by Norma Williams
We pay a visit to The Bog Wood Medical Centre, and learn - sadly a little too late - the symptoms of Squirrel Disease, Mole Disorder and Wacky Bat Syndrome. Old Mrs Blenkinsop and her late cat Fluffy have a bad week, Tony the milkman has a life changing experience and Wendy goes home to the relief of all and makes a great impact on the Australian media.
"The proper basis for marriage is a mutual misunderstanding." - Oscar Wilde.
Shakespeare once wrote that by and large all holiday romances should end at the departure terminal at Malaga Airport. Wayne had spectacularly ignored his advice, and was now paying the price, and so was everyone else, Bog Wood was rapidly becoming a no-go area as Wendy, his gruesome spouse, made her presence felt in no uncertain tems.
"That bloody thing's followed me all round the wood again," complained Jim.
"You'll be alright as long as you keep on moving," said Wayne helpfully. "She prefers dead stuff."
"She dug up Mrs Blenkinsop's cat, Fluffy," said Mother with a shudder. "She dragged him into the Co-op and ate him by the frozen peas."
"It was your own fault for taking it for a walk in the village," said Jim.
An eerie whistling sound came from Bog Wood. It grew higher and higher and ended in a shrill high bark. Wayne, who was sitting on the windowsill - indeed it is fair to say that he had taken up residence there - apprehensively squinted through the blinds.
"I think she's coming into season," he said gloomily.
"Oh spiffing," said Jim, "just what we need at the bottom of the garden - a Tasmanian Devil with PMT!"
"She wasn't like this when we was courtin'," moaned Wayne, thus echoing an awful lot of men before him, "as soon as we got 'ome it was nag, nag, nag, never stops bloomin' naggin', an' if I'm not 'ome by midnight she rips me ears off. She's got 'orrible personal 'abits an' all, and I'm sure she lied about 'er age!"
"It sounds like a perfectly normal marriage to me," said Jim.
"An' she wants a dead 'orse," wailed Wayne, his voice rising in panic, "where am I gonna get an 'orse?"
"There's nine of 'em in the paddocks doing damn all," said Jim, "help yourself, it'll save on vet's bills."
"Do you mind?" said Mother indignantly.
The whistling sound came again... it was more insistent this time and ended with a very sharp bark.
"I gotta go," said Wayne. He climbed down and sighed deeply. "She says I've got to get a job," he added pathetically. And he trailed off to Bog Wood, his ears down and his tail dragging behind him, a picture of marital misery.
"I feel sorry for him," said Jim.
"Well I don't!" Mother indignantly said. "He led a most unsuitable lifestyle. All that womanising, drinking, out all the time, no responsibilities and no work. That's no good for any man."
"No I suppose not," said Jim wistfully.
"It's about time he got a proper job and the sooner the better."
And so it came about, that Wayne got a proper job.
The next morning Alice and Ted came up the track from Bog Wood. Alice who was wearing her busiest and most capable expression, was supporting Ted who seemed a little green about the gills.
"Ferret's had his injection and he's a little tired," she said brightly. "Just let ferret lie down and rest and get in touch if there's any problem with ferret."
"Alice, why are you talking like that?" asked Mother.
Alice ignored her.
"Here's my card," she said busily. "Must dash, Doctor's very busy this morning."
The card read:
W. Weasel M.D. + Farmasist
All illnesses diagnosed & treeted on the spot
Fast track system available
Confidential servise for anything disgustin (femail plumin a specialiti)
This week's specshul offer - BRANE SURGERI
"I think I'll go and see this new doctor," said Mother, "I've been having my old problem lately."
"What on earth makes you think you'll get cured in Bog Wood," said Jim, "you'll probably end up with something else to go with it."
But Mother and Ted walked into the Wood which was nice and fresh and full of bright green beech leaves, warm air, and bluebells.
By the old wood pile a little counter had appeared. Wayne sat behind this counter with his arms folded. Tracey, Alice and Great Aunt Ada Doom Weasel from Hoppy Woods sat beside him. Alice looked sweet in a nurse's hat. Tracey (also thus attired) looked most unconvincing and more like one of the adverts you see in the personal columns in the back pages of the lower sort of Sunday newspaper. Great Aunt Ada just looked horrible. Beside them - under a huge cloud of yellow smoke issuing from a pipe filled with Very Best Strong Old Shag - sat Ernie, the village grave digger with his shovel.
Wayne was doing a roaring trade. A line of villagers stood waiting by the side of the road. Most of the local hypochondriacs were there, shuffling their feet, sniffing, coughing, spitting and scratching.
"Good morning," said Mother, "can I see the doctor please?"
"I'll see if he's in," said Tracey, importantly. Wayne leered at them. "Yes, he is," said Tracey, "£5 please."
"I haven't spoken to him yet!"
"Well get on with it," said Wayne, "I'm a busy healthcare professional. What is it this time? The panic attacks? The funny rash? The piles? The hot flushes? Wind?"
"I don't have wind!"
A muffled explosion came from Wayne's last patient, who was behind the bushes.
"That's what he thought," said Wayne. "Mind you," he admitted, "I might have slipped up a bit there. I thought he said catarrh, but it could have been diarrhoea."
"'e's stopped sneezin' though," said Ernie from behind his shovel.
"What's he doing here?" asked Mother sharply.
"He's my fast track system," said Wayne.
"You can't bury them!"
"Why not?" asked Wayne calmly. "You can't get much faster than that can you? Saves time and trouble all round. One stop shopping at its best."
"Sorts out the malingerers too," said Ernie gleefully. "Most of 'em anyway," he added.
"Yes…" admitted Wayne, "we got it a bit wrong with old Mrs Blenkinsop..."
"But she managed to claw 'er way out," said Ernie.
"Eventually," added Wayne.
"Give me my money back."
"All right then, I'll see the doctor."
Tracy leapt in front of her. "I'll see if he's in. Wait here please."
"Of course he's in! I'm talking to him!"
"£5," said Tracy implacably. "You can't put a price on your health."
Mother grumpily handed over another five pound note and sat down. The waiting queue leaned forward expectantly.
"Tell them to go away!"
"They've paid," said Wayne, "I can't."
"You can't sell tickets! You said it was confidential!"
Wayne tapped the notice board with a paw. "It says "anythin' disgustin'" is confidential," he said calmly.
"Is it?" asked Ernie hopefully.
"No of course it isn't!"
"Go on then," said Wayne, "get on with it."
"I keep getting hot flushes," muttered Mother.
"Take your clothes off then," said Ernie, "and give us all a laugh," and he burst into coarse guffaws.v Wayne joined in, Tracy giggled and Great Aunt Ada gave a deep grunting sound and hit her knees with her paws. Wayne brought himself under control, fluffed his fur out and drew himself up to his full four professional inches.
"It's your age," he said firmly. "Tough luck. NEXT."
"You can't charge me £10 for that!"
"I want my money back."
"I'll sue you."
"I'm glad you said that," said Wayne, and he swung the notice board round. On the reverse it said:-
Get your tarts sorted here!!!!
Vast amounts of damages available to all
Neighbour dispootes settled (shotgun available)
"I'm going home," said Mother, with a sniff, "and the word is "torts" not "tarts"," and she stalked off.
"You can't help some people," said Wayne. "NEXT."
It was next morning, and they were watching Ted, who had climbed up the ivy in the kitchen and was pushing nuts into a crack in the beams.
"I'm going to get my money back," said Mother grimly.
They walked down to the wood, restraining Ted, who was trying to shin up trees, with difficulty.
"Is the doctor in? I want my ferret disinocculated."
"Can't be done," said Tracy firmly. "Not by medical means anyway. You'll have to have him psychoanalysed."
"How much?" asked Mother.
"£5 per session; or part thereof. Put him on the couch. I'll see if the psychiatrist is in."
The psychiatrist - predictably Wayne - appeared and wandered over to the couch, where Ted was staring glassily into space.
"He thinks he's a squirrel," Mother said crossly.
"Of course he does! He's had a squirrel injection hasn't he?"
"But you're supposed to cure the disease not infect him with it!"
A rather peculiar expression - that of light dawning - flitted across Wayne's narrow features.
"Ahhh..." he said slowly.
"I had a Mole Disorder injection, you foul animal," screamed Mother, "and Jim had a Whacky Bat jab. What's going to happen to us?"
"You'd better go home quickly and shut the door before you start digging."
"And tell Jim to stay away from the milkman," said Tracy helpfully.
But it was too late. As they hurried back into the yard they saw the milk float pull up. They saw Tony, the milkman, innocently decend. And they saw Jim playfully pinch him on the bum.
The shattered family sat around the fire.
"I don't know what came over me," said Jim, his voice muffled by a bloody stained hanky. "Tony pulled up, and I suddenly had this irresistible urge to tell him he was cute, then I pinched his bottom."
"Then he knocked your front teeth out," said Alice.
"I think I've eaten a worm," sobbed Mother.
"And you've dug up all the roses anyway," said Ted.
"It'll be all round the village now," said Jim gloomily. "I might as well shoot myself."
"You'll have to stop that Weasel," said Alice.
"The usual way," said Alice. "Give him money."
But fate intervened. The next day on the front page of the Sun was a picture of Wendy. The headline read: "Where is Wendy?" and the text read:-
An era ended in Australia when Wendy (aged 2 years) the last Tasmanian Devil on the Australian mainland mysteriously disappeared. Wendy, who is expecting a happy event, vanished from The Dog's Grog Pub outside Alice Springs and was last seen heading for the airport in the company of a Weasel with a British accent.
Once common in Australia the Tassie Devil has been wiped out by settlers who thought them responsible for eating livestock. In fact most Devils prefer carrion and can devour a whole dead horse if the opportunity arises.
A HUGE REWARD is offered for the safe return of Wendy or to anyone who knows the whereabouts of the Weasel.
"Oh, ye gods, it's pregnant," said Jim in horror.
"Let's shop him," said Alice.
But it takes more than that to outsmart a weasel.
The next day the paper read:-
The tale of Wendy the lost Tassie Devil reached a happy conclusion today after a heartbroken telephone call from Mr Wayne Weasel of Bog Wood in Staffordshire. "I had to call" sobbed Mr Weasel. "Much as I love her I now realise that I did wrong and that her home is far away." He was then overcome with emotion as our newspaper insisted on his collecting the substantial reward money, but eventually saying "Oh alright then, ta very muchly," and vanishing at speed to continue grieving in private.
They stood in a group, watching Wayne who sat on his log pile, surrounded by five pound notes. He was singing loudly and untunefully.
"She's leaving on a jet plane. Don't bother coming back again."
He flung himself to the floor and began to roll round and rub his fur into the pile of bank notes in a disgraceful and undignified fashion.
"Oh... money, money, money, just smell that lovely, money, money, money," he yodelled.
"You can jolly well disinocculate us," said Ted.
"Forget it," said Wayne, "I've finished with all that caring medical rubbish. I 'ate sick people."
An idea occurred and he sat up brightly.
"I'll have a holiday; I jolly well deserve one. France -, that's the place - a 22 mile burrow, cheap booze, posh birds and all the frogs you can eat. Eurotunnel her I come: Jammy pell, Wayne."
"Perhaps France will be good for him," suggested Mother hopefully. "It's a very cultured, civilised country, and at least he's practising his French."
"voolay voo coochay avek moiré baby," yodelled Wayne, "Tonight if possible." "I can feel another 100 year war coming on," said Alice.
On the other side of the world in the smart, new Tasmanian Devil sanctuary, Wendy peered, baffled, at her litter of babies. She wasn't sure if she liked them or not. Also staring as them was an Australian wildlife expert with blonde hair, scary shorts, big legs and an irritating amount of enthusiasm.
"And here we have," he bawled. "The only baby Tassies born on the mainland this century. Strewth but they're ugly little buggers."
Wendy decided that she did like her babies, very much, but wasn't nearly as keen on the bloke in the shorts. She grumbled and hissed.
"Settle down little lady. Strewth but she's a feisty little girl. Let's poke her with a stick and see what happens... Oh my word now she really is cross. If I wasn't a world expert on Tassies I could be in biiiig trouble here... settle down little lady, strewth, they're bloody quick... get off me yer mongrel, strewth look at the blood... strewth, she's ripped me bloomin' leg off... strewth..."
And so it all ended, the inoculations wore off quite quickly and everyone returned to normal, Alice soon gave up her nursing career and Tony the milkman now leaves the milk at the top of the drive. In Australia Wendy's babies grew big and strong on a diet of irritating television presenters. They broke out of the sanctuary with Wendy, vanished into the desert and were never seen again.
And back in Europe, Wayne set off for France, and culture. Perhaps we'll all go with him next time and get a little culture ourselves.
PS Gratefully thanks to one of our vets, Gil Riley, who helped in the writing of this story by finally putting me right on the correct spelling of the word "diarrhoea" which had been troubling me for weeks. (The spelling that is, you understand, not the lurgy itself.)