Here we come a Weaselling
Jingle Bells, Baby
Written by Norma Williams - Illustrations: Sadie James
"So when do we have pancakes?" asked Henry.
His brother and sister stared at him.
"He's got it all wrong again," said Gilly.
"For the last time," said George wearily, "we don't have any pancakes..."
He grabbed Henry by the throat and said slowly and carefully.
"Listen, peabrain, it's Christmas, not Shrove Tuesday, Bank Holiday Monday, Whitsunday, Bonfire Night or St Valentine's Day. We don't have pancakes. We go Carol Singing."
"To help those less fortunate than ourselves," added Gilly primly.
"There's no one less fortunate than us," said George. "We live in the middle of a field with a mad woman, that's as bad as it gets. No," he looked craftily towards the house. "We're going to help ourselves, and..." he looked round again, "whatever you do, don't tell the Weasels." Tracy's head popped up from behind a flowerpot.
"Don't tell the Weasel what?"
Mother, had been receiving orders from the Vicarage. "Where am I going to get a reindeer," she wailed. "Or a badger? I don't know any badgers."
"Why do you let that old trout bully you?" said Jim. "You'd better ask George, he seems to have his paw on the pulse, and," he added, "while you're at it, please do something about that bat before it explodes." They watched as Gordon - wildly overexcited and covered in glitter - whizzed madly round the kitchen. "If his tinsel hits the electric wire his eyes'll light up for the last time."
"I really, really need a nice badger," grovelled Mother.
"There's no such thing," said George. "Believe me, you don't want a badger."
"I've promised the Vicar please help me."
"Are you taking your tablets? What do you think a badger's going to do - sing "Jingle Bells" and play a mouth organ - they live underground and eat worms, what makes you think one's going to come out singing now?"
"It's Christmas," said Mother weakly, then with a little more honesty she added desperately, "please help me George, I'm terrified of the Vicar's sister."
"Alright, but don't say I didn't warn you."
And he trotted off into the winter night to find a badger. Which left just the problem of the reindeer.
Cows are strange animals. They manage to combine a complete lack of intelligence with a will of iron and can raise non co-operation to an art form. However, Eric the house cow, has horns which, with the aid of the stuffed socks might - just possibly - be transformed into antlers.
"Perhaps it'll be a dark night," said Gilly doubtfully, looking at the result.
"It'll need to be."
"What's that awful smell?" asked Mother, appalled.
"You wanted a badger and now you've got one," said George
A scruffy badger shuffled into the kitchen, various unidentifiable, nasty substances were dripping off it's fur and it had a heaving bag of worms hefted over its shoulder.
"Evenin' missis," it said. It burped hugely, said, "better out than in.," and lumbered towards the lounge where it clambered onto the sofa and began to toast its paws in front of the fire.
"Whatever you do," said George, "don't tell it you've got a spare bedroom, you'll never get rid of it."
"It isn't quite what I expected."
"They never are," said George.
Gilly stalked in, "you'd better watch where you're putting your feet," she said with a sniff, "It's made a huge mess in the kitchen."
Barry perched on the dustbin and put his head on one side.
"Ignore him," said George, "He's trying to look cute."
"You can't come Carol singing Barry," said Gilly. "You frighten people."
"I've got an idea," said Henry slowly.
"Go on," said George, wearily.
"He could dress up," said Henry.
"Oh thank you, Einstein," said George. "He's a bird of prey with a six foot wing span, what's he going to came as - the last turkey in the shop?"
But Barry began to screech with joy - that was it! He'd dress up. He flapped off happily, and the ferrets watched him crashing into Bog Wood.
Why do I have a very bad feeling about this?" asked George grimly.
It was Friday the 21st of December and the Carol singers assembled at the Sandy Lane which borders the village. They had had to trek through the tail end of Hoppy Woods to get there. Hoppy Woods are scary. Reputed to be part of old Sherwood, the trees are huge, very old and they creak a lot. Eric was terrified and on the verge of rebellion - her antlers had come adrift and dangled sadly. She looked despairing back towards the farm and mooed deafeningly. The badger was a problem too. It had terrible wind and waddled along making dismal parping sounds.
"If it says, "better out than in," once more I'll swing for it," snarled Geroge.
Gilly and Sid looked sweet, Sid had a dear little lantern made out of a conker shell with two glow worms tethered inside it. The weasels, who were out in force, looked a lot less appealing. Wayne wore a belligerent expression and carried a sign which said:-
All Major Credit Cards Accepted."
"I do hope Wayne's approaching this in the right spirit," worried Mother.
"They aren't hanging around much," said George suspiciously. The weasels were flying down the track and into the village.
"They've gone to bag the best houses!"
"After them, quick!!"
"Ohh," said Gilly, "doesn't it look pretty." The village street had coloured lights strung up and down sparkly Christmas trees in the windows.
"Never mind that," said George briskly. "Go and sing outside some of the posh houses - don't bother with her mates," he nodded towards Mother. "They haven't got any money."
They huddled in a little group in the porch of a pretty pink cottage. George gave Sid a sharp poke in the ribs, and he began to sing "It Came Upon A Midnight Clear" in his lovely contralto voice. (Stoats don't talk a lot, but they sure can sing). George rubbed his paws together greedily and wore the air of a theatrical agent whose client is coming up with the goods. The sweet little old lady who lived in the cottage clapped and smiled and gave him fifty pence.
"Is that the best you can manage?" asked George peering at it.
"I've only got my pension," said the old lady sharply. "Is he going to sing again?"
"Not for fifty pence he isn't," said George.
"George!! We don't argue about money at Christmas."
"Yes you do, you argue about nothing else!" said George indignantly and with quite a lot of truth.
"I'll tell the Vicar about you lot," threatened the sweet little old lady adding to the general unpleasantness. "And you can give me my fifty pence back."
"Run for it."
And the Carol singers bolted off into the night, in an undignified shuttle, except for Henry, who still stood in front of the cottage, staring into space.
"What do you want?" snarled the old lady, who was now sounding a lot less sweet than she had done.
"Ooooh look!" said Gilly, "Barry's perched on that lamp post!"
They looked. It was indeed Barry.
"He's got a long white beard!" said Gilly.
"With bits of red on it," said George uneasily.
"Barry," Mother hissed urgently upwards. "Have you been after Eddie's sheep again?"
"Let's leave him before anyone sees us," suggested Gilly, who has that strong sense of preservation shared by all ferrets.
Taken all round, things weren't going very well.
The badger wandered down the village street and knocked on a door. It was opened by a pale, thin, spotty little boy called Darren. The badger stared at him blankly.
"I'm supposed to do something now," it admitted, "but I've forgotten what it is."
Darren was very lonely.
"Would you like some Pot Noodles?" he asked eagerly.
"Yes please," said the badger, cheering up, "would you like a worm?"
"Oh Yes, cool!"
The door closed behind them, but not before the badger could be heard asking, "have you got a spare bedroom?" and Darren saying innocently. "Yes would you like to see it?"
"Shall we try Horace?" asked Gilly, a bit hesitantly.
They stared at the cottage. Horace hasn't actually got a sign pinned to his door saying, "Bugger off", but most people get the message without this little refinement.
The knocked at the door timidly. A grizzled, beer flushed face popped out and scowled at them.
"Merry Christmas, Horace, would you like use to sing to you?"
"No I would not," snarled Horace to whom the idea of peace and goodwill is a challenge at the best of times and never, ever includes women or ferrets.
"It's bad enough having to put up with Christmas without musical wild life botherin' folk in their own 'omes," he snarled. "You can push off back to whatever flea ridden pit you crawled out of and..." he noticed Eric for the first time "... what the 'eck's that?"
"It's a reindeer," said Mother, not very confidently.
"It don't look like no reindeer to me, it looks like an 'ereford cow with socks on. It looks bloody nervous too, get it off my cobblestones before it..."
Horace gave a howl of rage and Eric, terrified by all the noise and the Christmas spirit generally, charge twice round the tiny garden, crashed through the hedge and vanished up Main Street at full gallop with her antlers flapping.
"I'll get you and your bloody ferrets for this," screamed Horace, surveying the wreck of his garden. "You'll be sorry you ever heard of Christmas before I..."
There was a sudden burst of song from behind them and everyone swung round. Sitting coquettishly on the stone drinking trough was the Vicar's sister. She was singing "I feel Pretty" in a very loud and croaky baritone.
"Bloody 'ell," said Horace.
The tune changed - "I'm just a Gal who cain't say no", warbled Mildred and she began to prance in a spirited but terrifying fashion.
"I can see her knickers," said Gilly shocked.
"That takes me back a bit," said Horace unexpectedly.
"I used to go to school with 'er," he grinned. "She used to show us 'er drawers for tuppence be'ind the bike sheds. I reckon we've 'ad about two bob's worth now," he added happily.
"I've got better legs than she has," said Mother, who was watching her enemy closely.
"So has the badger," said George. "Not as hairy," he sniggered.
"I tell 'e what," said Horace wistfully. "I wouldn't mind a drop of whatever she's 'ad." A figure detached itself from the hedge.
"It's your lucky day, squire," it said. "Wayne Weasel at your service, Merry Christmas."
"Wayne must have sold Weasel Pop to every house in the village."
Main Street was in an uproar. Tracy was providing the main attraction with a spirited rendering of "It's raining Men" while Mildred screamed "Hallelujah!!" at intervals.
"Lor' love us, it's stinky spice and old spice," chortled Horace.
"They're going to feel awful in the morning," said Gilly primly.
"In the morning!" scoffed George. "They'll be lucky if they wake up before Easter!"
"I think we'd better leave," said Mother, "before the Vicar or Darren's mum turns up. Or Eddie," she added nervously. "let's find Henry and go home."
Henry was still at the first cottage.
"Is this your ferret?" asked the old lady crossly. "If it is," she added, "Then you owe me £2.50 for eggs, flour and sugar." Henry was dozing on the fireside rug, an empty plate by his side. He looked at them blearily.
"I told you it was pancake day."
The Carol singers made their way back up the dark sandy lane, arguing.
"Henry weighs a ton," complained Mother, "he must have shifted an awful lot of pancakes."
"I feel sick," moaned Henry.
"Well you will do won't you, you greedy sod," said George unsympathetically. "Well, that was a brilliant night's work," he went on bitterly. "We're £2 down on the Carol singing and we've lost a cow worth three hundred quid, not to mention the little problem of one of Eddie's pedigree Texels, which is now presumably bald, or worse. What other triumphs have you got planned for the New Year?"
"Don't be sarky George."
"I can see shooting stars," said Gilly.
"No you can't, it's the bats going home."
A chinking sound came from behind. It was Wayne and the Weasels. They were dragging a bag full of money. Wayne grinned evilly and shook the bag at them.
"Jingle bells, baby," he said, and vanished, cackling, into the dark.
Raindrops keep fallin' on me 'ead.
In which some old friends visit the Midlands,
Wayne faces his biggest challenge yet - stone cold sober
Zanti has a startling change of career
Tom Jones pays a harrowing visit to the vets,
And Tracy finishes with Men for Ever.