her off and she was loaded, none too gently, into the back.
"Aren't you getting a bit old for this?" Jim asked unsympathetically.
"The wombats are looking well, Cynthia," said Mother vaguely, "and the fruit bats would like some crumpets."
"What's the matter with her?" asked Ted.
"It's called concussion."
"What does that mean?" asked Alice.
"It means I've got to get my own tea," said Jim crossly.
Early next morning Ted and Alice set out for Bog Wood. Their escape had been easy, Mother, whose brains were badly bruised, was convinced she was a giant fruit bat and was hanging from a rafter in the attic swinging gently from her ankles.
It was snowing, and the ferrets enjoyed this, the snowflakes tickled their faces, and there were satisfying tracks running through the woods. Ted began to hop and skip and then both ferrets did a little dance. They were thus innocently occupied when they bumped into Wayne who was returning home, considerably hung over, from a party in Hoppy Woods. Now Hoppy Woods have been undisturbed since Robin Hood's time - we are talking 'Deliverance' territory here; you can almost here the banjos twanging as you ride through. The weasels there have been inbreeding for centuries, and quite frankly it shows and it's time they stopped. Wayne had not enjoyed this party much. He was in a foul mood.
"By the cringe the women are ugly up that way," he moaned. "Even in the dark they turn yer stomach and gawd knows what me auntie puts in that moonshine. I'm blown up like a dead dog, me guts are goin' 'undred miles an hour, an' gas… bloody 'ell, the things I could tell you…"
"Don't bother," said Ted.
"You could have kept off the women and the moonshine," said Alice tartly.
"Then what would have been the point in goin'?" asked Wayne in astonishment.
And even Alice had no answer to this.
"We're off to see the Giant Bunny," said Ted.
"Oh, him," said Wayne, "he's a bloody nuisance he is, always crashing round distubin' things and singing daft songs. Listen the silly bugger's doin' it now."
They all stood still in the snow, and drifting through the woods came the eerie sound of someone singing his heart out. It sounded sad and lonely, and the words were a bit peculiar…
"and he sang as he watched and he waited 'til his billy boiled…" wailed the voice.
"See what I mean?" said Wayne.
"You'll come a waltzing Matilda with meeeee…"
Then they saw the Giant Bunny. He was HUGE. He was about four feet tall
and very handsome. He had huge ears and big, soft brown eyes. The only thing unrabbity about him was a magnificent tail which was as long as he was tall. He had propped himself against this tail and had thrown his head back, and while he sang, two large tears popped from his big brown eyes and ran down his cheeks. He wiped these tears away with a paw, and because he had a head cold, sniffed loudly.
"You're a kangaroo!" said Alice.
"Nah I ain't a 'roo," said the Bunny. "I'm a wallaby, I am, name's Bruce."
He was a friendly animal and he was glad to meet Alice. He shook hands cordially, then wiped his nose on his paw again.
"Me and me Maw come from a town called Alice," he said sadly.
"It's a bonza town, Alice is."
He wiped his nose again, and looked disparagingly round Bog Wood.
"This is a crook place this is," he said dismally, "no decent tucker, bloomin' weather;s cold enough to freeze yer feet to the ground and the grog rots yer guts. I 'ad some booze off the little ginger bloke," he nodded towards Wayne. "Strewth, it made me sick. Talk about chunder; woke up with a mouth like a croc's cloaca, 'n' feelin' lower than a dingo's dangler."
Bruce had escaped from the local zoo. He was the only wild wallaby in the zoo, all the others had been born in captivity, "Bunch of wowzers," said Bruce dismissively. At the first opportunity he had hopped over the fence, and he was now making his way back to Australia on foot. "I miss me maw," he said sadly. "they took me from her when I was just a little joey, put me in a box the buggers did, next thing I know I'm in England; bloody dump. A fair cow it was. I really miss me maw." Two more large tears rolled down his cheeks.
Alice climbed up his fur and gently washed his face.
"I miss Oz, too," continued Bruce sadly. "We got everythin' in Oz. We got sand an' deserts an' good tucker an' the sun always shines. We got decent booze, n' the ten deadliest snakes in the world. We got 'uge great 'airy spiders too, lake plates they are - Gawd you can 'ave a laf with them. Hide in the dunnys they do, then they jump up and bite you on the bum, laugh… well yer laf for a bit, like until yer drop dead." He sighed wistfully.
"It sounds bloody 'orrible," said Wayne.
"At least our women don't 'ave to wear bags over their 'eads," said Bruce. "We got great sheilas, we 'ave. Real women. Arms and legs like tree trunks they got. Can cook with one hand 'n' castrate a bull with the other, an' they ride better'n the blokes, 'n' that's sayin' sommat. None of our women would 'ave come off that big brown brumby like that old biddy up at the 'ouse. We got foxy little pop singers too," he boasted. "We got Kylie, best singer in the world she is."
"Kylie lives in Oz?" (Wayne is deeply enamoured of the tiny singer but his grasp of international affairs is somewhat sketchy.)
"Course she does," said Bruce scornfully.
"I think we ought to take Bruce home to maw," said Alice.
"I'm coming too," said Wayne eagerly.
And they all trooped off to the house to seek the advice of Sid.
It was most fortunate that Sid was in London, helping to judge the Turnip Prize at the Tate Modern. He had left young Sammy in charge, and a yearling stoat can be a bit, well, silly. Like human teenagers they combine a complete lack of knowledge with total self confidence and we all know what a deadly combination that can be. Sammy climbed out of his house, slid down the ivy and sat on a log in front
of his audience and prepared to show off. Australia, he said importantly, was a long way away. It was precisely 12,345 miles to Alice Springs and even if Bruce could hop that far there were watery bits with shark in. The best way to get there, said Sammy importantly, was to dig. Everyone looked at him impressed, and encouraged by this, Sammy began to improvise wildly. The world he explained, waving a neat paw at them, was a bit like a plum pudding. It had icing on the top, icing on the bottom and warm treacle in the middle. If they dug at an angle of 170 degrees for a week, then they should arrive at the pub called The Dog's Grog, which was five miles outside Alice Springs, where Bruce's maw did her shopping.
Everyone thought about this.
"Sounds like bloody hard work to me," said Bruce doubtfully. "I don't fancy it meself."
Sammy was much miffed by this and inclined to sulk. If anyone else had a better idea, he said with a sniff, he would be very interested to hear it.
"What about an aeroplane?" asked Ted.
The animals huddled round the computer.
"What are you doing?" asked Mother. Still badly concussed she was on her way to the attic, where she was convinced a nest of wombats was hiding. She was carrying a dish of marmalade in the hope of luring them out to feed.
"Nothin'," said Wayne shiftily. "'e's just going to email his mother." He nodded towards Bruce.
"That's nice," said Mother vaguely. "Send her my love," she drifted off.
"Bloody 'ell that was close," said Wayne. He patted a computer key with his paw, and a brightly coloured site flashed up, in large red letters at the top it read "QUANTAS".
"Good job 'er credit card ain't concussed," said Wayne and he began to type.
The travelling party had split into two groups. Bruce and Wayne had opted for the boring route via Heathrow and Bankok to Cairns in the Northern Territories. They had booked two first class tickets so that Bruce wouldn't get cramp in his tail, and to ensure the provision of a decent dunny. ("I can't travel for 37 hours without a dunny," Bruce had complained. "You'll be picking bits of bladder off the ceilin'.") This had come to a total of £13,069.20, which they all thought was very reasonable. Ted and Alice, with the aid of the moles, had opted for the easier route of digging. They had chosen a nice soft spot behind Jim's workshop, and if they got to Alice Springs before the others (which the moles boasted was fairly certain) they would wait for them in the pub. So they were all set for their big adventure.
Next day when Dave, the postman, dashed into the yard he was surprised to see Wayne sitting on the post-box waiting for him.
"Is she going on her holidays?" asked Dave, "I've got airline tickets here that want signing for."
"I'll do it," said Wayne smoothly, "Hand them over."
So Dave did.
Wayne danced round the yard waving the red and white envelope.
"I'm on my way," he cackled, "Brace your-self, Kylie baby!"
Two days later, very early in the morning, Wayne and Bruce checked into Terminal 1 at Heathrow. Bruce was wearing one of Mother's old hacking jackets tied at the waist with baling string. On his head was her sun hat tastefully decorated with corks, and on his feet were her best red trainers. He pushed Mother's passport at the customs desk and then quickly shoved his paws into his pockets. The customs officer glanced at the passport.
"Blimey," he said, "you're the only person I've ever seen that's as ugly as their photo!"
A tiny paw waving a passport (Jim's) then appeared above the desk.
The officer glanced at the document then looked down at Wayne.
"It says 'ere you're 1.9 metres tall," he said suspiciously.
Wayne stared hard at him.
"That's 19 centimetres," he said coldly. "Including me 'at and me tail."
"Oh, beg pardon," said the customs officer apologetically and he touched his cap and handed the passport back.
Not many people travel first class from Heathrow to Cairns and they were waved through with very few formalities. Bruce was given two cases of complimentary Fosters which he tucked under his arms. Wayne chose a copy of 'Playboy' and a Mars bar, and they shuffled across the tarmac with their heads down. The huge white plane, with the smart red picture of Bruce on the tail, thundered down the runway, took off, and headed east, the sound of its engines almost drowned by a howl of terror from Wayne. Bruce didn't say anything. He was staring towards the rising sun in the east, Cairns and Alice Springs, and Mum.
Back at the farm the moles were digging busily; Jim's workshop now had a decided list to starboard. Ted pushed his nose down the hole.
"Have you come to the treacle yet?"
Two days later a 50 year old Dakota bounced merrily over the thermals above the Queensland rain forests which lie below the Gulf of Carpentaria. After another 2,000 miles and an awful lot of stops, it reached the red sandy desert and Alice Springs where it disgorged its last load of mail and two very stiff passengers. Bruce sniffed the hot desert air happily then he hopped quickly after Wayne who had headed straight for the pub at a brisk limp.
Things happened quickly after that. Mother's concussion was greatly improved after a robust grilling by Interpol, who wanted to know why her passport and credit card had been found in a pile of poo passed by a crocodile called Cecil, who lives in a swamp outside Wogga Wogga, and it was cured completely two days later when she received an Access bill for £15,231.23 for airline tickets and grog.
After two day of hard digging the moles still hadn't reached the treacle, so they gave up and went home in a sulk. Shortly afterwards Jim's workshop slid slowly sideways and collapsed in a cloud of brick dust and dead spiders.
A few days later there was great excitement, they received an email from Wayen:
"Oz rubbish. Snakes like osepipes. Spider like bagpipes.
Booze like mole water.
cumin ome Monday
p.s. ave got itched. Missus cumin too."
The great day came and they all waited excitedly in the yard. Ted, who is a simple soul, clutched his autograph book.
"I wonder what pop singers eat?" worried Mother. "Do you think she'll sleep in the spare room?"
"I hope so," said Jim, his eyes gleaming strangely.
A black taxi pulled up and a rather travel weary weasel alighted. He had terrible jet lag and half the corks had fallen off his hat. He held the taxi door open with a flourish and his new bride flopped out into the yard.
"Ye Gods," said Jim, "that's not Kylie."
It certainly wasn't. It was a very, very strange animal. She was about four times bigger than Wayne, and was a dull brown-black colour, with a white spot on her chest and a pouch in her tummy. She looked a cross between a weasel and a bull terrier, and she smelt like a very old compost heap.
This was Wendy, said Wayne proudly. They had met during Wayne's first night at The Dog's Grog, and her beauty and spirit had driven all thoughts of Kylie right out of Wayne's tiny mind. (Wendy had eaten her last husband and was therefore a respectable widow.) She shuffled across the yard glaring and hissing, then she made a weird cry which was cross between a whistle, a scream and a howl and ended with a shrill bark, grabbed the iron post box with jaws that opened to 180 degrees, shredded it and spat the bits out like shrapnel. She howled in triumph, widdled copiously, then, noticing the cows in the paddock, she gave another shrill scream and, pausing only to rip the head off a passing Rhode Island Red, galloped off, shot through the barbed wire, grabbed a heifer by the hind fetlock, felled it deftly, and tried to drag it off and hamstring it. She was only foiled in her attempt by Jim who blasted her with both barrels of his 12 bore at 15 yards. The shot bounced smartly off her pelt, peppered the side of the Land Rover, shattered the kitchen windows and killed another chicken.
Wayne chuckled proudly.
"She's a little devil ain't she?"
So Wayne and his strange new bride went home to Bog Wood, dragging the remains of the unfortunate chickens behind them. Jim began to rebuild his workshop, and Mother drove to Lichfield and went to sit in the snow outside the Job Centre.
And 12,345 miles away, in the bush outside Alice Springs, Bruce and Maw loped off into the Australian sunset hand in hand. They kept well away from people and aeroplanes, lived happily ever after, and Bruce never, ever, had another head cold.