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The Badger and the Mongoose
(and other stories)

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A comical poem about two ill-matched creatures who find themselves sharing a derelict house. The book also includes a selection of poetry about other animals.
88 pages.

Somewhere in the north of England, a badger and a mongoose meet when they take shelter in a derelict house. They don't like the same food, they don't like the same clothes, they can't agree on how to make the house habitable and they'd both rather be somewhere else. But when the council threatens to remove the 'infestation', the indignant mongoose sets the badger to work making a home, while she goes off to give the officials a piece of her mind.

Dave Knight's third book of poetry also contains a delightful selection of other animal poems, with a starring role for Professor Minsky, cat of a thousand wiles. The 'Assonant Animals' poems - first seen in 'Portrait of the Artist as a Lone Tree' - are also included.

The Badger and the Mongoose
(Property development for animals)

Part 1 - An unexpected meeting.

There once was a Badger that found an old house
that nobody lived in - not even a mouse.
He was tired, cold, and sad, and he went round the back
where he found that the door was left open a crack;

so he pushed with his nose, and he pushed with his paws,
until all of his black-and-white form was indoors;
he was far from his sett, and could never go back,
so he lay on the floor, on a piece of old sack.

He awoke at the sound of small feet by his snout,
and as dawn's early sunlight began to come out,
he beheld with surprise an indignant fixed stare
on the face of a Mongoose that couldn't be there.

"Mr Badger," she said, with a show of sharp teeth;
"I'm obliged if you'd stick to the hill and the heath;
whether rain, wind or hailstones have driven you here,
it's my house, and mine only. Please leave by the rear."

The Badger just stared, for he couldn't make sense
of her splendid attire; it appeared no expense
had been spared in designing from jewels and silk
what she wore; and no doubt she had more of this ilk.

"Very well," he sighed sadly. "But first, I'd have said
you appear very rich and extremely well bred -
yet this house is a wreck - it's a terrible mess!
You could surely afford to repair it for less

than the price of that jewel you wear as a pin;
the mere sight of it puts my old head in a spin!
Oh, it redly reflects all the dawn's early light,
and enhances your dress; such a beautiful sight!"

The Mongoose was pleased. "It's a sari," she said.
"Made in India. Jewels are rarely so red,
as this ruby. But true, I need help; be a dear -
do you happen to know any tradesmen round here?"

The Badger got up, and he paced round the floor.
He had noticed the cracks in the tiles by the door,
and the copious litter that lay all around,
while the wallpaper fell in great sheets to the ground.

"I'm not local," he grimaced. "I've lost my own home,
and the gasmen have left me forever to roam
in the world far away from my friendly old sett,
in a world full of sadness and empty regret."

The Mongoose was mystified. "Tell me," she said,
"what the gasmen have done?" "All my family's dead,"
sighed the Badger. "They heard we had all got T.B.,
and cows caught it from us. Wrong way round! But you see,

we were killed on a whim at some farmer's remark
to a clueless official who's all in the dark
about cows and the countryside, badgers and setts;
I alone got away. That's as bad as it gets,

when your family's gassed, just because some poor cows
give less milk than a farmer's impatience allows."
The Mongoose was moved. "You can stay," she exclaimed;
"if one animal's ill, others shouldn't be blamed."


Thus the Badger and the Mongoose decide to share the house for mutual benefit. The story relates their mismatched desires and plans, as they battle to make the house fit for habitation before the council can pull it down.

There are also three poems about Professor Minsky. There must be a reason why 'the cat sat on the mat'; here is the real one, explained to kittens by the Professor, ruler of back gardens as far as a cat can prowl.

Why did the cat sit on the mat?

There must be a reason why 'the cat sat on the mat'. Here is the real one, explained to kittens by Professor Minsky, ruler of many back gardens with which he is acquainted.

Click to hear (.mp3)

Professor Minsky coolly clawed
the stanchions of the blackened board,
and turned to face the cute brigade -
for kittens into cats he made,
by educating them with wiles -
all of the tomcat's golden guiles.
But still they whispered, "Is he yet
quite smart enough to cheat the vet?"

"I hear you doubt," the half-whole cat
rebuked the unvoiced kitten chat.
They gasped; his whiskers knew their thoughts,
and bristled with such sage retorts
they fell to licking paws and ears -
their own, or those of kitten peers -
and whispered to each other, "Shush,
his tail is like a bottle brush!"

He strolled the stage a little while,
the more to make young Heidi smile,
whose ears now pointed fore and back -
an art at which she had the knack -
watching her tom whilst scratching claws,
keeping late-comers from the doors,
in case his proud, dismissive hiss
should warn them they had been remiss.

Then suddenly he turned and grinned;
the kittens each felt grimly pinned
in place, as if his look was made
for them alone; respect they paid
by looking slightly by his side -
for meet his eyes? They'd think they'd died.
And so all ears and eyes ensnared,
Professor Minsky's fangs were bared.

"The cat sat on the mat," he said.
"But what, young kittens, can be read
with surety about a mat
on which is sat some noble cat?"
The kittens blinked, and tried to look
for answers in the Kitty-Book
that Heidi writes about her mate;
but none were found that they could state.

"Come, come," miaowed Minsky. "Think it through.
Whatever is a mat to you?
What do you want with bristly things,
to which the muck and rubbish clings?
Why would you sit on such a spot -
to clean yourself? Oh, surely not!
You'd sit on linen piled up high,
whenever it was safely dry."

The kittens thought, and Heidi smiled
to reassure each feline child
that each in time would pass the test -
so one by one, they sat and guessed.
But last of all, one little tom
stared into space, and missed his mom -
then into place whirred every cog:
"The mat belonged to someone's dog!"


The book also contains 14 short poems about other creatures, such as this one:

Sarah the Canary

Click to hear (.mp3)

Sarah the Canary likes a cage all her own,
and she likes to splash about in the cold;
company is cruel, for canaries live alone,
or they'll only bicker, fiddle, fuss and scold.

Seeds are nice for eating, with some greens, if you please,
but you mustn't let her feast upon your plants;
Sarah likes to nibble on a little bit of fruit,
but don't leave enough to feed the passing ants!

Sarah comes in colours, and a lot of funny shapes,
and she lays a lovely egg in her cage;
Sarah can fly fluttering all round the room alone,
but she won't sing a note for her wage!

Boy canaries singing or a-mimicking a bell
will make Sarah get all frolicsome in spring;
let them live together just a very little while,
and the visit will put love on the wing.

Sarah the Canary is a flighty little fairy
who was born to be a finch upon the wing;
Sarah the Canary is a bird all bright and airy,
and she's lovely, even if she doesn't sing.


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