Tobermory: Lens Artists Challenge #65 – Pick a Place and Catch its Spirit

The British Fisheries Society established Tobermory as a fishing port on the island of Mull, Scotland in 1788. The cliffs around its natural harbour were scoured back to make room for a road and houses along to a deep water pier.

High tide October 2016 ©MegPhilp

Tobermory comes from the Gaelic “Tobar Mhoire” meaning ‘Mary’s Well.’ One dedicated to the Virgin Mary is located at the top end of the cliff. When I got there in 2016 the well had been long capped. The tap didn’t work so I couldn’t try the waters’ healing power.

No matter what, water rushes down from the cliff tops towards the sea. Everywhere you walk you can hear, and find, running, clear water. They make whisky in Tobermory.

When the nearby Strathearn Waterworks were completed in 1883, this Cherub Fountain was presented to the Burgh of Tobermory by Robert Strathearn. It no longer spouts water but there’s still a basin at the foot for thirsty canines.

The An Tobar Art Centre, once a primary school, is now a collective, community-run gallery (since 1998). This statue high up on the cafe wall caught my eye. I’d hazard a guess that this is St Mungo, Patron Saint and Founder of the city of Glasgow. There’s the bell from the legend, though the bird on his shoulder is too big to be the robin.

Is this St Mungo?©2016MegPhilp

And you can’t go past a local hero – The Tobermory Cat. A picture book about him by Debi Gliori was published in 2012. Here’s a second generation cat who carries on the tradition and patrols the main street and houses in town.

We came upon this little West Highland Terrier in a corner one of the shops. The woman behind the counter said she was keeping an watchful eye on him. Her neighbour had recently passed away and this had been his dog.

What kind folk there are in the world!

There’s only a few fishing boats in the harbour these days but its still a peaceful haven for locals, visitors and furry friends.

OOOOOOOOOOO

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Linked to Tina’s Lens Artists Challenge #65

More Sources at

Balamory children’s TV program. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Balamory. Downloaded 5 October 2019.

St Mungo.  http://mediaevalglasgow.org/history-of-st-mungo. Downloaded 5 October 2019.

The Tobermory Cat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z8gLztkXwbc. Downloaded 5 October 2019

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Remember That Coat

 

That coat was the colour of the sea on a sunny day, all green-blue with sand and seaweed tossed together … or was it more the colour I saw at Luskentyre, on Harris?

Sea at Luskentyre

(Beach at Luskentyre, Harris  Reprinted here with permission from Wild About Scotland)

I loved the colour of it. I don’t know who had worn it before me. In our small family, children’s clothes were passed on to cousins. I was surprised when my mother produced it one day and made me put it on. Here was a ‘good’ coat. It was so heavy it flapped when I walked or walloped my legs if I ran. The label inside proclaimed ‘Harris Tweed.’ On the outside were brown, shiny leather buttons, a pocket each side with a silky soft, slippery lining and a staunch belt with a buckle I found hard to handle. The fabric felt the same as my dad’s good jacket, but his was mostly grey, with purple-pink bits when you looked really closely.

Dad explained how the cloth was woven on a loom and then dyed with all sorts of things, but mostly plants. Peering at my sleeve, I fingered the threads looking for a pattern. Sunday School was the perfect place to study the weaving, scratch at the different colours, pull off straggly fine hairs and fluff, all while humming softly. How were those buttons made? I wobbled one so much it had to be sewn back on again, tightly, while I stood watching.

The collar against my neck made me itchy so I had to put one of my Mum’s headscarves between coat and skin. Looking back, I think wearing that coat marked the beginning of my fashion sense, something that I did not share with my mother.

It all came out when we were getting ready to go to a summer wedding in town. Billy McTavish, who used to dandle me on his knee as a toddler, was getting married to a big girl I’d only met once. I adored this tall, young man and had been hoping he’d wait for me to grow up but here, now, he wasn’t.

My summer dress I liked. It was soft, white cotton scattered with little purple roses. It had two pockets. My white, hand-knitted cardigan had been taken out from under the carpet, peeled from its paper wrapping and held up beautifully pressed. This year’s Clark’s sandals had been freshly whitened. My white ankle socks were new.

I baulked as my mother approached bearing that tweed coat. I cried, which was as much of a tantrum I could ever muster then. I got worse when Mum got our straw hats down from the top of the wardrobe. How to explain what I felt? How could I explain why a straw hat does not go with a tweed coat? My younger sister was always more outspoken than I and surprised me some weeks later with retorts like “I’m not wearing that!” even on school days.

 

I cried more … unlucky before a wedding. My mother bargained. If I wore the coat I could carry the white basket (shaped like a flower pot with two life-like cherries on the side) that my aunty gave me when she came back from her big holiday. My sister beamed at this news. She’d get hers if I got mine! These two treasures had been locked in the china cabinet since the day Aunty went home, ages ago.

With my coat on, my precious basket was placed into my hands. My straw hat was straightened again. It looked like a flying saucer after an unsuccessful landing and was held in place by elastic which always left a red mark under my chin. There is a B&W photo somewhere in one of our family albums to prove all this. There we stood before the ceremony, holding the pose on the steps outside the kirk. Despite the basket,  you could tell how I was feeling by the look on my face, under that hat, in that coat.

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That Coat – Text, Drawings and photo from Lossiemouth Bridge by Meg Philp©2019

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #57: Taking a Break- Beach Walk

There’s nothing like a fresh sea breeze to help you clear your head and recharge. First get your shoes off and step into the sand. Then breathe in the salty air and let the sound of the waves surround you.

Feels like you have the place and the space to yourself. It’s so wide.

The wind blows away the clouds as you aim for the horizon.

Black-winged Stilts test the water.

             Other seabirds congregate at the water’s edge …

Some dance.

Others paddle.

or dreaming of crabs, they head for the Mangroves.

Others, like these Caspian Terns, just wait for a change in the weather.

Eventually, you get the feeling it’s time enough and you turn back into the wind, humming a little tune, stepping out gaily, as you go.

…and you’ll return.

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Thanks to Lens-Artists Photo Challenge from Tina

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

Bird Brains

Great story with just the right photos. Naomi has written an inspiring piece about sustaining our planet. Thankyou.

Writing Between the Lines

A few years ago, our friend Pat gave us a funky little birdhouse resembling a camera.

We never expected anyone to occupy it, but to our delight, recently a pair of Bewick’s Wrens took up residence.

They built a nest, and a week ago, the eggs hatched. Now, when a parent approaches to feed the nestlings, they all peep, “Me, me, me!”

Both parents share childcare, feeding the babies…

…and changing diapers too. The nestlings poop into mucus bags resembling pea-sized white balloons, nature’s zip-locs, which contain the mess until their parents remove it. Eco-friendly disposable diapers!

Day after day, from sunrise until sunset, rain or shine, the ‘wrents’ forage for insects for their young. Every five minutes or so, they bring food and remove the fecal sack on the way out, keeping the nest clean. They’re averaging over 300 deliveries per day!

How can such fragile creatures, weighing no more…

View original post 616 more words

The Very Dab

(‘The Very Dab’ is a Scots’ expression which in my experience has meant ‘the perfect finishing touch.’)

Way back at the beginning of our world, they do say that God had a walk around when he had finished and was well pleased with what he saw. The sun was shining. The rivers were flowing. Tall trees and lush plants waved in the cool breeze.

He stopped to watch some birds drink nectar from blossoms. He smiled at the antics of more of them, as they fluttered in the river shallows, flapping, dipping and drinking.

It struck Him then that the birds were hard to see clearly. They were different sizes but they all came in various shades of browns, perhaps with shadowy grey or white underneath. They all had the same short, straight beak, too. Now that wouldn’t do. He’d gone to a lot of trouble to make each animal unique. Surely the birds needed the same.

He asked Gabriel to summon every type of bird from around the world and have them gather at dawn on a certain day on top of the highest hill in Canberra. He had a plan to make them all look different and marvellous.

On the appointed day, Gabriel had his list ready. The raucous Australian contingent was there first but soon settled and made room for birds from all over the world. Gabriel ticked off thousands of arrivals. When a Cockatiel suddenly made off with the paper list and ripped it to shreds, Gabriel decided that surely every bird had arrived and went to tell God “All here.”

He came up the hill laden with a bulging sack and a satchel full of paintboxes and brushes. His paints were of the self-perpetuating kind – they’d never fade or wear off and their hues would be passed on through the generations.

God opened his arms in welcome  and told the birds they could all choose their own colours as well as a new beak to suit their needs. The birds got so excited many launched into the air. Those still on the ground formed an orderly queue behind a lorikeet that had been dozing in front but soon woke up and squawked. “I want green, red, yellow … a blue head and collar and a red curved beak.”

God painted it all the colours of the rainbow. Next a large cockatoo ambled up and screeched, “Black, black, black and a big black beak shaped like a crab’s claw on top. I’ve got nuts to crack and sticks to beat, “ stammered the parrot as two scarlet cheeks promptly appeared.

One sweet little bird wanted “A long pointed black beak and a mask to match. Oh … and lots of turquoise and a sunny, golden chest.”. As God searched in his sack, He suddenly pulled out an enormous, saggy beak.

“Oh my, here’s a mistake! I can’t think of a bird who’d be able to use this.” From the back of the crowd came a cackle, “I can! Make it pink and it’s mine!”

God signalled for the big bird to come forward and all watched in awe as the great pink bill was hooked on and then layers of plumage splashed white, then black. The gathering stared silently as the cumbersome bird bowed its head and then turned to lope towards the crest of the hill. The crowd held its breath, then cheered loudly when it took off majestically.

The black beak and mask for the Bee-eater was much easier to fix.

The peacock made very particular requests. “Please could my colours be jewelled greens and blues, with shades of topaz and amethyst in radiating patterns in my tail, just so.” The Painter miraculously made this bird’s wishes come true in a flash.

Can you imagine your favourite bird asking for what they wanted?

As the sun began to sink towards the horizon, there were very few birds left. there was just a little paint and God told them they could help themselves. The Fairy Wren dashed into the blue and came out looking superb, while the Galah frolicked in the white, red and black and came out pink and grey. When the last of the flock had gone, God and Gabriel packed up and walked down to the creek to wash up.

“That’s improved the birds, no end,” said Gabriel. God nodded and sighed.

As they stood looking at the sunset, they heard a thrashing in the bushes nearby. A bird flapped wildly through and called from a close branch.

“Oh no! Oh no! Am I too late? Nobody told me this was happening. I don’t see other birds very often and the painted woodpecker gave me such a fright! “

“Oh, hello,” said God, looking round for his paints.

“This little shy one only sings at night. “ Gabriel looked up, worried, as he searched through paintboxes.

“I’m sorry. It looks like there’s no paint left,” replied the angel as he turned to look more closely at the little brown bird as it hung its head.

In the growing dark, God told the Nightingale to come closer and held up his pointing finger. The bird fluttered over and landed there.

“Don’t despair, little one. I have found just enough on this brush. Now, open your beak for me.” When the bird did so, God put the last dab of gold on its tongue.

The sharp taste startled the Nightingale. It flew off into the bushes. It was hard to make out where it had gone. Suddenly, the most glorious birdsong floated up into the night air. No-one in the world had ever heard anything like it before.

“Ah,” said God. “That worked. Nightingale is happy now.” He and Gabriel stood to listen for a while and then went home.

So … they do say that is how the Nightingale came to sing so gloriously. When people hear one singing in the distance they stop, wherever they are and listen. They forget what they’re in the middle of but remember, ever afterwards, how that Nightingale’s song made them feel.

©MegPhilp2019

‘The Very Dab’ adapted by Meg Philp from “The Nightingale” by Richard Adams in The Iron Wolf and other stories. London, Penguin, 1980 pp. 111-115.

Notes:

The word “Canberra” is popularly claimed to derive from the word Kambera or Canberry, which is claimed to mean “meeting place” in Ngunnawal, one of the Indigenous languages spoken in the district by Aboriginal Australians before European settlers arrived, although there is no clear evidence to support this. ( Source – Wikiwand)

Birds in story order

Cockatiel

Rainbow Lorikeet

Palm Cockatoo

Rainbow Bee-Eater

Pelican

Superb Fairy Wren

Galah

Nightingale

There are more marvellous photos of all of these birds on the www.

All text and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

 

 

Less is More: Lens-Artist Photo Challenge #43

This post is a response to Amy’s Lens-Artist challenge. Trees are one of my favourite things and I’ve been wondering about this one.

Trees catch my eye. Not sure what type of eucalyptus this is or how tall is is. Searched online and found out there are over 800 different species. Stopped there.

We had it bone-dry over last summer. This tree trunk had a smooth, pearlised sheen then. It felt shiny.  Curious about the bark … I decided to focus on the same patch over time to see what happens.

Are those dark spots the beginning of new bark?

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A shower of rain makes all the difference. It seems to me that all the colours the tree needs for leaves, blossoms and fruits are here in the trunk, ready.

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I did find out that the best way to identify a Eucalyptus is by its bark!

A friend In NZ told me of a novel* he’d read about a man who had many different types of gum trees on his property. When any young man came courting his daughter and asked his permission to marry her … the man would reply “When you can identify every Eucalyptus on the place, you may marry my daughter. “

Well, why not? If Psyche in the Greek myth had to go through all those trials to be united with Eros … sounds fair enough. I wonder if one succeeded in identifying each tree?

The trunk began to feel more uneven. Is it due to lack of water?

Weather is still very dry.

Now the weather’s a bit cooler and we have had above average rain in March, the texture and colour are changing again.

Here’s what the foot of the tree looked like.

Focusing on just one patch of trunk has been fascinating. But what I’ve learned doing this challenge is to not let myself be overwhelmed by the top or crown … just to remember to to start at the foot!

I’ve confirmed this is a Sydney Blue Gum. I’ve listed two sources. The fact that the bark sheds in strips, yet has ‘its stocking of dark persistent bark at the base’ clinched it.

All text except quote and photos by Meg.

PS. That novel about identifying Eucalypts*. A friend who read this post is lending me her copy of Eucalyptus by Murray Bail (1998) Winner of the Miles Franklin Award 1999.

Sources

Australian National Botanic Garden, Growing Native Plants, 2012. Isabel Zeil-Rolfe. Eucalyptus Saligna: Sydney Blue Gum. 2016, Australian Government, Canberra. Viewed 30 April, 2019. https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/trainees-2016/eucalyptus-saligna.html

YOUNG, P.A.R. (1991) Rainforest Guide. Brisbane, Brisbane Forest Park Administration Authority, p38.

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Give Me a Place To Stand

I was in NZ ‘s North Island last week. Had been mulling over the fact that I haven’t posted for so long, as well as thinking about Jennifer Mishra’s suggested “Gathering” photo challenge for the week.

The terrible events in Christchurch last Friday, a week after I arrived, coloured everything. The people I was with and others I met, were all so shocked, subdued and couldn’t say much. Hearts went out to the victims, their families and friends.

Prime Minister Jacinta Ahern announced on TV that she would never name the perpetrator on this atrocity. My friends lauded her stand on tighter gun control  – no to semi-automatic or military styled guns: ban them.

Today, one of the Imans said “We are broken-hearted but we are not broken … and a bikie gang volunteered to stand guard at the mosques.

We carry on.

Before the WOMAD (The World of Music and Dance) program began each day, there was a Minute’s silence and a prayer in Maori for the victims.

The first act on Saturday was a Troupe of Indigenous Taiwanese who linked arms and danced while they sang in Paiwan. Their traditional ballads were hypnotic. The crowd was quiet.

Festival goers wandered around

or sat chatting.

Les Cafeteras from Mexico put lots of energy into their singing. We’d seen them downtown entertaining the Ticket queue on Thursday.

WOMAD’s ‘Lion’ seemed to pose for photos with more adults that kids. It was pretty big and scary, even if it was an unreal colour of grey.

I wondered how the kids felt?

From what I could see, the slopes and the branches of the old Plane trees in the park were their perfect playground. They all climbed, crawled, dragged, jumped, scrambled and slithered. over their great low branches, just playing.

I happened to take this photo while a friend was researching a story, earlier in the week.  I wondered who had said this and when?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ahern has taken a stand. By her words, actions and her solid leadership, she has moved the world.

References

Artists Lineup WOMAD NZ 2019

Paiwan Poeple

Quote by Archimedes

                       All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Curvy Companions

On Christmas Day 2018,  I was invited to lunch at my friends Jo & Chris’ place. Their home is in a gully surrounded by tall trees, a cool haven on a hot day.

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Besides, our crowd of about 12 of us, the 3 dogs and 2 chooks, some local birds dropped in. You could hear the Rainbow Lorikeets squawking before you saw them. They’re raucous clowns.

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Then, a rarer King Parrot got braver.

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 … gorgeous in its scarlet and green in the heat of the day.

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The household chooks paid no mind, just got down to business. What a cloak of feathers!

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It was the sudden appearance of his mate that made me go out and stare at her. She made not a sound. I had to get closer … get a photo. What a gift! I love wild birds.

They say King Parrots are not good talkers. They say that as pets they can live 25 years. They say Rainbow Lorikeets can be better talkers and can live 20 years. I hate to see them in cages.

I once had a hairdresser who expected his two South American  parrots to outlive him and had instructions in his Will to cover this eventuality.

Now I recall a ballad I came upon about King George V (Queen Elizabeth 11’s grandfather). Here, in Australia, he’s remembered as the then Duke of Cornwall and heir to the British throne who formally opened the inaugural session of our Australian Parliament in May 1901. The area in front of Brisbane City Hall is named after him – King George Square, site of civic celebrations and festivities.

The story goes that George had a pet parrot. When he was 12 he and his older brother were sent to do a stint in the Royal Navy. As a 17 year old Midshipman on HMS Bucchante, he bought himself an African Grey on shore leave in Port Said.

‘Charlotte’ became a very good talker and the King’s longtime friend. She would call out phrases like “Where’s the Captain?” and “God Save the King!”  Here’s an extract from that ballad composed by one of my favourite English poets, Charles Causley – When George the Fifth Was a Midshipman  –

When the King was ill and ailing

And very nearly died

They shut her out of the bedroom;

Left her in the passage outside.

Bless my buttons! said Charlotte.

 

But when his illness was ended

She was first at His Majesty’s bed;

Danced for joy on the pillow

And over his anointed head.

God saved the King! said Charlotte.

Of course there are more stories about parrots. You must know one! The old favourite about the cat and the parrot. Can you recall the first parrot you ever met? … I’ll tell a Nasruddin Hodja story about ‘Why a turkey is more valuable than a parrot’ at our next Storytelling Unplugged session on Hodja tales in February. OK?

NB “Curves” Lens_artists #28 photo challenge made me think of parrots’ beaks for some reason! We’ll see how it goes …

Sources

Australian King Parrot. Accessed 12 January 2019 https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Australian_king_parrot

CAUSLEY, Charles Jack and the Treacle Eater. Illustrations by Charles Keeping. London, Macmillan, 1987.pp 29-31.

George V- Wikiwand. Accessed 12 January 2019. https://www.wikiwand.com/en/George_V

Lorikeets the Clowns .Accessed 12 January 2019 http://www.betterpetsandgardens.com.au/pet-care/birds-and-poultry/keeping-lorikeets/

All text (except quote) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law.

Honeysuckle Days

Summer is here in earnest. We’ve had a little rain and the honeysuckle on the west side of my home smells sublime.

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Early morning and the perfume is strongest in the cool air. In this variety it’s the yellow flowers seem to release the headiest scent, the white hardly not so much.

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This plant has been documented since the middle of the 14th century and the word is in fact a misnomer – as listed in my copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1996:705). It was thought bees sucked honey from these flowers.  They can’t reach the nectar, of course, but hummingbirds do. We do have nectar-eating birds in Australia, but no hummingbirds.

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Originating predominantly in China, about 40 species of honeysuckle grow in Europe and North America … not sure what mine is. I planted it not long after I moved in.

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Did you know Woodbine is another name for Honeysuckle? When I was a child I knew that word as a cigarette brand. When I sang in choir that Robert Burns’ song “Ye Banks and Braes ” I imagined spirals of smoke around the roses. 

Oft hae I been by bonnie Doon
To see the rose and woodbine twine.

I wonder where I smelt and saw honeysuckle for the first time? They say honeysuckle symbolises happiness.

A filbert-hedge with wild-briar overtwined,
And clumps of woodbine taking the soft wind
Upon their summer thrones.John KeatsI Stood Tiptoe Upon a Little HillPoems (1817).

Isn’t Keats’ image of honeysuckle flowers as thrones just right? He must have studied the flowers close up and from every angle, like a child.For the dreamy amongst us, Woodbine appears in wedding ceremonies to represent the love that clings without harming anyone. Among the French, giving honeysuckle to a partner represents generous love, and in China dreaming of honeysuckle means passion. 

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Honeysuckle Hero Susan Weeks was Inspector Foyle’s driver in the British TV series “Foyle’s War” … seems she was born when the honeysuckle was in full bloom. 

Oops. I forgot to mention Honeysuckle Creek our famous Space tracking station. It’s 50 years since it sent out the first images of the Apollo landing to the world.

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PS. This is my post for “Something Smelly” for Jenn Mishra’s Inspirational Photo Theme for Dec 16. #witsendtravel

All text (except quotes) and photos by Meg

Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is Copyright © under Australian Law. 

Six Ways to help Listeners ‘twig’ to your Telling.

Storytellers work at many levels

1. Be clear on the setting of the tale. (Map out the story, search images or info online.)

2. See the action in your imagination. Dwell on your favourite scene – the one that hooked you in the first place. Can you make it more alive?

3. Clear up any details or facts in the plot you’re not sure of.

4. Include listeners in the story. Ask them a question or wonder aloud yourself. Make them curious about the outcome.

5. Add fun where possible. This is entertainment!

6. Feel the emotions as they occur, as the story carries you along.

……………………………

Remember that a story told is a give-away, a gift that you hope is passed on.

See if you can find the ways I’ve tried to do this in a story I’m learning to tell.

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Here’s my written version of an Xmas story I’ve adapted from a 1992 adaption of The Mice and the Christmas Tree by Pat Thomson in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories, which is a 1956 adaption of the story in the collection Little Old Mrs Pepperpot, which Alf Proysen expanded on from his carol Musevisa (Mouse Song) he composed in 1946. He was one of  Norway’s most famous writers, poets and playwrights. The song has since become part of their Jul tradition.

The Christmas Tree Mice. Adapted by M.Philp 2018

Long ago and far away, in a village in the heart of Norway, lived a family of house mice. There was Ma, Pa, Grandma Mouse and seven mousekins, all snug in their home in the pantry wall of an old red house. Each winter the mice celebrated Yuletide just like people did. They got their home ready for Christmas Eve, swept the dust out using their tails, put out good food, got dressed in their best, gave presents and sang around the tree.

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At a nod from Ma, Pa Mouse would roll in an old pine-cone and decorate it with cobwebs. The mouse-children then lined up in order beside their tree and Ma presented each of them with a nut. Then, as a special treat, she went down the line, holding a piece of dark chocolate under each nose, so they each had a good long sniff at heaven.

Next, the mice all caught hold of each other’s tail and circled their tree, dancing and singing all the songs they knew. After that, they played Blind Man’s Bluff until ‘Lights out’ and time for bed.

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But one year, the youngest child squeaked into the dark “No! No! We don’t’ want to go!”

“Don’t be silly,” replied both parents. “We’ve all had our Good Jul. Now off you go to sleep, the lot of you!”

The eldest child refused and explained that they all wanted to dance around that really big tree in the front room of the house. Only yesterday he’d seen it through a crack in the skirting board and had told the others how beautiful it looked.

Ma Mouse choked and coughed. She reminded them how dangerous it was to go into those giant rooms.

“Not … if they’re all fast asleep!” stressed the littlest mouse, looking at Pa with shining eyes.

“Oh well, … it is Christmas,” declared Pa looking at  Ma. “Follow me, children!” Off they set. Ma brought up the rear, calling “Mind you go carefully and very quietly.” Grandma decided to stay behind and finish knitting her scarf.

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One after the other they quickly crept along, inside the walls of the house till they emerged from the crack in the skirting board. There was the tree reaching to the rafters. “Ooh … aah” they sighed. “Oh, it’s lovely … and so tall! ”

“That’s a Norwegian Spruce for you!” announced Pa. The mischief of mice then skittered by the wall till they sat beneath the wondrous tree. The littlest mouse whimpered to the eldest “But … where are the stars you saw? You said there were lots of sparkling stars all over.”

Meanwhile, Ma Mouse had arrived at last at the opening but couldn’t get through because of her big tummy. She was breathless and grabbed a cord to steady herself. Suddenly, the tree lit up with twinkling stars.

The rest of the family crept around the tree admiring those magic lights, the tinsel; the strings of flags. They even clambered among the pile of boxes underneath. I don’t know who it was found the truck first, but soon all the children were in the back and Pa was in the cab. Imagine their squeals of delight when it started to move and Pa drove them across the room to Ma who pleaded “Children. Not so much noise! Someone will hear!”

They all waved to Ma as the truck went past and then squealed at it veered towards the door, which suddenly clicked open. Each mousekin jumped and clung to their neighbour. As the truck swerved away, a fat brown cat walked in, carrying its tail high.

Pa drove straight back behind the tree. When they came round the other side, there sat the cat on the mat. Pa turned the wheel hard round and drove faster. The wheel stuck there!  Each time the truck came round the tree, the cat made swipes with his paw as it zoomed past. The mice froze with fear in the back.

Oh no! The truck began to slow down! Pa drove in among the boxes. As soon as it came to a stop, he yelled “Everybody out! Up the tree!” Little grey bodies scampered up the trunk and hung on to the highest branches for dear life.

Cat Below pulled at the mat with her claws and squinted up. “Come on down,”she sighed impatiently. “Tonight is not the time for catching.”

“Oh no, we won’t!” shouted the eldest mouse, clinging to a star. “You’ll pounce on us and torment us. We know what cats do.”

“Not tonight!” sighed the cat, looking at her clean claws and then up at these new ornaments. “Christmas Eve is the only time I’m kind to mice!”

The mice froze again as she slowly stretched and got up, walked to the door and called back, “Better watch out … if I see you tomorrow … !” The mice held their breath. Then the door closed and she was gone.

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When the family were safely back in their little home, Ma Mouse made all the children promise not to go up to the big house again, to always do as they were told and never to give cheek to the cat. They promised, with their front paws crossed behind their back.

Then one by one, each mousekin took from their pocket, some little strips of tinsel, or a Norwegian flag, wisps of wool, snippets of ribbon and thin silver stars. These they proudly hung on their own cone tree.

And so it was from that night on and ever after, the mice had a fine Yule tree and a  happy story to tell their own children every Merry Christmas.

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[Dedicated to LC, my Lucky Cat]

All text and photos by Meg. Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp Copyright © under Australian Law.

Sources

‘The Mice & the Christmas Tree’ by Alf Proysen (adapted) in A Stocking Full of Christmas Stories collected by Pat Thomson. London, Transworld, 1993. pp109 -118.

[Pat Thomson has written over 50 books, great to read aloud. Look out for them in libraries]

Mice Word list

I learned a lot about mice here! A collection of mice can be a trip, horde or a mischief!

Alf Proysen: Norwegian poet, playwright, musician, author & songwriter

Mrs Pepperpot stories

Christmas in Norway (includes choir singing Proysen’s song (Musevisa)

PS. Spot the mistake in one of the photos. Happy Days!