All the Fun of the Fair - Part 2
The Eagle has Landed
Big Trouble with Brenda
In which Wayne has a religious experience and gets a little closer to heaven; Gilly puts the bite on George; Barry has a very close encounter with the human race; the strange effect of vicarage punch on Wayne and Walter; and George gets very close to a vet...
And, as for Tracy ... ...
Written by Norma Williams - Illustrations by Sadie James
......... "he dropped the arms of both to hunt after a weasel which he had a momentary glance of; and they could hardly get him along at all." - from "Persuasion" by Jane Austen.
The Vicar would have been mortified if anyone had suggested that he was hiding from his parishioners. He was just taking a walk by the little brook which runs through the Glebe Fields. On the far side of the hedge the village show was in full, chaotic swing. Horace and Armer were fighting over the car park spaces. The Major was arguing loudly with two Pony Club Mothers; the W.I. tent had collapsed in a billowing heap, much to the fury of the Vicar's sister, Mildred, who had migrated to the village from Knightsbridge with a mission to civilise the peasants. The peasants had resisted her efforts to a man and had carried on their usual lifestyle with an added gusto which Mildred Prosser had put down to pure spite.
On the banks of the brook a gang of very small, brown, shifty-looking animals surrounded a Walkman. They were very cross. The largest of the animals was kicking the machine. He noticed the Vicar.
"Oy!" he said, "You." The animal had a very flat midlands accent, "Can you fix this?" He kicked the machine again. "We wanted Rock 'n' Roll," he complained, "and it's just some posh bird talkin'. I'm goin' to get that ferret for this," he added. The Vicar bent down and tuned the little radio to a local pop station, Mother's tape of 'Emma' was hurled into the ditch, and the Weasels (for of course it was Wayne and his crew) began to dance with great energy and absolutely no rhythm. "Thanks, mate."
"Don't mention it."
"I'm still gonna duff that ferret up," said Wayne, "he's had the full, uninterrupted use of me daughter Tracy for a whole day."
"My goodness," said the Vicar.
"Come on lads." The band of weasels trooped across the field, rolling up their sleeves, metaphorically speaking of course, as they went. The Vicar watched them go. He supposed it was time he went, too.
Barry lay flat on his back behind the catering tent. He had discovered two of the great joys of a man's life... curry and lager. By lying flat and piercing the cans with his strong beak he had managed to imbibe quite a considerable quantity of the latter. His chest feathers were stained a strange yellowish-green by the former and little bits of carrot and onion were dotted fetchingly down his front. He was totally, blissfully, happy.
Back on the showground the vets were bracing themselves for the ferret racing. Paul was getting his first taste of what the Senior Partner breezily called 'Valuable P.R. work'. "Of course they won't bite you," he said happily. "Don't worry about the animals," he added, "it's the bloody owners you've got to watch out for." It was a little unfortunate that the first ferret they had to examine was George.
"Hello little chap," said Paul.
"Touch me and I'll have you struck off."
"He's fine," said Paul hastily. "Next."
The carry box was lifted onto the table. The vets read the notice attached -
"My name is Gilly Williams and I AM a ferret".
"Goodness," said the elder vet, sensing trouble and settling down to enjoy it. They opened the box. There was a terrible smell. They stared at the occupant. It had greasy dark brown fur which had been smeared with what looked like flour. Its eyes were outlined with brown pencil to give the impression of a mask and it seemed to be wearing lipstick. Round it's chest was a band-aid in a horrible attempt at a boob tube and the fur on its head was scraped into a knot. It struck an attitude with its paws on its hips.
"Hello Big Boys," it said and leered at the vets. Paul squealed and dropped her onto the table.
"What the hell is it?"
"It's a Weasel, and I think her name's Tracy."
"Shut your face," said the little animal.
"Are they always this rude?"
"Oh yes, incredible rudeness is a sure sign of your Weasel."
"Get stuffed," said Tracy in confirmation.
George, seeing his plans going a little adrift, began to back off towards the tent flap. Unfortunately at that moment the rest of his family arrived, as Gilly and Sid hit the showground. Gilly came streaking across the field like an avenging missile, parting the crowds before her, waving her posy of flowers like a battleaxe... She leapt onto the table and fetched Tracy a fourpenny one which sent her flying. "You cow," she squealed. Then she turned to George, whose fat yellow bottom was just visible as he scrabbled frantically at the canvas in a vain attempt at escape.
"You utter, utter..." she dived on him and sank her sharp white teeth into his vanishing brown leg. Round and round they rolled, chattering and hissing. The other ferrets and the children cheered up no end and all began to chant, "Fight, Fight, Fight," and stamp their feet.
It took quite a time to start the racing after that, by which time Henry was fast asleep and George had eaten most of a hot dog. Tracy was disqualified but as she had vanished as usual this didn't matter much. Fuelled by fury Gilly won easily. She dashed out of her pipe, still holding her flowers, and did several backflips in triumph. "I won, I won, I won." George and Henry didn't reappear. Horace had to dismantle the straw bales and all the pipes - there was a terrible mess. George was firmly stuck in his pipe, wedged in by his fat tummy. It took Paul ten minutes and a huge tub of margarine from the W.I. tent to grease him and pull him out. Henry was found more easily, and they were alerted to the fact by the screams of the Vicar's sister. He was in his pipe too. He was not alone. They had found Tracy.
That was more or less the end of the racing. George was not too pleased about it.
"She can't have won, she's a woman," he announced to Paul, - there was a sharp intake of breath around the tent. "I'll take that, thank you," said George and snatched the prize from Paul and began to unwrap it. It was a lovely red rosette and a pretty harness with a bell on it. George stared at it. "Where's the money?" he asked.
"There is no money, young man," said the Vicar, quite sternly, "if I were you I'd hand that prize over to your sister, then I'd think about leaving. You seemed to have some more visitors."
George glanced over his shoulder. Marching across the field in battle order were Wayne and the rest of the Weasels. "I want a word with yow, George Ferret," shouted Wayne, shaking his fist. "I hate all of you," said George, then with as much dignity as he could muster he clambered off the table limped across the field and climbed up the flagpole in the churchyard, where he sat on the pin on the top, with his back towards them in a massive, monumental sulk.
The horse show had not been a great success either. Horse shows are not like hunting - there is no opportunity for a horse to let rip at a show, in fact it is positively discouraged. Also, it was spring, as we have said and Zanti had her mind on Other Things. She would, she thought, like another foal, or being a very honest horse she admitted what she really wanted was sex, but after several thunderous, screaming whinnies, she knew that every other horse on the showground was a gelding. So she went to sleep and dreamed while she was standing in line with the other horses, ears at half-mast and one hind leg resting like a cab horse. Nothing Mother could do would wake her up, and they had trailed out of the ring with Zanti yawning hugely and Mother clutching a very small, pink rosette.
Then she'd seen the crowd round the flagpole.
"Please come down, George."
"He wants money," volunteered Gilly, "he thought he was going to win money…"
Miss Prosser strode forward. "I'll deal with this," she said confidently, but what she did next was really rather silly. Holding a saucer of milk she stood under the flagpole and called up, "Puss, puss, puss."
George swung round and sprayed all over her.
"He's rather spirited," said Mother weakly as Miss P. ran, screaming, towards the ladies. "He is, isn't he," said the Vicar, amazed.
It was dark and cool inside the portaloo. Miss P. pulled off her ruined cardigan in a fury, muttering, "best cashmere... Harvey Nicholls... only last week... ghastly peasants." Then she put her hand out and felt something very strange indeed. Whatever it was had horrible bristly feathers and a hooked beak. It was huge and it smelt of curry. She snapped the light on.
"Hello, Missis," said Barry.
The show ended quite quickly when the ambulance had left and in the Vicar's opinion it had gone on quite long enough. Mother, towing Zanti, and with Henry, Gilly and Sid, headed home. George was still up his pole.
"I'll come back for you, George."
There was an injured sniff from the top of the pole. "Don't bother."
Barry, shaking like a leaf, crouched under the ladies'. Why did women always screech, he wondered. The tweedy female had sounded just like Brenda when she'd gone off the deep end like that.
Gilly and Sid sat in the Land Rover happily admiring the red rosette. They were planning a little supper, a deux, to celebrate. Mother was impressed. Did Gilly know what "A deux" meant? "Yes," said Gilly very firmly, "it means without George." Sid nodded in agreement.
Wayne and the rest of the weasels were still on the showground. They had been diverted from the attack on George by the smell of alcohol from the Judge's tent. It takes much longer to get drunk on fruit punch than it does on Weasel Pop, but you get there in the end.
"I can see that," said Jim rather grimly. "I've had a 'phone call about you from the Vicar's sister. Something about £200 for a new cardi and a private prescription for valium."
Mother went red and began to shake. "I haven't got £200."
"Well she's not getting it from me," said Jim firmly. "If she's daft enough to pay two hundred quid for a cardi that's her look out, and she can get her valium from the NHS like you."
Back on the showground George was reaping the usual reward of martyrdom - extreme physical discomfort. His bottom was numb, his tail frozen and his hay fever was giving him gyp. He didn't dare move a paw to wipe his nose. In the Churchyard opposite a snowy barn owl was revving up for the night. It was flexing its talons and making "toc, toc" sounds with its beak. It was giving George funny looks. Worse than the owl, was Wayne. The Vicarage punch had had a very peculiar effect on the Weasels. They were drunk as usual, but they were happily drunk. They were sitting in a circle hugging each other and singing 'Danny Boy' in a high weasel wail. As George watched, Wayne detached himself from the group and lurched over to the pole. He peered up at George.
"I love you, George, little buddy."
"You're my little buddy and I want to hug you..."
"You try and I'll kill you."
Wayne giggled, tried to give the pole a high five, missed, and fell in the grass.
The rest of the weasels struck up again... "The pipes, the pipes are calling..."
Now George had a headache as well.
He was more than glad to see the Land Rover bouncing back across the field. However, he sat with his back to Mother, paws folded and stared in front of him.
"Please come down George - it's no good at home without you."
"I don't suppose it is."
But he was more than ready to give in.
"O.K. Catch me."
He leaned backwards and fell into her arms with a soggy 'plop'.
"Does Wayne want a lift?"
Wayne was sitting in the grass singing "I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen".
"No, he doesn't," said George firmly.
Mother lay in bed, listening to the sounds of the horses grazing. Then suddenly, there was another sound. She sat up. Little, weasel voices were raised in panic. She could hear a strange flapping sound.
"Stop! Stop! Stop you stupid fowl... " shrieked a voice. It was Wayne.
"'it 'im on the 'ead..."
"Walter's bin sick again..."
"Hang on, hang on..."
A huge dark shadow passed across the bedroom window. Mother looked out. The shadow came again and as it came closer in the moonlight it turned into Barry, wings flapping madly, a look of mad concentration on his face. On each wing, hanging on for dear life, sat a possee of terrified, sober, airsick weasels. They swooped out of sight. There was a crash as Barry collided with the chimneys, then the sound of tiny bodies rolling down the roof, Then silence.
The wheelbarrow was very difficult to push, loaded as it was with a stunned buzzard and a gang of sulking weasels. They sat with their backs to Mother and wouldn't speak to her. Wayne's brilliant idea of a lift home par avion avec Barry had gone badly wrong and at one stage they had been heading for France before Walter had had the idea of bashing Barry on the side of his head until he pointed to the North and Staffordshire. Mother tipped the weasels out under their scruffy elder bush.
"You'll be hearing from my solicitors about this," snarled Wayne.
"Please don't sue me," pleaded Mother, who had now been threatened with legal action twice that day. "Solicitors are awfully expensive."
"Not to me," sneered Wayne, "I'm a wild animal I am. I'm a persecuted species. I've got rights. I'll get Legal Aid." And he made a very rude gesture, even for a Weasel, and vanished.
Mother sighed and trudged off with Barry. The huge, blasted oak where Barry and Brenda live is right at the bottom of Bog Wood, overlooking the lake. Barry was now conscious, and very, very nervous. Mother pushed him up the tree. "Perhaps she's asleep," she said hopefully.
They heard a screech.
"What time do you call this?"
"I'm sorry my angel, I had an accident, with a house, and some weasels..."
"What's that smell?"
"It's called curry, my angel. It's called chicken curry dippers."
"It's bloody awful. If you ever come home smelling like that again I'll..."
Then the chick woke up.
Mother and wheelbarrow creaked off.
Gilly was waiting in the yard. "You'd better come," she said, "it's George." They ran down the garden. George was rolling in the straw, clutching his tummy. "Get that vet," he yelled. "Get that stupid vet. I'm dying."
"I'll get the car."
"No. I'm not going to hospital. You know what happened last time. He's got to come here."
Paul drove grimly down the lane. It had been a long day. He picked George up and examined his fat tummy. "Push off and make me a cup of coffee," he said to Mother.
"I've got the manypaws," howled George, "the manypaws have got me."
"Shut up, George, you haven't got the menopause, I can promise you that."
Mother came back with the coffee.
"He's constipated," said Paul crossly, "and he's got terrible wind." He glared at Mother. "It's all your fault," he added, "you're responsible for him; he eats too much."
Mother looked stricken. George cheered up.
"I've given him some medicine. He'll be O.K. when it's worked."
"How did you get him to take medicine?" asked Mother, much impressed.
"He's had it par rectum," said Paul rather snootily.
"He pushed it up his bottom," giggled Gilly.
"Shut your face," said George.
"Now listen ferret," said Paul, holding George by the scruff, "I didn't spend five years at Bristol University so I can drive round England at midnight shoving suppositories up the backsides of fat, spoilt ferrets. He shook George. "What did I not do, ferret?"
Sulkily George repeated it.
There was an ominous gurgle from his nether regions and Paul dropped him hastily on his litter tray.
Gilly shot out.
"I'm not staying in there with him," she said crossly.
And so, Paul drove home, Mother staggered off to the house to find the brandy bottle, and eventually, they all went to sleep... except for Wayne, who, deep in Bog Wood, was composing a letter to his solicitor...
There'll be a Welcome in the Hillside
(or then again, Perhaps there won't).
Wayne serves a Weasel Writ, Sid arranges a holiday, George makes the travel arrangements - with a little bit of help from Tracy. Barry finally learns to fly, Mother gets entangled with the police yet again, we meet Terry, the closest friend a ferret could ever have, and - very briefly - Clawed the Crab who is bound for an untimely end.
(Illustrated by Sadie James)