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Town and country

By Georgina Hibberd - posted Friday, 5 January 2007

As some of you may know, I am taking a sojourn in the country. Well, when I say country I mean not-the-city, not necessarily places where there are paddocks stretching forever.

I’ve been in “the country” for three weeks now. I’m scheduled to be here for three months. I’ve lived in the city for the past 15 years, having escaped the country as soon as I finished school.

As some of you also may know, I read a lot of Beatrix Potter due to the current predilections of my son. Tonight, with some serendipity, it was The Tale of Johnny Town-Mouse, which is a riveting read, and quite long by Potter standards.


A mouse by the name of Timmy Willie is accidentally shipped to the "big town" because he was nosy and got himself into a hamper of vegetables destined for some toffs in the city. Once he gets there he is assaulted with noise.

But there was no quiet; there seemed to be hundreds of carts passing. Dogs barked; boys whistled in the street; the cook laughed, the parlour maid ran up and down-stairs; and a canary sang like a steam engine.

(By the way: I would defy anyone to locate a children’s author who uses more semi-colons than Potter.)

Little Timmy Willie manages to get out of the hamper, escape the cook (who calls for Sarah with the poker) and squeezes through a hole in the skirting board, as mice tend to do.

Once through the hole he crashes onto the table during a dinner party being held by Johnny Town-Mouse. Despite his initial loss of composure (”Who in the world is this?”), Johnny takes in the mouse he obviously considers to be somewhat of a hick. Timmy Willie is not au fait with the food they are eating, they are all wearing clothes while Timmy seems to be naked and his tail is obviously mutilated

But they were too well bred to make personal remarks; only one of them asked Timmy Willie if he had ever been in a trap.


Timmy hangs about for a bit, is exposed to the precariousness of living in the big town (the cats, the cooks, the Sarahs with pokers) and he longs for his little patch of grass.

He recounts this longing to Johhny who merely replies: "It sounds rather a dull place? What do you do when it rains?"

Eventually Johnny realises Timmy is serious and tells him the obvious answer is to get back in the empty hamper and go back to the farm when it returns. Timmy is out like a shot.

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First published in Sarsaparilla on November 10, 2006. It is republished as part of "Best Blogs of 2006" a feature in collaboration with Club Troppo, and edited by Ken Parish, Nicholas Gruen et al.

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About the Author

Georgina Hibberd is a designer and freelance writer. She writes at various blogs, including Sarsaparilla and Larvatus Prodeo. Her own blog is Stack.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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