Updated: Feb 25
The animals in the neighbourhood soon learned of the new arrival and it was with great anticipation that they all descended on the Durrell’s back garden one evening just days after Rag’s first meeting with his spiky friend. Rumour had it that some great event was going to take place, making the animals buzz with excitement.
Rufus the hound, who was Mr Farrett’s companion and whose garden was adjacent to the Durrell’s, was the first to make his entry having crawled on his belly under the hedge. Next to arrive were Philomena, Rose and Edith, the rabbits living with Mrs Christie in the house next door but one. Thereafter the wild animals made an appearance, namely Stanley the badger, Reynold the fox, Ernest the rabbit and Lilly the mouse who, in order not to get accidentally trampled on, jumped on Stanley’s back and took tight grip of his ear.
Last to arrive was Bertie the ram who stuck his head through the hedge, smiled in a sheepish sort of way, and said a big hello in his deep, hoarse voice.
Everyone was assembled. Rag jumped up onto the lean-to on the side of the shed and turned to face the crowd.
‘Welcome’ he said addressing his friends, ‘thank you for coming’.
‘This evening’ he went on, ‘I have invited you here for two reasons. The first is to introduce you to the newest member of our group, and the second and equally important reason, is to give our new friend a name’.
Perplexed, the animals started mumbling amongst themselves, mystified as to what the naming of someone would involve. Rag stayed silent for a little while enjoying the confusion, then raised his voice to retell the story of a little hedgehog who had left home on an adventure, got lost and finally found his way to the Durrell’s garden. He told of the hedgehog ritual of naming their youngsters just before they were ready to head off into the big world and how this hedgehog had missed out on that ceremony having gone astray before it could take place.
‘Therefore’, said Rag, ‘I feel it is our duty to do the naming instead’.
The animals responded with a collective nod of agreement. They were excited. Lilly was especially enthusiastic, jumping up and down on Stanley’s back to the point that he gave a grunt and let her know there was a limit as to how far his ear could stretch.
As if on cue the little hedgehog chose exactly this moment to make his entry from behind the shed. Immediately the animals all turned to greet him with smiles and waves and noisy hellos. He said nothing, just stood smiling shyly and looking up at Rag for a little reassurance. Rag nodded and smiled back at him.
The animals then huddled together close to the hedge to include Bertie, and immediately starting coming up with suggestions.
‘How about Prickles’? said Ernest, ‘he certainly is prickly enough’.
‘True’, said Stanley, ‘but he looks too gentle for that. What about Gooseberry’?
‘Nah’, retorted Edith, ‘that is more a name for something very small, like a mouse. ‘Horse Chestnut would be good as they are covered in spikes’, suggested Reynold, ‘but maybe the horse bit is a little strange a name to give a hedgehog’.
The animals turned to look at the little creature standing in the centre of the garden, the pale light of the evening sky at his back. Silhouetted like that all the friends could see was his outline.
‘Look at him’ remarked Rag, ‘he’s shaped like one of those delicious bun-like cakes Mrs Durrell served at Martha’s party’.
Lilly nodded in agreement. ‘They’re called muffins’ she peeped, ‘so how about we call him Muffin?’
A moment’s silence followed while the animals gave this some thought and then slowly, one by one, they all started to nod their heads.
‘He does look like a muffin’, mumbled Rufus, chuckling, ‘and it fits his cute appearance. A perfect name for him I would say’.
And thus it was that the hedgehog that had wondered into the Durrell’s garden one early morning in spring came to be known as Muffin.
To be continued ...