Updated: Feb 25
It did not take the Durrells long to discover the newcomer. The evening after the naming ceremony, Henrik was out kicking his football on the back lawn. An extra hard kick saw the ball rolling under the hedge and diving down to retrieve it he spotted another ball next to his own with lots of spikes sticking out of it.
‘Martha, over here’ he whispered to his sister, indicating frantically for her to come closer, ‘there’s a hedgehog in the hedge’.
Martha dropped the book she had been reading and ran over to see. Squealing with excitement the children rushed into the kitchen where their mother was busy cutting up vegetables in preparation for dinner. In breathless, high-pitched voices, the children told her of their discovery and dragged her into the garden.
‘Oh my’, murmured Mrs. Durrell, gazing with delight at the little animal under the hedge, ‘it’s been a long time since we’ve had a hedgehog visiting us. Isn’t he just lovely’.
Upon hearing the news Mr Durrell was equally as enthusiastic and immediately set about making a hedgehog house. Mr Durrell was a Biology teacher at the secondary school in the nearby country town and his big passions were wildlife and conservation. In addition he was an amateur carpenter and loved designing and constructing objects, not always with a great deal of success.
‘A hedgehog house provides a safe place for hedgehogs to shelter from cold weather and from other animals who may be a danger to them’ he explained to his children while sawing the wood ‘and it can also be used by hedgehogs to hibernate over the winter months’. ‘What I need you to do’, he continued,’ is pop over to Mrs Christie’s place and ask her if she has any hay to spare from her rabbit hutches that we can use for bedding’.
In the village, Mrs Christie’s cottage was fondly referred to as the hobbit house and moments later Henrik and Martha were standing in front of its large oak arched-shaped front door lifting up the black, lion-headed, knocker. The cottage had a thatched roof with reeds reaching almost to the ground on either side and the pained windows at the front of the property were small and partially hidden behind wrought iron fretwork, which functioned both as decoration as well as protection.
When the door finally opened, Mrs Christie appeared from within, her pixie-like face barely visible under a large mop of wild, white hair. Her face lit up when she saw the children and she immediately ushered them in.
Standing in the tiny hall way lit by a dusty ceiling lamp that gave off very little light due to the many bows and tassels hanging from the lampshade, the children peered at the little figure of their eccentric neighbour and told her the story of their garden visitor and their need for hay to line the yet-to-be-made hedgehog house. The obliging Mrs Christie, happy to help, appeared to the children to float off into the dimly lit room at her back, only to reappear moments later a tied up bundle of hay in her arms.
She chuckled softly, handed the hay to Henrik, patted each of the children on their heads, and assured them that, should that not be enough, she had plenty more where that came from.
When they returned to the shed, Mr Durrell was well on his way to completing the house.
‘Just the roof to screw on, which I will do once the bedding is in place’ he explained.
Although a little wonky, both Henrik and Martha were impressed with the end product and set about filling the interior of the hedgehog house with the hay they had brought back. This was followed by a few more turns of the screwdriver and the job was complete.
‘We should give it a name’, said Martha. ‘We can maybe paint it on the side’.
‘How about calling it the Hedgehog House?’ suggested Henrik.
‘I think we should give the hedgehog a name and then we can use that name for the house’ proposed Martha. ‘We just have to think of a name’.
‘Your mother said he looked like one of her oatmeal muffins, so I suggest we call him that’ laughed their father.
When Rag heard this he pricked up his ears and pondered the name. It was obviously meant to be he decided, walking in the direction of the hedge to inspect Mr. Durrell’s handiwork. And there it was, painted in bold letters on the side of Muffin’s new home: The House of Oatmeal Muffin. Rag purred in delight.