As a reward for their hard work the previous day, the mice are taken to the beach for a picnic
By Pam Bateman
The very next day after the mice had been so helpful around the house, Granny Mouse called all the tweedy mice together.
“It’s a perfect day for going to the beach,” said Granny Mouse.
“Oooh, goodee-goodee-goodee!” squeaked several happy little voices in reply.
Armed with wooden spoons for spades, a box of crunchies (made by the mice the previous day), a rug for the lazier mice, and (of course) Ozzie’s tiny teddy, Granny Mouse bundled them all (except Catherine) into the car and headed for Port beach. Most of them had never been to a beach before and were ecstatic to see such a huge expanse of sand which, to them, seemed to go on for ever. Granny Mouse gathered them all together next to a big rock in the sun and asked them not to venture too far away without telling her.
As with humans, mice have different preferences…
Some couldn’t wait to tuck in to the crunchies.
“Where’s Catherine?” asked Bonnie.
“She decided to stay behind because she’s expecting Morag to arrive home later today,” said Dorcas, “and she wants to be there to welcome her.”
“Oh, that’s nice of her,” said Bonnie. “Perhaps we can take her back a souvenir from the beach.”
“What a marvellous idea!” said Dorcas. “We must remember to ask Robert later; he often has brainwaves.”
Some – who rather fancied themselves as construction engineers – stood around for half an hour planning what to build and dig. In the end they appointed Melrose as Site Engineer and he got them properly organised.
“Right!” said Melrose the newly appointed Site Engineer, “first we’ll dig a hole…” which they duly did, taking turns at using the ‘spade’.
Before they could make it any deeper, Trouble jumped into it. City Lady and City Gent were watching solicitously, to make sure he could get out; in the meantime, however, it seemed a wise idea to leave Trouble in his hole, to prevent him getting up to mischief.
“… and next we’ll build a castle with a moat,” said Melrose.
When it was as high as small mice could make it, just for fun they put Ozzie on top with his teddy.
“Look at me!” squealed Ozzie. “I’m the king of the castle!”
Overcome with excitement, Lewis tripped over his tail and got sand in his ears.
“Make sure you clean your ears properly, won’t you Lewis?”
“What did you say, Granny Mouse?”
“MAKE SURE YOU CLEAN YOUR EARS PROPERLY! You’re going to a new home in Aberdeen later this week,” said Granny Mouse.
“Ooo! Am I! Oh wow!” said Lewis as he jumped up and down with happiness while trying to shake the sand out of his ears, promptly tripping over his tail again in the process and getting yet more sand in his ears.
“Dear little mouse! How I’m going to miss you!” said Granny Mouse fondly. (“Until I make another Lewis,” she added softly – but Lewis didn’t hear her as he was still jumping around shaking the sand from his ears.)
Many of the mice thought it would be fun to go rock climbing, but a few were scared of heights so they stayed near the bottom; and the ones that could climb well were finding it getting rather crowded at the top.
“Come on,” said Patch, “I know what we’ll do!”
Granny Mouse sighed as she wondered what plan Patch was hatching now. But she wouldn’t have wished him to be any other way – he was just Patch, just as Trouble was Trouble and Ozzie was Ozzie. “In fact…” she mused to herself, “I have another tweedy mouse forming in my mind who will almost certainly want to join their group… and I think I’ll call him Scamp.” And she went off for a walk, smiling to herself as she imagined this new little scamp she was going to make, forgetting for the moment all about Patch and his wild schemes.
But, returning to the ever-resourceful Patch …
“Why don’t we four find our own rock to climb? Come on Iain, Bran and Andrew!” Patch exclaimed as he jumped down and raced around the corner of the big rock to find a less crowded one to climb.
“Hey! Wait for me!” shouted Andrew, struggling to keep up.
Well, they can’t come to much harm climbing rocks, thought Granny Mouse as she glanced back to where she’d last seen them… But where were they now?
“Oh no!” she said, as she spied a little line of mice in the distance, heading straight for the sea. “STOP!” – But the surf was too loud for them to hear her. So she ran after them, leaving the other mice under the ever-watchful eyes of the responsible pair, City Gent and City Lady.
“Oh hello Granny Mouse,” said Patch, as a rather breathless Granny Mouse caught up with them. “Are you coming swimming with us? We’re glad you’re here because we’re wondering what this stuff is that looks like cappuccino. You know everything, so now you’re here perhaps you could tell us what this frothy stuff is please?”
Unable to help herself, Granny Mouse burst out laughing. “Patch! No, I’m not going swimming, and you aren’t either!”
“Well,” said Patch, hesitantly, “I think perhaps you’re right. They looked like nice gentle little waves to paddle in when they were far away but now that we’re getting closer to them they do seem awfully big and…”
“… foamy…” added Iain.
“… and loud and…” said Andrew.
“…sort of fierce and scary,” finished Bran.
“Yes, they are all of those things,” said Granny Mouse, relieved that her decision had been so readily accepted. “As for the foamy stuff, it is just foam from the sea. Sometimes there are jellyfish washed up on the beach, sometimes there’s seaweed, but today there’s foam,” she explained. “Jellyfish look like lumps of jelly but it’s best not to touch them because some of them have stinging tentacles,” she warned (in case an adventurous mouse like Patch might come across one in the future and try having a bite, thinking it might be food – as he may have done with the foam, had he liked the taste of coffee, which fortunately he didn’t).
“Why don’t you go and find some rock pools to investigate instead?” suggested Granny Mouse, pleasantly aware of how well they had dealt with their disappointment at not being able to go swimming after all.
“Great idea, Granny Mouse!” said Patch enthusiastically, as he and Iain scampered off to find a rock pool, while Andrew and Bran followed slowly, not wanting to appear scaredy-mice but both secretly wondering what they would find in rock pools.
Sensing their reluctance, Granny Mouse slowed her own pace, lagging behind with them, and said, “Would you like to come and join the others with me?” to which they both responded energetically, racing ahead of her.
“May I come with you and Iain, please?” asked Calum timidly. He wasn’t too keen on swimming or rockclimbing, and he didn’t want to be in the way, but he was eager to explore with his friends.
“Of course you may! We’d love you to come with us,” said Patch. “We’re going to look for some rock pools.”
“What are rock pools?” asked Calum, interested, forgetting all about his shyness.
“They’re little pools of water left among the rocks when the tide goes out,” explained Iain knowledgeably. “Sometimes there are little fishes in them, or crabs; nothing scary.”
The three mice were perched on a rock above a miniature mouse-sized beach peering with interest into a little pool (which just had seaweed in it, no little fishes or crabs). Calum looked up and saw some seabirds circling around the big cliff in front of them.
“Look!” said Calum. “What birds are those? There seem to be lots of them sitting inside the cliff.”
“Let’s go and ask Granny Mouse,” said Patch. “She knows everything.” And off he scampered to find her, while Calum went off to find his friend Tormod.
“Granny Mouse?” asked Patch when he had found her, “What are those birds over there? They look a bit like the seagulls that fly near our house and the two that are always sitting patiently in Danny’s garden, but these ones are different somehow; their wings are shorter and they’re not as big as seagulls. They are very good at swooping.”
“They’re fulmars,” explained Granny Mouse. “If you look at the cliff face closely you can see lots of them, some in colonies but all in pairs. The fulmar parents sit on their eggs, keeping them warm and safe. When the eggs are ready then little fulmars will hatch out.”
“Can we climb up and say hello to them?” asked Calum and Tormod who had flown to Canada twice and were really interested in birds and anything to do with flying, considering themselves ‘seasoned flyers’.
“No, that wouldn’t be a wise thing to do. If you get too close, they may suspect you are coming to take their eggs. They are very good parents and want to protect their young; and they have a rather unique way of keeping them safe from intruders: if you get too close they spit foul-smelling oily stuff all over you.”
“Oh yuck!” said Tormod. “Let’s just admire them from a safe distance then.”
A few of the mice were happy to do nothing. Well, they would protest that they weren’t exactly doing nothing, but rather sunbathing. They just lay on the rug in the sun all afternoon.
It was time to pack up and go home now. But none of the mice objected as they were beginning to get rumbly tummies, and their minds were on supper, not sand.
“We’ve had such a lovely time at the seaside,” said Bluebell, sleepy but happy.
“Yes, we have,” agreed Viola (one of the serious sunbathers) yawning.
“Robert!” called Dorcas, looking all around. “Oh, there you are,” as she spied him helping to fold the rug. You’re always full of good ideas. Bonnie thought it would be nice to take a souvenir back to Catherine, as she so kindly stayed behind to wait for Morag. Bonnie and I aren’t very imaginative, but we thought you would be able to come up with an idea.”
Robert pondered for a moment. “I know just the thing!” he said as he ran off on his mission.
When they got home they found a happy Catherine with her friend Morag.
“Go on, Robert,” whispered Dorcas nudging him.
“No, you and Bonnie come too; it was your idea!” whispered Robert.
Curious as to what was going on, Granny Mouse watched as Robert presented Catherine with a sparkly pebble he’d found for her.
“Oh, thank you! That’s so pretty! But why? Is it my birthday?” asked Catherine.
“No – at least I don’t think so,” said Robert. “Bonnie and Dorcas asked me to find you a gift to show how much we all appreciate your kindness in staying behind to welcome Morag home while we went to the beach.”
© 2019 PRAB.
Crunchies are what they’re called in South Africa – they’re similar to what are known as flapjacks in the UK.
 Mice version of scaredy-cats.