06 - Viola Goes to France
This story is about a little girl mouse who goes to live in France
By Pam Bateman
“Granny Mouse?” Viola asked hesitantly.
“Yes, Viola, what is it?” replied Granny Mouse as she attempted to unravel some lengths of tweedy mouse tails.
“Why do you put some of us in little brown boxes with sticky tape all over them?”
“They’re going to new homes!” laughed Granny Mouse.
“Don’t they suffocate?”
“No, because they’re not real mice; you’re all tweedy mice, and tweedy mice can’t suffocate.”
“Do they like going to new homes, do you think?”
“Oh yes! They are all very much loved and cared for by their new families, and many families ask for more… and more… and sometimes even more tweedy mice to add to their family.”
“How do you know?”
“Well, many people write and tell me, and some even send pictures.”
“Oooh! May I see one, please?”
“Yes, of course!”
“They do look very happy”, said Viola, somewhat wistfully.
“I do like living here with you, but…”
“I know!” chuckled Granny Mouse, “you’re adventurous by nature and you’d like to go and live somewhere a bit more exciting than Ness.”
“Yes!! Oh yes! I would… please, oh please, may I?”
“Let me see… did you have anywhere in mind? Glasgow? Aberdeen? Edinburgh? Wales, or Devon perhaps?”
“Well, actually, er… um… I’ve always rather wanted to go abroad.”
“Abroad! America? Canada? Australia?”
“No, not as far away as that. I’ve been looking at places on the internet [what will these mice get up to next!] and I’d really like to live in France. But…”
“But what, Viola?”
“I don’t want to be put in a brown box or stuffed into a suitcase; I know you said we’re not real mice, but I think I might get mousetrophobia. May I travel in your handbag, please, Granny Mouse?”
“You mean, you want me to go all the way to France with you in my handbag in case you suffer from claustrophobia?”
“Yes please… if it’s not too much trouble?”
“No, Viola, no trouble at all. For you, anything! Are you sure you won’t feel lonely all by yourself in my handbag?” asked Granny Mouse, rather amused.
“Well, actually, yes, I think I might. Please can Bluebell come too?”
[At this point, Granny Mouse muttered something that Viola couldn’t quite catch, but which she took for a ‘yes’.]
“BLUE-B-E-L-L!!” Viola called excitedly, as she scampered off to find Bluebell. “We’re going to France!”
“Oh, there you are, Bluebell!” said Viola, breathlessly, as she spied Bluebell in a quiet little corner having her afternoon tea.
“Hello, Viola, won’t you join me for a cuppa?” asked Bluebell politely.
“Thank you, Bluebell, that would be lovely! I’ve got some exciting news to tell you! Guess what? We’re going to France!
“Where?” asked Bluebell, puzzled. “Is that somewhere on the mainland? I’ve never heard of it before.”
[Bluebell had always been a bit of a home mouse, and wasn’t interested in exploring the internet, but Viola rather liked to show off her geographical knowledge.]
“No, it’s another country.”
“Ah, part of England!”
“Um… is it in Wales?”
“Oh dear, I think I’m running out of countries… Ireland then?”
“No!! It’s a different country altogether where they don’t speak Gaelic OR English, and it’s much warmer there, and there are LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of different cheeses…”
“Warmer… Aaah. Cheeses... Mmm. Sounds nice. Do you think Granny Mouse would give us a little going away party with the others first, with some French cheese perhaps?”
Next day, the mouse family gathered to wish the travellers a safe journey.
“Can I come too?” a little voice piped up. “I don’t think I’d like to live in France, but I’ve always wanted to live in England.”
“Yes, of course, Patch!” Granny Mouse agreed. “I know just the person who’d love to give you a home. She lives near Bristol Airport. We’ll be flying from there to France so we’ll be having dinner with her the night before we fly."
“Ooo, goodee! I’ll go and get ready…”
A little later, the three mice came downstairs to be inspected.
“Right, you three, have you all brushed your whiskers, said goodbye to the others [they all nod vigorously] and… PATCH! What have you got on your head?! And what’s that ‘thing’ you’re wearing round your neck?”
Patch, in a timid little voice, “Er… that’s my mousie-toy on my head. And that ‘thing’ I’m wearing is a thick woollen scarf; Ozzie told me it sometimes snows in England.”
“Well, all right, you can keep your scarf, but your mousie-toy will have to stay here. The next Patch will need her.”
[Stunned silence from all three mice. Eventually Patch spoke up.]
“The n-n-next Patch? You mean I’m not the one and only Patch?”
Granny Mouse smiled mysteriously, and then said quietly, “You know, I love to share my darling mice with other people because you make them so happy; but I do very much miss you when you go to new homes. So, if I have enough tweed left, I make another tweedy mouse just like the last one, and then I’m not sad any longer.”
Having chosen a large packet of their favourite cheese [to keep the wolf from the door, as they say – but we’d rather not mention wolves to tweedy mice], the three little pilgrims snuggled down contentedly to enjoy their long journey in Granny Mouse’s handbag. Viola was given the important task of looking after the passports.
They had a smooth crossing from Stornoway to Ullapool and the rest of the journey passed quite uneventfully.
The next day Viola and Bluebell said a fond farewell to Patch as he settled happily into his new home near Bristol with a kind lady called Marilyn. Bluebell was reluctant to go to France in case she got left behind there, and she decided to wait at Bristol Airport for Granny and Grandpa Mouse’s return a couple of weeks later.
[As this story is really about Viola, I’ll just mention here – in case anyone is concerned – that, on Granny and Grandpa Mouse’s return from France, Bluebell travelled to Devon with them and was given a warm welcome into the home of a very caring gentleman called Fred.]
“Right, Viola, if you’re going to live in France you’ll need to know a few words of French,” said Granny Mouse.
“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that! How do I say ‘Hello, how are you?’ and ‘My name is Viola’?”
“You say: ’Bonjour, comment allez-vous?’ and ‘Je m’appelle Viola’. I think that’s enough for now.
“Thank you, Granny Mouse. But I think perhaps the most important word I need to know is the French word for cheese!”
“Ah yes! It’s ‘fromage’. And when a kind person gives you something you say ‘Merci beaucoup’ – which means ‘Thank you very much’.” But the person you’re going to live with is fluent in English as well as French, so you don’t need to worry.
[I should perhaps mention here that when researching France on the internet Viola misspelled her own name, and serendipitously discovered – to her great delight – a very similar word.]
“Voilà!” exclaimed Viola, on arrival at her new home. “And is that the kind man who will be caring for me standing outside?”
“Yes. He’s my big brother,” explained Granny Mouse.
“May I go and explore my new home please?”
“You’ll have plenty of opportunity for that later. In the meantime, come and meet your great-uncle.”
“What’s that stuff growing in the front?”
“It’s a herb called ‘thyme’. We use it to flavour food.”
“Mmmm. It smells lovely! I’m going to roll in it!”
Viola settled in to her new home and soon learned to adapt to some of her great-uncle’s unusual ways. Although he was obviously quite charmed with her and took her with him whenever he had opportunity, Viola found herself treated a little – shall we say – unceremoniously. For example, he took her to visit his mother-in-law, Hélène, who lives in a nearby village. Sitting at her kitchen table enjoying some fruit juice, he suddenly produced a rather squashed Viola from his back pocket and delightedly introduced her to Hélène, proudly showing her the Harris Tweed label on Viola’s rather misshapen base.
“I do really like my new great-uncle. He is very kind, and I don’t want to complain,” Viola said a little mournfully to Granny Mouse later, “but I didn’t really enjoy being sat on while he drove us to see Hélène. And now I have rather painful base-ache [tweedy mouse equivalent to backache] and can’t stand up straight.”
“Poor Viola! I’ll try and straighten your base for you. I don’t think your great-uncle has ever had a tweedy mouse to look after before; I know he wouldn’t have hurt you on purpose because he’s very happy you’ve come to live with him, which is why he wants to show you to everyone.”
Viola soon forgot her base-ache and had fun exploring her new world of sunshine, vegetables, flowers and trees – so unlike her old home in Ness. Here are a few of her joyful new discoveries:
Logs of wood for burning in the winter.
“He doesn’t seem to have a peat stack. I wonder if any mice live in here?”
“These look like crocuses, and it’s the middle of summer!”
“Wow! Look at tiny me next to this huge squash!!”
“… and this pumpkin!”
A little further down the garden, Viola discovered a tall plant, so she climbed to the top and found out it was…
“Voilà! A tomato tree!”
Viola had heard of tall things called trees but not actually seen a real one yet. However, she didn’t have long to wait!
Tired but full of wonder and delight at her new surroundings, Viola enjoyed a hearty supper of no less than THREE different types of cheese, and fell asleep dreaming of her tweedy mice friends back in Ness. She awoke, feeling a little sad, wondering if they were missing her. But then she remembered that Granny Mouse would be making a new Viola, and she set off happily to explore the rest of her new garden.
“Voilà! A real tree, with little red berries growing on it…
…and here’s another one with yummy looking fruits on it!”
“That’s a fig tree, Viola, and those are figs.”
“Viola, what are you doing in the kitchen?”
“Checking these green stalks. They don’t taste very nice… what are they?”
“It’s called rhubarb. It has to be cooked before it can be eaten. It’s not for tweedy mice – or even for real mice, for that matter.”
“Viola! Viola! Where are you?” called Granny Mouse. “Ah, there you are! What are you doing hiding among the tomatoes in the boot of great-uncle’s car?”
“I thought perhaps everyone was going on another journey and I didn’t want to be left behind,” answered Viola. “Granny Mouse, what are all these pumpkins, beetroots and tomatoes doing in great-uncle’s boot?”
“He’s taking them to his daughter in the north of France.”
“May I go too?”
“No, not this time. You must stay here and look after your new home and enjoy the garden. There are five sorts of cheese in the fridge to keep you going!”
“Oh, goodee!” said Viola.
“But now it’s time to say au revoir, little mouse… till next time.”
“Au revoir, Granny Mouse. Thank you for bringing me to my lovely new home.”
© 2019 PRAB.
 Literally, French for ‘see there!’ Used as an expression of surprise or delight.