"Magnanimice" is an invented word meaning magnanimous (kind-hearted) mice
By Pam Bateman
One lovely sunny morning in February, five little mice went into the garden to search for evidences of spring.
First they walked along the driveway.
“Ooh look!” squealed Esther excitedly, “I’ve found a purple crocus!”
“… and here’s a white one!” exclaimed Anna. “It’s not looking very happy though, is it?”
“Poor flower; the wind must have flattened it,” said Esther sadly.
Rosa and Esther scampered off together into the front garden while Catherine and Morag went to the back. They left Anna with the white crocus, where she was desperately (but quite ineffectually) trying to help it stand upright.
“I’ve found some daffodils,” said Rosa triumphantly.
“I think they’re narcissi,” said Esther. “They are very similar aren’t they? But they are more fragrant than daffs.”
“We’ve found some daffodils in bud!” called out Catherine and Morag from the direction of the peat shed.
Four of the five mice skipped happily inside to tell Granny Mouse all about the pretty spring flowers they’d discovered. They found her in the kitchen washing a fishy frying pan. She looked tired but smiled at them fondly.
“I’m concerned about Granny Mouse… I think she’s getting old,” said Esther to the others when they were safely out of Granny Mouse’s earshot.
“Yes, I think so too,” agreed Morag.
“What can we do to help her?” asked Catherine and Rosa together.
They – including Anna who had eventually given up on the white crocus and gone to join the others – decided to put their heads together and come up with a Plan.
And this was how the ‘secret’ project to help Granny Mouse began. Anna suggested they should hold a meeting of all the tweedy mice next day, when they hoped to come up with some ideas. A leader with organisational skills would be elected to allocate the various tasks, each to be suited to an individual mouse’s preference, ability and enjoyment (after all, everyone knows that the more enjoyable something is the more enthusiasm goes into it!). As an incentive for all the tweedy mice to attend, a special cheese and apple party was to be arranged.
Most of the tweedy mice lived in the big house with Granny Mouse and Grandpa Mouse, but some, who preferred a little more independence and extra time to sleep, lived in tweedy AlanHouses on the patio when the weather was favourable. It was nearly 11am, thus still quite early in the morning for them, and they were just emerging from their tweedy houses when the others informed them about the meeting planned for the following day. Some weren’t too enthusiastic at the thought of ‘work’ at first (especially having just woken up), but they at least agreed to attend the initial meeting (spurred on, no doubt, by the thought of apple and cheese).
Anna asked the mice to choose for a leader for the meeting by a show of paws. The vote was split evenly between City Gent and City Lady, so it was unanimously decided that they should be Chairmouse and Secretary respectively, to which all the mice were in complete agreement. Of course they all knew what a Secretary was – after all, wasn’t Granny Mouse one – but a Chairmouse? Some of the younger mice guessed it meant he had to stand on a chair, like Dolaidh did on a soapbox.
The following morning, Granny Mouse was amused to see a stream of tweedy mice file past her, two by two, led by City Lady and City Gent.
“Mmm. There’s definitely something fishy going on here,” she chuckled.
“No really, we’ve just got cheese in our bag; and Charlie and Freddie are bringing the apples,” said Keith who overheard her. “Look – no fish,” he said showing her the contents of the bag he and Calum were carrying between them. “I expect Grandpa Mouse has been having mackerel again and the fishy smell has lingered.”
Some mice didn’t yet understand about metaphors. By the time Granny Mouse had finished puzzling over Keith’s remark, they had moved on.
“Where are you all going?” she asked, as several more mice scampered past her.
“We’re going to have a picnic and also…,” began Freddie who happened to be passing Granny Mouse with Charlie at that moment with the bag of apple pieces. He managed to stop himself mid-sentence as he remembered just in time that they were meant to keep the meeting a secret from Granny Mouse.
“Don’t worry, Granny Mouse, City Gent and City Lady will keep us all in order!” he laughed.
Upon reflection, Granny Mouse decided that the mice weren’t going to get up to any mischief while they were being supervised by two of the most sensible and responsible mice in the family, so she cheerfully carried on with ironing lengths of tweed, humming a psalm to herself.
“Oooh! You very nearly spilled the beans then, didn’t you Freddie!” said Charlie.
“Beans?” said Freddie looking puzzled. “I thought we just had apples in our bag, not beans?”
Charlie squealed with laughter. “It’s just a metaphor! It means you nearly gave away our secret.”
“Oh, I see!” said Freddie, relieved. “Yes I very nearly did. What are some other examples of metaphors?”
“Well…” said Charlie, thinking, “I could have instead said, ‘You nearly let the cat out of the bag,’ but I thought you might be scared at the word ‘cat’ and drop the apples on the floor.”
Freddie wasn’t the only mouse unfamiliar with metaphors…
“Granny Mouse seems to have a very strong sense of smell, doesn’t she?” queried Amanda, as they scurried along.
“What do you mean?” asked Zoe.
“Well, earlier she said she smelt a rat, and now she can smell something fishy,” said Amanda thoughtfully. “The only unpleasant smell I can think of is polecats; I know Grandpa Mouse saw one in the peat shed once and he said it gave off a very stinky smell.”
A look of horror came across Zoe’s little face. “B-b-but polecats eat mice,” she stammered. “I hope there aren’t any around here now. I thought we were going to have a picnic, not be a picnic for polecats!”
Amanda laughed. “No, don’t worry. For a start, there are no polecats on the patio, and also, real polecats only eat real mice, not tweedy mice like us!”
“…49-50-51-52,” counted City Lady, once all the mice were assembled on the patio. “There should only be 51 of us. Parsley, could you please count us again.”
“49-50-51 and me – I make it 52 as well,” said Parsley. “Who’s the extra one?”
“It’s me!” squeaked a little voice from right at the back, “Ozzie invited me!”
“Oh! It’s little Cyril!” said Parsley. “Hello Cyril!” said several mice at once. “It’s sooo nice to see you again.”
“Well, you’re very welcome to join us,” said City Gent with a huge smile. “We’re always very happy to see you.”
“I agree,” said City Lady kindly. “Good, we’re all here so let’s begin.” She clapped her paws to get their attention.
“When are we going to have our picnic?” asked Patch in a sad little voice. (His main – and perhaps only – purpose for being there was the picnic.)
“After the meeting,” said City Gent. “It’s all right. This won’t take long. We just want to find out who likes doing what best. I should emphasise,” he continued, “that no one is going to be press-ganged into…”
“What’s press-ganged?” asked a puzzled Ozzie who, like Patch, was wondering when the picnic would happen.
City Gent explained patiently: “What I mean is that no one is going to be forced to do anything. The reason for this special meeting today is because we all appreciate Granny Mouse and would like to try and share her workload – as far as our tweedy-mouse capacities can reach. We are hoping a few volunteers will step forward and come up with suggestions.”
Up until now, some mice had had no idea why they were meeting but now that they understood, they greeted the Plan enthusiastically and in a short time came up with lots of innovative ideas (some of which would have to be discarded, for various reasons). Although their contributions would be small, due to their size, they also knew the (albeit slightly amended) proverb: ‘Many paws make light work’. City Lady gathered all the helpful suggestions together and made a note of which mice would like to participate in each task.
Having got the business part of their meeting over with, they now came to the picnic part.
“Granny Mouse and Grandpa Mouse always thank God before they eat their food,” said Sarah. “Granny Mouse told me that everything we have comes from God and we should always thank Him.”
“Does God provide mice’s food too?” asked Melrose?
“Yes, in the beginning God made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the sky and everything in them, and He’s the one who keeps everything together and provides food for all living things,” Sarah said, knowledgeably.
“But God didn’t make us tweedy mice, did He?” said Dorcas.
Sarah wasn’t too sure about this so she looked at City Gent…
“No, not directly, but everything that is made comes from what God put there in the first place,” explained City Gent. “I think it would be a good thing to have a little talk another time, when you can all ask questions about these important things, “he said, glancing across at City Lady who was making signals to him, “but now it’s time to eat.”
City Lady had noticed that some of the tweedy mice were staring hungrily at the plate of food, and she suspected that Anna, who was leaning over the plate, had already sampled the cheese. So she clapped her paws to get their attention again, and City Gent gave God thanks for the food so that they could eat.
There was plenty of apple and cheese to go around and when they had finished they all scampered off to play hide and seek in the garden. There were lots of hiding places and they enjoyed themselves tremendously.
“How are you getting home, Cyril?” City Lady asked Cyril anxiously when it was beginning to get dark.
“I’m going the same way I came, in my Rapid Transfer Pod. I go into the box, someone closes the door, then I shut my eyes and snuggle down for a nap … and in no time at all I’m where I want to be! This is the way that Rosabel travelled when she went to help our friend in Colchester last week,” he explained, as he stood next to the RTP.
They all gathered round to wave goodbye to Cyril and then went off to their shelf on the landing, sleepy but happy. The AlanHouses had been put away as it was too windy to use them on this particular night.
“How this will all work out remains to be seen,” mumbled Bran and Bracken over a sneaky snack of oats in the kitchen once all the other tweedy mice were safely asleep. “But I can hardly wait to try my paws at knitting!” exclaimed Bracken.
The next day, City Lady showed the mice the list she had written in her spidery paw-writing, showing ways in which the tweedy mice could help Granny Mouse around the house.
Here is her list, with a 🐭 next to the possible tasks and a 🐱 next to the impossible ones:
🐭 Knitting shawls for tweedy ladies – several mice, both boys and girls, were keen to try this
🐭 Baking? – this could get interesting and/or messy
🐭 Collecting fluff, wool and tweedy bits from the floor
🐭 ‘Hoovering’ up food crumbs from the carpets (for some reason, most of the mice volunteered for this)
🐱 Washing up? This was suggested, but City Lady was afraid some mice might drown in the washing-up bowl so this idea was dismissed
🐭 Dusting shelves and windowsills
🐭 Sorting sticks and peat and cleaning the hearth (for darker coloured mice only, for obvious reasons)
🐭 Sorting out white wool for new mouse whiskers, coloured wool for tails and black buttons for eyes
🐱 Ironing tweeds for new mice (mmm, this could be dangerous, and the iron is too heavy, hence this idea was scrapped)
🐱 Helping Granny Mouse with her typing (probably not)
🐭 Making music while others work? Playing harp? Changing CDs? Singing psalms?
The tweedy mice had carefully (with Grandpa Mouse’s help) chosen a time when Granny Mouse would be out all day, and they got busy. Here are details of the various activities they engaged in:
There were more mice than knitting needles. Some didn’t know how to knit but were keen to try, so the others patiently showed them how to and they took turns in making shawls for Granny Mouse’s tweedy herring girls.
The result was very satisfactory indeed, and the tweedy ladies looked very smart wearing their new shawls.
“Shall we knit scarves for mice too?” asked City Lady. “They could help keep us warm in winter. I noticed that many of the Fivepenny TweedyMice have scarves.”
“That’s such a good idea,” said Lewis approvingly. “Let’s do that!”
Eight girl mice volunteered for this and decided to make crunchies (similar to what are known as flapjacks in the UK). They assembled all the ingredients together…
“Wait!” squeaked Catherine suddenly, “something’s missing… let me see: flour, oats, coconut, butter, bicarbonate of soda; but where’s the sugar and the molasses? And there are only seven of us here.”
“Oh, I forgot,” said Bonnie, apologetically. “Dorcas had to go out to get those. She should be back by now.”
“Hello everyone, here I am,” said a little voice from the other end of the kitchen. “I’ve arrived!”
“Well done, Dorcas. Brilliant timing!” said Daisy.
Once the ingredients had all been mixed together and the oven had reached 180°C, they spread the mixture across the baking tray and discussed how best to flatten it without getting mixture on their tweed (or tweedy fluff on the mixture).
“I know!” said Audrey, who had a habit of getting brainwaves. She spread a layer of cling film over the mixture and said to the others, “Come on, let’s all jump up and down to flatten it!”
“Whee! This is fun!” squeaked Arien delightedly, “as she leaped up and down. The others all agreed and squealed happily as they did the same, seeing who could jump the highest.
“I wonder if we’ll be able to eat some when it’s ready?” said Bonnie. “Perhaps we could take some on a picnic.”
🐭 Fluff and tweedy bits
There were lots of tweedy bits and woolly fluff all over the house, and some was strewn on the stairs. Seven of the boy mice kindly volunteered for this task. It wasn’t anything to get excited about because they couldn’t eat it (although Charlie tried) – unlike the crumb task – but they were happy that it had saved Granny Mouse having to do it.
🐭 ‘Hoovering’ up food crumbs
Nearly all the mice took part in this enjoyable task – biscuit crumbs, cake crumbs, toast crumbs, even cheese crumbs. (Charlie now had his opportunity to find some crumbs that were edible.)
The only exciting thing about dusting was the fluffiness of the pretty pink duster. Four girl mice volunteered for this task; again, they were glad to do something to help Granny Mouse, whether it was enjoyable or not. They did a great job of dusting the mantelpiece, windowsills and other surfaces that were covered in bits and dead insects (no, they are definitely not edible).
🐭 Sorting twigs and peat, and cleaning the hearth
There were five tweedy mice for this task, although before very long some began to wish they hadn’t volunteered.
“Atishooooo!” sneezed Harris. “This is very dusty work!”
“Phew!” sighed Rufus wiping his brow with the back of his paw, “and it’s hot work too.”
“Perhaps we should come back and finish this when the fire’s not lit?” suggested Pixel sensibly. “We could get scorched.”
“That’s a good idea,” the others agreed, relieved. It wasn’t a very exciting task, and there was nothing edible in it.
🐭 Wool and buttons for new tweedy mice
“We’re getting a new family member soon! His name is going to be Murray,” squeaked Patch excitedly. “I heard Granny Mouse and Grandpa Mouse discussing ears for him.”
“Let’s go and sort some new whiskers and tails,” suggested Ozzie, and they scampered off together, grabbing Lewis as they went.
“I think we need someone clever to organise us or we could get into a terrible muddle,” said Patch with a rare flash of inspiration. “How about asking Viola?”
“Patch, that’s a brilliant idea!” said Ozzie admiringly. “Violaaa!” he called.
“Hello Patch, hello Ozzie, said Viola, bouncing up to them with a smile. “How can I help you?”
“Well, said Patch, “we need someone clever like you to organise us. We want to sort whiskers, tails and buttons.”
“Yes,” said Ozzie, “and we’re not quite sure where to start.”
“How kind of you to think of asking me!” said Viola appreciatively. “I’d love to help. For a start, I think there should be two mice to sort whiskers, two to sort buttons and two to sort tails. Then a couple of you will need to hold the whiskers and tails once they’re ready to be cut. I’ll cut them to the right lengths for you and then Hannah can help me tidy them away.”
This met with everyone’s approval and it worked out well.
🐭 Music while mice worked
All the mice agreed that this was a bit too ambitious for tweedy mice so – as they had already decided to let Grandpa Mouse in on their secret – they asked him to change CDs for them, to which he readily agreed.
It had been decided to post Patch as a watchman so that he could alert the other mice as soon as he heard Granny Mouse’s car returning. Several others were stationed at various strategic points throughout the house so that the word could be passed along swiftly.
“Quick everyone!” he said at last. “Granny Mouse is back!” The word quickly spread … “Granny Mouse is back! Quick!”
By the time Granny Mouse opened the kitchen door, all the tweedy mice had assembled and were standing with huge grins on their little faces.
“Wow!!! What’s happened here!” exclaimed Granny Mouse as she came in, noticing the crunchies. Then she went into the drawing room and saw the tidy hearth, the bit-less floor, the dusted mantelpiece and the sorted whiskers, tails and buttons, and the tweedy ladies with their new shawls. She turned and studied the mice’s faces as they followed her progress through the house. “And why are you all looking so pleased with yourselves?… No! Don’t tell me… you did all this while I was away?”
“Every head nodded vigorously, their grins growing even bigger.”
Granny Mouse slowly walked through the rest of the house, noticing all that the mice had done. She was so happy and grateful.
“I must sit down,” said Granny Mouse. “I’m quite overwhelmed.”
“I know!” said Granny Mouse jumping up suddenly after a few minutes’ thought. “As you’ve all been so helpful and kind and saved me having to do all these arduous tasks, I can afford to take a day off tomorrow. How would you all like to go to the beach next time we have a fine sunny day? The forecast looks good for tomorrow.
“Oooh! Yes please, Granny Mouse!” We’re going to the seaside!!” squealed the mice joyfully, jumping up and down and dancing around in their excitement.
“Can we have a picnic?” asked Patch, always mindful of his tummy.
“And perhaps take some crunchies with us?” suggested Ozzie, “And can I take my tiny teddy with me?”
“And something to dig holes with?” asked Bran.
“Yes to all those questions,” laughed Granny Mouse. “You must be tired after all your hard work, so you’d better get to bed now.”
They all scampered off obediently and went to sleep happily, dreaming of things they would do at the seaside.
© 2019 PRAB.
They are quite possibly related to dormice.
Tweedy houses were created by Alan who lives in Fivepenny with his assortment of tweedy mice.
Psalm 145:15 & 16 “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat [or ‘food’] in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” See also Psalm 104.