We're All Going on a Summer Holiday - Part 1
There'll be a Welcome in the Hillside
(or then again, Perhaps there won't).
Written by Norma Williams - Illustrations by Sadie James
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.
There is nothing more terrifying than receiving a brown envelope through the post on a Monday morning, Mother opened hers with a trembling hand. George was in the kitchen too, he was sitting on a pile of clean laundry busily firking in his thick tummy fur for a flea which had been annoying him for some time. "It's from the Legal Weasel" stammered Mother, her voice began to rise, "It says 'In The High Court of Justice, Bog Wood Division .... Wayne a Weasel, versus, .... The Plaintiff .... impeccable moral character ..... devoted family weasel .... nerves shattered, .... unable to support his dependants .... legally aided .... substantial damages...... "
"How many dependants has he got?" asked Jim, interested.
"Four hundred and ninety two"
"Oh dear," said Jim.
"What shall I do George?2
George had found the flea. He hooked it out with a claw and examined it with interest, it was a big, juicy nit and it was still alive. He pushed it carefully into one of Jim’s clean socks and watched it scuttle off. He looked up irritably, he had come to the kitchen to scrounge food, not to listen to Mother moaning.
"I expect you'll go to prison," he said, which didn't really help at all.
"Let's go and ask Sid," said kind, sensible, Gilly.
This seemed an excellent plan, so they walked to Sid's new house and stood outside, shuffling their feet and coughing until his sleek little head popped out. Sid had moved. Bog Wood has never been the same since the Weasels moved in, property prices have plummeted and Wayne's discovery (and deep appreciation) of rock 'n' roll music had been the last straw. The noise at night is awful. So Sid packed his belongings and moved into the ivy at the front of the farmhouse. He had made a warm, snug, round little room, cleared out all the dust and spiders, and lined the inside with barley straw carried from the rickyard - think Regency stripes in pale gold - the whole thing is finished off with shiny ivy leaves pulled over just like a thatched roof. At the front are two acorn cups for decoration and a neat sign which says -
Gilly climbed up the ivy and began to chatter to Sid, who listened intently. At last Gilly fell silent. Sid sat deep in thought with his paws folded in front of him. They all stared at him. Finally, he whispered something to Gilly, she nodded, dropped down the ivy and sat in front of them looking important.
"Well," said George, "what did he say?"
Gilly cleared her throat. "He says she should run away."
Mother began to whimper.
"Oh thank you," said George heavily, "thank you so bloody much Mr Clever Clogs Stoat, now she'll go completely round the twist."
They watched Mother who was sitting on the kitchen step, breathing into a brown paper bag. "I hope you're satisfied," George yelled up at the ivy.
"I haven't finished," said Gilly indignantly. "He says she should run away; but not for ever. She could go somewhere nice, Sid suggested the seaside and," .... here Gilly dropped her voice and looked sideways at her brother .... "we could all go with her."
The ferrets turned and stared at Mother, Sid was staring too, and he was wearing the expectant look of one who is already packing his bucket and spade.
"No. No. No." said Jim. "If we go on holiday then we're going to Spain like a normal family. I'm not trailing round Wales in the rain with smart alec ferrets, alcoholic weasels, stoats, dyslexic buzzards and other rubbish from Bog Wood."
But he never really stood a chance.
After a brief initial sulk because the trip was Sid's idea, George took charge of the travel arrangements. He had no idea at all quite what the seaside consisted of, - none of them had apart from Sid - but this didn't stop him bossing the others around. The travelling party was growing larger too. It is more or less impossible to keep secrets from Weasels and when they saw Tracy galloping up the track which leads to the farm from Bog Wood they knew that the news was out.
"No Weasels," said George firmly.
"Oh, go on," wheadled Tracy, "let me come and I'll get the old bag off the 'ook with me dad. Besides," she whined, "I want a change, I'm fed up with your Henry. 'e's disgustin'."
Now it takes quite a lot to violate the decency standards of a weasel, but Henry had managed to do just this. On an early and ill advised trip to next door's sheep paddocks he had become the proud owner of a large tick, which was now attached to his right ear. As he was going through a rather peculiar punk stage he had rejected Mother's queasy advances with the eyebrow tweasers and Dettol. He liked the tick, he said. It was his friend and it was called Terry. And thus with Terry elevated to the status of companion come fashion statement Henry was soon a social outcast. It didn't bother him at all. He hopped happily around the farm, chattering to Terry, who hung seductively from his ear, growing fatter by the day. Tracy wasn't the only person who found Terry's presence a little disturbing.
"Do something about that bloody ferret," complained Jim. "He's putting me off my food. And those other two sods have moved into my sock drawer - get rid of them."
"I'm not sleeping with Henry," said George, and refused to be evicted.
"Nor me," piped up Gilly.
And to his fury, neither of them would move.
Barry sat on the dustbin lid looking pleadingly at Jim.
"You're not coming," said Jim, "it's probably illegal to take buzzards to the seaside and we've got enough problems as it is. Lots of us have funny wives," he added bitterly, "we just have to put up with it."
"He doesn't want to come all the way to Wales," explained Gilly, who usually acts as Barry's interpreter. "he just wants to go as far as the M4, he says the food's really good on the motorway."
This is true - many a speeding motorist has taken his foot off the hammer at the sight of Barry and the lads perched hopefully on a flyover.
"Apart from Terry that's the most disgusting thing I've ever had to think about," said Jim with a shudder.
So off they went on their happy holiday. The seating arrangements had become rather complicated. As Jim had come down with a nasty rash round his ankles Mother was driving, and every married couple will know what that means. George was sitting quietly on the front seat - and as will be seen he had quite a lot to be quiet about, he also had a newly acquired black eye and a torn ear. In the back were Jim, two dogs and all the food and all the luggage. Further back still, hidden behind the spare wheel, were Tracy, Wayne, Walter, and sundry other weasels, who at the moment were all asleep. Tied to the roof rack with baling string was Henry, - he was wearing a woolly hat which served the duel purpose of keeping his head warm and concealing Terry from the authorities. Following behind in the horse trailer was Barry. He had a postage stamp stuck to his head and a sign on a piece of string round his neck which said, "One Buzzard - Stuffed". He was under strict instructions not to move or speak to anyone.
The only contented passenger was Sid, who was perched on the back of the passenger seat - he had discovered that by swaying slightly to his left as they went round the corners he could see his own reflection in the wing mirror. This gave him immense pleasure and he gave a little coo of joy at every left hand bend in the road.
"Can't you stop that stoat swaying and cooing," said Jim irritably, "he's making me feel sick."
Never trust a Weasel thought George bitterly. He had agreed to let Tracy hide behind the spare wheel and this had been a big mistake. "Only you," he had said, "one Weasel's enough for anyone." But, the moment he had opened the back door of the truck, not only the devious Tracy but also a dozen of her close relatives had dived out of the stinging nettles. George had been felled by a blow from Tracy's cousin Kylie - a Weasel of buxom mein and uncertain temper - when he had tried to refuse her entry to the Land Rover. He had then been used as a step ladder by the remaining Weasels, one of whom was Wayne who had trodden on George's head. Under one scabby armpit was a copy of the Writ and this he had waved in triumph before vanishing into the interior of the Land Rover with a cackled of glee.
"Oh bugger," thought George.
He was not particularly bothered if Wayne had a seaside holiday or not, what was worrying him was his own personal safety which was going to be seriously compromised when Mother discovered that Wayne was not harmlessly at Home in Bog Wood, but seven feet away from her in the same vehicle. She would go instantly insane, he thought gloomily, and crash the Land Rover. George agrees with Jim that women belong in kitchens, pottering about preparing food, and dusting things, not behind the wheel of powerful motor vehicles.
As they bowled through Worcestershire the Weasels woke up and started to sing; fortunately the Land Rover is very noisy and neither of the humans heard them. First they sany "Travelling Light" - quite nicely and with the proper words. Then they sang "Ten Green Bottles" also quite nicely and with - more or less - the proper words. Alas, by the time Hereford came into view they were bawling out "Colonel Bogey" with all the rude words and some gestures. It was when Wayne jumped onto the back seat shouted "Mambo, Mambo" and began to dance that Mother saw him in the mirror and crashed the truck.
The Land Rover is used to Mother and has learnt to brace itself, so there was little damage, and the only medical casualty was Barry, who was knocked silly. He sat on the side of the road chanting, "I'm stuffed, I'm stuffed," over and over again. With ghastly predictability the next vehicle along the road was a smart blue police car. "Now we're all stuffed," said Jim gloomily.
Mother only escaped a prison sentence by promising to release Barry into the wild immediately. She was also ordered to untie Henry. "You shouldn't have a nice little ferret like that if you keep him tied to the roof of a motor vehicle," said the policeman indignantly, "he'll catch his death. Come on down mate" he added to Henry, who clambered down eagerly and jumped into the warm car. Everyone else shivered and shifted uncomfortably. The policeman admitted that several more offences had probably been committed but they were of such a peculiar nature that he had no idea what they were, so he drove off happily, waving to Henry, and leaving Mother with the early promise of three penalty points on her licence when the good folk of Swansea could get round to it.
George crawled out from under the front seat. "Is this lot anything to do with you?" snarled Jim.
"Where's Barry?" asked Gilly suddenly, inadvertantly saving George's bacon.
They all looked round - then they saw him - swooping out of the sun in the south like an eagle. He dive bombed them cheekily, then he looped the loop, barrel rolled and dived again to land gracefully on a gate post. Everyone clapped and cheered. "He's cured," squeaked Gilly happily, jumping up and down. "The bang on the head's cured all his flying problems." And so it seemed. They all watched as Barry sped off like an arrow towards the Brecon Beacons, after being given strict instructions to return to the roadside in exactly the same spot in a week's time. "I hope he has a nice holiday," said kind Gilly.
"I hope he come back," said George apprehensively, "I wouldn't want to be the one who has to tell Brenda she's a one parent family."
It was tea time when they reached the sea. They stopped the car and everyone jumped out. Sid perched on a sand dune, entranced. He loved the seaside - it's so clean and when a little boat with a white sail on it came past he pointed and chattered with joy. Gilly pushed her nose into a pool, then sneezed and sneezed, she wiped her face in the sand and then she and Sid chased and frolicked and pounced in the warm soft beach. The magical thing about the seaside, explained Sid (when he'd calmed down a bit) was that twice a day it was completely washed. This idea made him so excited again that they had to sit him down quite firmly, give him a drink of cold tea and make him a sun hat out of a hankie with a knot at each corner.
The Weasels - now semi-official passengers - jumped out and stood in a grumpy little group on a sand dune. After their discovery by the roadside they had insisted on moving onto the back seat and sitting by Henry, until Tracy remembered Terry - they had then all moved to the dashboard moaning bitterly.
"I might live in Bog Wood," Wayne had complained with a sniff, "but at least I haven't got ticks."
They wandered off down the beach, dragging an old paint can full of Weasel Pop after them. Tracy and Kylie brought up the rear, giggling and pushing.
"I hope they aren't going to cause any trouble," worried Mother.
George stared into a rock pool. Grey, quick little creatures were darting about. He stabbed one with a claw and pushed it into his mouth. It was quite tasty. He hooked another. The pool erupted as a rock detached itself and waddled over to George. It said loudly, "Do you mind? I was saving those for my tea."
"What the heck are you?" asked George.
"I'm a large edible rock crab," said the creature crossly, "and I know what you are, - you're a bloody ferret you are - there's two like you up at the house," he waved a claw landwards. "I hate them," he said, "they're a pair of woofters, they call me Waterbaby," he added crossly, "and my real name's Clawed."
George stared at Clawed intently.
"What sort of crab did you say you were?"
Henry (and Terry) were on the beach too. They saw two little old ladies sitting on a bench, eating cake and drinking tea. Henry hopped up to them.
"What a sweet little ferret," said one old lady.
"And he's wearing a dear little hat," said the other.
Henry beamed up at them.
"Would you like to see my friend Terry?" he asked.
George dashed back to the truck, Mother found him sorting madly through the hamper. He found what he was looking for and began dragging it out.
"What on earth do you want the nutcrackers for?" asked Mother fondly. George seemed to change the subject completely.
"I've made a little friend on the beach," he said vaguely.
"That's nice darling, will he be with us for tea?"
"Probably," said George. And he galloped off, dragging the nutcrackers behind him.
(First published in the January 2001)
(or Heart of Darkness - the sequel)
Henry goes missing; Gilly gets sold down the river; Tom Jones arrives on the scene - has Tracy found true love at last? We meet Malcolm (and some very naughty old ladies); Mother is mocked by Weasels; the sad (and very messy) end of Terry; has George solved the rabbit problem? Or has he pulled another con trick? - and we prove that it is never too late to become truly, awfully, madly wicked, (and make lots of money)
(Illustrated by Sadie James)
Stories by Norma Williams