Tales from a city that is not too big and not too small II

The tale of Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy the Rainbow Coloured Bat


Once, upon a time that was, and was not, a time of Transition, there was a small hedgehog whose name was Mr Hedgehog. He was rather small and he had a friend who was called Pugsy the Rainbow Coloured Bat. Now quite how Pugsy got her name is for another time, for today our tale is another.


Came one day the two friends to a city that was not too big and not too small, with a cathedral in the centre, and a green all around, to see many people gathered all about.


“What are they doing?” whispered Mr Hedgehog, for as everybody knows, hedgehogs are shy creatures, and don’t like to be noticed.


“I don’t know,” replied Pugsy, “but I want to…”


And that said she flew up to the very top of the cathedral where she could get a better view. There were certainly a lot of people, and it was light.


Now by rights, being a bat, Pugsy really ought to have been finding a place to sleep, for as everybody knows, bats sleep in the daytime. Pugsy found a perch where she could hang upside down quite comfortably from one of the statues lined up along the top of the big church, but of course, she couldn’t get to sleep.


“What are they doing, Mr Hedgehog?” she called down.


And Mr Hedgehog, from his hiding place under an oak tree, where he hoped no one could see him, and where he too really ought to have been asleep, if it weren’t for all the excitement, said


“I really don’t know, Pugsy….but I want to”


The two young friends, who really ought to have been asleep, for the sun was full up and shining, just couldn’t get to sleep for curiousity.


“Maybe,” wondered Pugsy, “we could dress up. Then no one would know we were a bat and a hedgehog, and we could sneak out and see what all the people are up to?”


But sleepy Mr Hedgehog was taking a nap.


“Ooh!” exclaimed Pugsy, and taking her courage in both rainbow coloured wings she flew down into the darkened spaces inside the cathedral where no one could see her and where the sun was away from her eyes and she could see better.


“What have we here?” she said to herself as she landed on the edge of a big old dusty cardboard box “… dressing up clothes! Just what we need.”


“Mr Hedgehog!”


Sleepily, Mr Hedgehog opened first one eye, and then the other


“Ooh, what a fright!” he said in alarm, as an old man in brown trousers gazed down at him.


“It’s me, Pugsy” hissed his friend.


“What? How?”


“Well, people wear clothes, so if we do too we’ll be able to explore without anyone guessing who we really are” explained Pugsy. “My granddad wears brown trousers, and I found this grandfather mask in the dressing up box, isn’t it grand!?”


“What will you wear?” she asked, holding out a baseball cap.


Mr Hedgehog tried it on for size and Pugsy rooted around some more and found…a plastic parrot.


“Look,” said she “you could be a pirate!” and started to search for a pirate’s hat.


Just at that moment, with Mr Hedgehog sporting a rather large baseball cap making him look a little like a tortoise, was spotted by three children.


“ooh er” he mumbled.


“Hello” said Pugsy, “Maybe you can help us? Can you keep a secret?” For she was sure that of all the people in the world it was the children you could trust most of all.


The girl in the blue top, the girl in the multi coloured skirt and the boy in green looked down at the strangely dressed creatures.


“Who are you?”


“I’m a granddad and he’s a pirate in the making” said Pugsy. “Can you keep a secret?”


“Yes,” said the girl in the blue top and the boy in green, but the girl in the multi coloured skirt didn’t look at all too sure so the secret was whispered to the two who had promised that they could keep  a secret.


“I’m a rainbow coloured bat, and he’s a hedgehog!”


“Will you help us?” asked the two young friends, both looking quite starry eyed now with lack of sleep but full of excitement that they were finally going to find out what the people were doing all around the green.


“What is it you want to know?” asked the three children.


“We want to know what it is all these people are doing on the green this sunny day,” replied Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy the rainbow coloured bat, who were now Granddad and Pirate.


“We got dressed up so we could go and find out, but we really ought to be asleep, maybe you could tell us what is happening?”


“Well” said the three children “over there they are selling food”


“Selling food? You mean that stuff that comes on those road things in big metal boxes on wheels? The stuff in plastic bags that people get out of big cold buildings with lots of shelves?” asked Pugsy, who had quite often explored the world of people when she thought that no one was watching.


“No,” laughed the children “Real food.”


“Real food? What, like beetles?” said Mr Hedgehog hopefully.


“No,” laughed the children. “Local food, fruit and veg grown around here, and bread baked right here in the city.”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, fascinated, “I didn’t think people did anything like that anymore. And what about the Book Cycle? Where is it going?”


The Seagull and the Book Cycle. Could he be Mr Hedgehog & Pugsy's friend too?


“Nowhere” laughed the children “It re-cycles books”


“Re-cycles” echoed Pugsy “where to?”


“Round and round” explained the children. “Books get swopped and sold over and over again, so that lots of people get to read the same book many times.”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, “you mean like in those horrid brightly lit places where lots of people come out with the same thing, each in another bag, and then throw the bags all over the ground and in the trees and in the water too, like the one that drowned our friend the sea turtle?”


“No,” said the children, horrified, “you don’t get a bag at all if you get a book from Book Cycle, and the books aren’t new, they’re old ones, and people can keep bringing them back and taking others and some books go all across the sea to children who don’t have so many books to read”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, “I didn’t think people thought about things like that”


“So why are all these people gathered here on the green?” asked Mr Hedgehog.


“It’s a Green Fair” said the children.


“What’s a Green Fair?” asked Pugsy “are the people going to dig up all the grass so that Mr Hedgehog has nowhere to walk at night?”


“No,” said the children, ”of course not! The people here care about Nature, and about looking after places, and animals, and each other”


“Really?” said Mr Hedgehog disbelievingly. “You mean they aren’t planning to build a carpark here?”


“No,” laughed the children “these people like growing things, and having fun together outside, and teaching children about useful things.”


“Useful things?” said Pugsy, looking interested. “You mean like how to catch insects for supper?”


“No,” laughed the children, “children don’t eat insects! But look what we made!” And they showed their new friends the bracelets they had made with the forest school teachers out of natural things you can find in the forest.


“Artists! Oh look Mr Hedgehog,” said Pugsy, “they’re artists; real ones! How exciting!”


“What else can you learn in a forest school?” asked Mr Hedgehog, not being greatly impressed with bracelet making. He was hoping for something a bit more exciting.


“Fire lighting and den building,” called out the children in glee, “and how to collect things to eat in the forest.”


“Like beetles?” said Mr Hedgehog.


“Insects?” added Pugsy the rainbow coloured bat, now beginning to yawn as the sun got brighter and her night eyes got tireder.


“No,” laughed the children “Nuts and berries, and things children like to eat!”


“Ooh,” said Pugsy, ”well, I have to say I am surprised, have people turned over a new leaf then?”


“A new leaf,” said Mr Hedgehog hopefully “looking for beetles?”


“People here do seem quite nice. I think it might be time for bed though” Pugsy yawned, and thanking her new friends she flew back up to the top of the cathedral and perched upside down on the feet of a statue. From under one sleepy eyelid she could just make out Mr Hedgehog trundling off to his cosy resting place under the oak tree, plastic pirate still sitting on his shoulder.


“What strange people” said the girl in the multi coloured skirt, “I’ve never seen a pirate with a plastic parrot on his shoulder before, and what were those rainbow coloured wings sticking out of that granddad’s shirt?”


“Can you keep a secret?” asked the girl in the blue top and the boy in green.


“I think I probably can” said the girl in the multi coloured skirt, for if it’s one thing you can be sure of, children can usually be trusted to be honest about things.


“That was Mr Hedgehog and Pugsy, the rainbow coloured bat!” they said.


“Pugsy, the rainbow coloured bat!” exclaimed the girl in the multi coloured skirt. “Why didn’t you tell me? Why the last time I heard about her, she…”


But that, dear listeners, is a tale for another time. But if you would like to find out what they do down in the forest, you really should take your grown ups to Exeter Forest School, for you just never know who might turn up…



Many Thanks to the girl with the rainbow coloured bat finger puppet and her little brother with his hedgehog finger puppet for helping to create and tell this tale, and to the girl in the blue top and her friend the girl in the multi coloured skirt and her brother in green for helping the story have its ending. Thanks also to Chris and Tom of Exeter Forest School for teaching the children to make the bracelets that helped the story along, to the Woodcraft Folk  who made the finger puppets with the children who inspired this tale, and to all who made Exeter Green Fair happen and without whom this story would never have been born.