festivities, feasels and foats
look out - he's behind you
by Norma Williams illustrated by Sadie James
"a little touch of 'Henry' in the Night" - with apologies to W. Shakespeare Esq. (but we had to get him in somewhere)
Before we start, a word about Henry. He has become very famous. After the publication of his poem "The Ballad of Poor Fred", he hit the big time, went all literary and moved to London with Trigger, his pet sheep to found a salon, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the days of Oscar Wilde. "Poor Fred" has been on every single edition of "Poetry Please" on Radio 4 for months, and Heny has appeared on every high brow radio programme, and has been interviewed by everyone with any pretentions to culture. There is even talk of him being made Ferret Laureate. If you switch on Radio 4 late at night you can hear Henry expounding on the great scientific and philosophical questions of our day - what is the true nature of altruism? Is there life on Mars? Where do sheep ticks go when they die? Why can't women read road maps or master reverse parking. Does the Giant Bunny still live in Bog Wood? Henry is now enormously rich, a fact about which his erstwhile family in Staffordshire struggle to be pleased. So remember, tune into 92.60 - 70 FM any night (after the Archers) and keep in touch.
Wayne Get a Culture Shock
In the summer of 2002 Bog Wood was sold. It is always sad to see trees being felled, but a clear up was long overdue, and the loggers wagons moved in and two little glens of about an acre each were made and baby trees planted. Jim watched with realish.
"Perhaps that'll shift those bloody weasels," he said hopefully. It did.
In November an official looking care drove up and an official looking man got out. He carried a clipboard, which is always a bad sign, and he was wearing a badge that said "TWIT".
"Williams?" he said, "I'm from MIFF (the Ministry for our Furry Friends) - TWIT Department (The Weasel Itinery Trust). You are ordered to billet Displaced Weasels for the duration. Sign here please." Out of the back of the car stepped Wayne and the rest of the Bog Wood Weasels. About 200 of them. Each had a ticket on a bit of string round his neck which said "Evacuee - Bog Wood 2002".
"Mornin' gaffer," said Wayne, "come on chaps."
Jim screamed, slammed the door and shot the bolts.
The letter box shot open and the Man from MIFF and TWIT shouted:
"Ham I to understand you're refusing delivery of said weasels?"
"Too bloody right I am. Dump them somewhere else."
"You'll have to fill in Weasel Refusal Notice (WRN) and apply for a Contra-refusal Application Permit (CrAP)"
There was no reply from the house and the Man from MIFF and TWIT drove off, as he had come, with a carload of weasels.
"That's the last we'll see of them," crowed Jim.
The following day the Sun newspaper ran the following story:-
There were two photographs under the headline - one of Jim, looking shifty, and taken with a long lens, and the other of Wayne who was clutching one of his many offspring to his bosom. He looked very cute and tidy and appeared to be wearing make up. The paragraph underneath said:
A sad tale emerged this Christmas as once more the farming community shows its uncharitable side. Mr Wayne Weasel, whose home has been destroyed in a clearance had appealed to Mr Williams for help and shelter. Mr Williams has been quoted as saying he'd rather pull his own teeth out than spend Christmas with a bunch of idle hippy, drunken weasels.
Mr Wayne Weasel told our reporter that this was no more than he had expected, and added that he would probably spend Christmas under a hedge with his children, to whom he was devoted. He bore no grudge, he said and added that he hope Mr Williams enjoyed his own Christmas in his centrally heated home. He promised to keep our newspaper up to date with any developments.
The following day the weasels moved into the farm.
Weasels aren't quiet house guests, they aren't very clean either, regarding litter trays as an affectation for sissies. Within two days the house was comprehensively trashed and all the food had gone. George had moved back down the garden to the ferret pen, Alice had moved in with Sid, and Jim had moved into the Land Rover with his Des O'Conner tapes.
"What are we going to eat?" sobbed Mother.
The answer came when a brand new Range Rover sped into the yard and pulled up with a flourish. It was painted a curry colour and had 'Wong Dot Com' in red letters on the door. It appeared to have no driver, but the driver's door opened and, as if by magic, a tiny Chinese man appeared at the bumper.
"Delivery for Mr Wayne Weasel," he chimed.
"'ello Wongey," said Wayne, sliding into view.
Mr Wong dot Com bowed.
"Egg foo yong for 60, duck foo yong for 120, flied lice for 200," he sang.
"How on earth has he ordered that?"
"Mr Wayne Weasel clever little cleature. Use Internet. Tiny little plaws velly good on computer kleys. Or bounce message off passing blat. No matter. Wong dot Com get money allasame."
Gordon fluffed his fur out and twittered smugly.
"That's a lovely motor Wongey," said Jim wistfully.
"Velly superior vehicle," acknowledged Wong dot Com. "Velly fast, velly big, runs on chip fat; goes like clappers."
He bowed for the last time, clambered with some difficulty into the car and vanished in a cloud of acrid blue smoke.
Just when it seemed that things couldn't get any worse, the Man from MIFF and TWIT came back.
"You are required to provide Cultural Stimulus for your DW's (Displaced Weasels)," he droned. "They must remain in touch with their Cultural Heritage (CH)."
"What bloody cultural heritage?" snarled Jim. "They don't have any Cultural Heritage. They doss around and get drunk - that's it."
"I 've 'ere," said the Ministry Man, ignoring him, "250 tickets for the pantomime 'Cinderealla' to be 'eld at your Village 'all tonight. You are to transport your DW's to said pantomime, supervise your DW's during the performance and ensure safe return of DW's to billet afterwards. Merry Christmas from the Government."
He leapt into his car and vanished into the night.
"This is a very, very bad idea," said Jim.
They sat in the Village Hall. The Weasels, by reason of their size, had to sit at the very front, which meant that their reluctant hosts were jammed in with them and effectively trapped. The rest of the village, in festive mood, drunk, and ready for trouble, were crammed in behind them.
The lights dimmed and the curtain rose. The Weasels all craned forward intently.
Onto the stage lumbered Cinderella's fairy godmother - Doris from the Post Office. She wore a frilly Laura Ashley number, circa 1975, and carried a stick with a star on the end.
"Bloody 'ell," said Wayne, in awe, "it's a bloke in a frock."
After that, of course, things were bound to get very confusing for Wayne.
The cast were an unattractive bunch. The ugly sisters were really, really ugly. The first was played by the manager of the co-op who had refused to shave off his huge ginger moustache and the second by Ernie, the grave digger, and some time sextant who is about 90 years old and has a wooden leg.
The only nice thing anyone can find to say about Ernie is that he really enjoys his work. His trusty shovel stood propped in the corner of the stage, decorated with a sprig of holly. Cinderella was played by Doris's niece Sharon, a thin bilious girl with a nose stud, and adenoids. Buttons was played by the Vicar's sister in thigh thwacking mood and Prince Charming was Miss Fox, a strange woman who lived on the common, made clay pots and drove a 1950's Morris Oxford. She wore tweeds and aftershave and was regarded with deep suspicion by the entire village (Political Correctness being, in the main, a foreign concept in rural Staffordshire).
Two strapping lads played the horse who pulled the magic coach, which was constructed of 3 spare coffins of varying size, strapped together and kindly donated by Ernie (but with the caveat that, as it was midwinter, one might have to be requisitioned in a hurry).
The first number was a duet by the ugly sisters who sang 'Like a Virgin' with great gusto and saucepans strapped to their chests.
Wayne's jaw dropped. Several of the younger weasels began to whimper and crawl under their seats.
Next, the coach was dragged on by the horse, the rear end of which was obviously drunk, and Miss Fox and the Vicar's sister climbed onto the coffins and performed a rip-roaring version of 'The Deadwood Stage', while playfully flicking each other with riding whips.
"I'm goin' 'ome," said Wayne in a panic. But he couldn't go home - none of them could, they were trapped.
Doris clambered back onto the stage and glared down at the local children, who were slumped bored and embarrassed in the row just behind the Weasels.
She rolled her sleeves up and bashed a blackboard with her wand.
"Right you little buggers," she snarled "SING..."
"I'm a Little Goblin, living in the Woods..."
(This has been written by Miss Fox who still lives in 1950's Enid Blyton territory).
"We want Robbie Williams," shouted the children.
"And Atomic Kitten."
"Yeah, push off fatty Doris."
"Or get your kit off," suggested a wag from the back.
"NO!!" howled Wayne in terror. One or two of the more nervous weasels fainted.
Ernie reappeared with his shovel.
"'ow would you like devils like me to dig a nice deep 'ole for Christmas and shove you all in it?" he snarled.
There was a dull thud as Wayne fell off his chair.
Order was restored by the Vicar, and comparative quiet reigned for Cinderella's big scene. Sharon trailed on and looked vaguely at the audience.
"I've forgotten me lines now, with all them fightin',"
She wandered across to her magic coach. Both ends of the horse were now much the worse for wear. A loud belch echoed from somewhere in it's nether regions, and a can of Fosters dropped out if its belly and rolled across the stage.
Cinders was now rather cross. She prodded the horse with her broom. "Get up Jason Truelove," she moaned, "this is me big scene."
The horse twitched and snored. Cinders lost her temper. She tried a more deadly means of attack.
"My dad wants to see you," she said grimly. The rear end of the horse twitched nervously.
She turned to the audience.
"I'm in the Club I am," she complained, "an' it's 'is fault."
She poked the horse which was now trying to crawl under its coach.
The audience, who had at first thought this was part of the act, realised with a sudden collective surge of joy that it wasn't and sat bolt upright in its seats, twitching with anticipation.
"That's right, that's right," yelled a small boy, "I've seen 'em be'ind Wong's chippie."
"Please note change of name," sang a familiar voice from the front of the audience, 'Name now Wong Dot Com' "
He then had to duck, as Cinderella's mom, dad, big brother Eamon, best friend Shirley, and the Vicar rushed the stage in a mob. The curtain fell, but not before the audience had one last tantalising glimpse of Jason Truelove being frog marched toward the Church - and destiny - by his prospective in-laws and the Vicar.
They re-loaded the shell-shocked weasels into the Land Rover and drove home in silence.
At the farm gate the weasels got out, stood muttering fro a few seconds, then Wayne tottered up. He looked quite pale because his fur was standing on end.
"We're goin' 'ome, we are," he said in a quavering voice. "I thought I'd met some peculiar wild animals in my time," he added shakily, "but compared to you lot... " his voice tailed off weakly.
And so the weasels went home, much subdued, to plan revenge, group therapy and probably litigation.
It was now well after midnight.
"I always sort of hope for miracles at Christmas."
"The bloody weasels have pushed off, what more do you want?"
"That's not a miracle."
"It'll do for me. What's wrong with that stoat?"
Sid was jumping up and down on the fence outside his little house. They hurried up.
"He says to come and look," said George.
They found a ladder and climbed up the ivy and looked in eagerly.
Inside Sid's little house was as neat as a new pin. There was a chest of drawers with a vase and a sprig of holly just inside the door, and on the opposite wall there was a bookcase full of fat, serious looking books; a few family portraits hung on the wall and a nice little rug lay on the floor. Sid pushed the bookcase; it swung, and opened to another neat little nest.
Inside was Alice - with two tiny babies.
Once they'd got over the shock they examined the babies closely. One looked very like Sid, it was exquisite, it had a gold back and a silver tummy and a neat, tippy tail. Alice was licking it's ears dreamily. The other was rather different. It was pale ginger with a pointed face. It had brought it's milk back up and was sitting in a pile of poo, picking its nose with great concentration.
One, said Sid proudly, was his. It was a boy and was called Sammy. He had to admit that he wasn't too sure about the other one, and they had decided to call it Shane, to be on the safe side, he added rather strangely. "A Feasel and a Foat!"
"I thought they were just myths."
They were real all right, explained Sid, but as they had to be born at midnight on Christmas Eve, they were very rare. Birth, he explained, was no problem, but conception could be tricky as it had to take place between 10.30 and 10.45 p.m. on November the 13th, (or November 12th in a leap year) which lowered your chances of success somewhat. He had, he explained, told Alice to go straight home after their tryst on 13th November, but obviously she hadn't and at 10.44 p.m. she had bumped into Wayne, who had been firking in the dustbin on that fateful night. Alice, said Sid, was a good woman, but she could be over affectionate, and obviously Wayne had taken full advantage of her good nature, (Stoats are wonderful creatures, but like the rest of us, capable of the odd double standard). Alice said nothing, she was busy cleaning up Shane, who now had hiccups and had brought his milk up again.
So they took some pictures of the babies and then went inside to celebrate Christmas. George trotted off to the ferret pen. He was plotting. Shane, he thought, could be a considerable asset - half ferret, half weasel and officially he didn't exist - the possibilities were endless.
And outside on the ivy, Sid sat proudly in the doorway of his little house, staring into the dark, guarding his strange little family, and thinking about the spring.
A little scientific and cultural foray in which we say goodbye to Wayne as he experiences the ultimate big bang; Shane becomes King of the Weasels; George advances the cause of science with an astonishing discovery and a touching little ceremony is unexpectedly ruined by the guest of honour.