I am a hoarding sort of mole. This parlour (the one in which I am sitting as I put pen to paper) was not long ago a repository for boxes labelled perhaps Bells Restoration, or Cumulus, or Tasmanian Cherries, or Stamps, or Wires That Don’t Match. I have spent years trying to lessen the jumble. Every so often I would don my late Mama’s pinny, place my paws on my hips, and hope that if I concentrated hard enough her strength of purpose would somehow infuse me. But only moments after embarking on the first box, my mind would be conjuring up a pot of tea and ginger biscuits. And no sooner had the thought insinuated itself than the pinny would be off and the kettle on and that would be that for the afternoon, the week even, or the month. Then, at the end of last year, something changed.
As you already know I am not only a hoarding sort of a mole but also a solitary one. It is rare that I have creatures coming to my burrow. But in December I invited some friends to supper on New Year’s Eve. And then I panicked. My table was not big enough and besides it held family papers and diaries, and it couldn’t be pulled out anyway for want of space. I cleared this parlour of its boxes. Still I felt as Great Uncle Mole had when he brought Uncle Ratty home to his burrow for the first time, and saw it suddenly through his friend’s eyes: its smallness, its darkness, its lack of food and drink, its air of neglect. I could sense the weight of Great Uncle Mole’s gloom billow through the generations and fog up my own burrow and this parlour.
It was of course Uncle Ratty who rescued Great Uncle Mole. He encouraged and cajoled with remarks like how capital the little place was, said he could think of no better treat than a tin of sardines. He lit a fire, and when the field mice came and sang carols, he sent one off to buy food, and they all sat around the fire with mulled beer and had a feast.
My friends arrived with hampers of food and wine and soon the friendly chatter subdued the uneven card tables I had set up, the odd chairs, the air of curiosity shop.
On New Year’s Day after I had washed up, I came into the parlour to dismantle the tables, but then I stopped. The space was vibrant, inviting. I ate my lunch here and then did a jigsaw puzzle. The warmth of my friends still hung in the air the following day and the day after that, too.
And now, nearly three months on, shafts gentle autumn light glow through the roses on the rickety table and there is nowhere I would rather be than sitting here in the parlour of my burrow.