Guest starring Zeus the Tuxedo Cat.
Pinot awoke with a start and looked around the bedroom sleepily, not sure what had woken him. He glanced towards his humans, no, it certainly wasn’t them, as they were both still fast asleep. He looked over towards Grigio’s rug, no, it can’t have been Grigio either as she was still curled up, snoring gently as usual. Pinot crept up the duvet to get a look at his human’s bedside clock, the little blue numbers on the display told him it was 3 o’clock in the morning. This was a whole hour before he would normally get up to begin his first garden patrol.
Pinot sat quietly for a moment, trying to decide whether or not he should go and investigate further or, go back to his nice warm bed for another hour. Just as the thought of snuggling back into his bed was beginning to seem like the best idea, he heard a gentle tapping sound. He stopped and strained his ears, there it was again, tap tap, tap tap tap. It was coming from the bedroom window. Pinot leapt off the bed, crossed the room and was up onto the window ledge in a flash. He used his paw to very carefully lift the blind, just enough to get his head underneath so he could see down into the garden below. As he pressed his nose against the icy glass he was more than a little surprised to see two huge, round eyes, staring back at him!
Pinot would recognise these beautiful, yellow, eyes anywhere, they were the eyes of Hilary Hootle, the young tawny owl that lived in the woodland behind Pinot’s house. Pinot knew that a visit from Hilary could only mean one thing, there must be a problem with something, or someone, in the garden. He signalled to Hilary that he understood, and that he would meet her in the garden right away. Pinot turned and left the bedroom silently, he made his way through the house which, he noticed, seemed strangely quieter, but lighter, than usual. A minute later and he had arrived at the cat flap, he used his little black nose to nudge it open and as soon as he did he knew exactly why Hilary had been calling for him. The entire garden was blanketed with thick white snow.
Pinot and Hilary sat for a few minutes discussing their plan of action, they knew they had not a moment to spare, as the snow had come down quickly, without any warning, so the garden folk had had no time at all to prepare. For the larger animals the snow fall didn’t cause to much of a problem but for the smaller and the elderly garden folk it could actually be quite dangerous. Five minutes later and they were ready to put ‘Operation Early Snowfall’ into action. Hilary flew off to wake as many of the birds as she could rouse, and Pinot dashed off to call on all the cats of the neighbourhood.
By the time Pinot returned to the garden with his newly assembled snow patrol, Grigio was ready and waiting to join them. He had managed to round up Zeus, Poppy, Bilbo, Blossom and Tiny so including himself and Grigio there would be seven of them working the ground patrol that morning.
The job of the cats was to visit each and every little house that was either on, or below ground level. They would need to sniff out every hidey hole, burrow and nest they could find and as gently as possible, clear the snow from each and every entrance. Once cleared they would then need to create little pathways through the snow that would allow the tiny creatures of the garden to continue to go about their daily business with as little disruption as possible.
Pinot’s first job was to split the cats into pairs so they could cover the entire garden as quickly as possible. Zeus and Grigio were paired together and sent off to cover the bottom of the garden, Bilbo went with Tiny to cover the vegetable patch and surrounding areas, and Pinot and Poppy were going to look after the top half of garden, including the old oak tree which was home to many of the garden folk. Blossom was sent off to join old Ginger McGreedy who lived next door, Ginger was too old to be rushing around in the cold wet snow so instead, as his human’s owned a large warm Aga, his house was going to be used as a first aid centre where any creatures found to be struggling could be brought for a rest and a warm until they were feeling better. Ginger and Blossom’s job would be to make sure neither of Gingers humans spotted any of the little creatures warming their toes on the Aga as this would surely result in immediate eviction straight back into the snowy, cold, garden.
By lunchtime the job was nearly complete. All the cats had worked tirelessly and were pretty exhausted after all their snow clearing. They had also worked very hard giving lifts to various creatures needing to get to important appointments that couldn’t be re-arranged. Zeus had been particular busy. First he’d had to help Gail the snail with her large weekly shop, then he had helped a very worried little ground beetle called Barry Battersby get his wife Beryl over to the first aid centre. Poor Beryl had slipped and twisted three of her six ankles on the ice and was certainly in need of a strong cup of tea and the comforting warmth of Ginger’s Aga. Zeus wasn’t usually known for his love of activity but just like Grigio, when others were in need of their help they were always first in line to help.
During the morning, Pinot had spent quite a bit of time with old Professor Wiggins the ageing earwig who lived in the dark, damp, cracks between the paving stones. Professor Wiggins had been the head teacher at the garden primary school until very recently when he had finally had to retire due to his failing memory. For many years, Professor Wiggins had started each school day by telling the students his one and only joke. He would stand at the front of his class, and as the bell rang out to signal the start of their lessons, Professor Wiggins would say, “Right then class, ear-wig go!” He would then roar with laughter for several minutes at his own joke. What made everyone else laugh more than the actual joke, was the fact that Professor Wiggins still laughed as much today, as he did the very first time he had told it, all those years ago! Pinot had popped in to make sure old Professor Wiggins had enough food in his cupboards, and enough logs for his fire to last until the worst of the weather had passed.
Whilst Pinot and the rest of the snow patrol had been helping the creatures on and below ground level, Hilary Hootle and her sky patrol, had been working hard to ensure the safety of all the creatures that lived way above ground level. These creatures included the squirrel families as well as the smaller bird species that found it difficult to find food when the snow and ice was around for too long. Hilary had created her sky patrol by enlisted the help of Margaret and Matthew Featherstone, two of the largest garden Magpies, as well as Patrick Potter, the biggest pigeon the garden had ever seen. The sky patrol were sent to collect as many plump, ripe, berries as they could find, they would then need to pop them into little hampers and deliver them directly to the nests of the smaller garden birds and squirrels later that morning. Between them they visited all the squirrel dreys, this is what the squirrels called their nests, as well as the nests of the Robins, the Wrens, the Chaffinches and the Sparrow families. They checked they were all safe and hadn’t suffered any damage to their nests and then proudly handed over the berry filled hampers they had worked so hard to fill. Just like Pinot and his snow patrol, by lunchtime Hilary and her sky patrol were all feeling extremely tired.
They had arranged to meet up again by the garden Christmas Tree at 1pm. They would need to check everything had gone to plan before they could go their separate ways for a well deserved lunch. At one o’clock sharp, Pinot called the little group together, it seemed very strange only having cats and birds at the gathering as their meetings usually consisted of every type of creature, from the smallest bug, to the largest of garden animals. Pinot cleared his throat and began,
“I won’t keep you long as I know you are all very tired after all your hard work and you will want to get home for some lunch. You have all done such a great job of making sure all our garden friends are as safe, and warm as they can be, during this very cold, snowy weather. Me and Hilary will continue to carry out routine checks on the hour, every hour, day and night, until the weather improves, but for now, I just want to say once again, a huge thank you to you all for all your hard work. Oh, and before you rush off, I look forward to seeing you all at the ice rink on Christmas Eve! Until then, stay safe and warm, and make sure you look after your neighbours.”
As the group began to break up, Hilary was the first to dash off. Being an owl she was a nocturnal creature, which of course meant she slept during the day and worked during the night, today she had worked through both, so was absolutely exhausted! Zeus, Grigio, Poppy, Tiny and Bilbo, were also very tired, as not only had they been working since Pinot called for them just after three o’clock this morning, but they had already missed at least two cat naps today!
Once the others had left the garden Pinot made his way over to Gingers house. He wanted to check on Beryl the beetle to see how her ankles were feeling after her earlier fall. Once there, Pinot was very pleased to find Ginger, Blossom, Beryl and her husband Barry sitting, feet up, tea in hand, nattering happily whilst basking in the warmth of the Aga. Pinot could see that three of Beryl’s tiny ankles were neatly bandaged but from the way she sat chattering happily to Grigio, he felt sure there hadn’t been any lasting damage done. He padded over to join the little group in front of the Aga. As he did so he began to realise that he too was beginning to feel very tired indeed.
Pinot sat with his friends and explained that everything had gone to plan and thanks to all their hard work, apart from Beryl, there had not been any further accidents to report. After a few minutes the conversation turned to Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve was when the entire garden population gathered around the frozen bird bath to celebrate their annual ice festival. The bird bath, which was usually used for their drinking water, was at this time of year frozen solid, and made a perfect ice skating rink for the smaller garden folk to enjoy. This year they decided, would be even more magical than usual, as this year, they had their very own Christmas tree to enjoy too!
1/ How many ankles did Beryl Battersby hurt when she fell?
2/ What is the name of a squirrels nest?
3/ Can you draw a snowy garden picture?