The Little House at the Edge of the Wood

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Last January, I had a major operation. For solace, I took into hospital the Winter issue of Slightly Foxed. A kind friend brought in the New Yorker. Then, about day four or five (not brilliant), came a package. It contained a beautiful card and a worn little book: Hare Joins the Home Guard by Alison Uttley. The card had an instruction: ‘If energy is short please just refer to the marked page for an image to cheer the spirits.’ I referred, and felt a smile spread through me. Here was an underground nursery, lit by glow-worms, where all the small animals of the wood might take shelter as the dreadful weasels went on the warpath. Here were Fuzzypeg the hedgehog and Moldy Warp the mole, gazing at ‘grass hammocks and little wool-lined cots and cradles which Grey Rabbit had made’. ‘You shall take charge of the young ones,’ said Moldy Warp kindly. ‘You shall put them to bed and tell them tales.’ But Fuzzypeg was having none of this. ‘No thank you! I’m going to fight.’

This perfect package came from my friend Ruth, with whom, the previous summer, I had travelled by train through the Baltic states, discovering en route our shared passion for Little Grey Rabbit and all things pertaining to her. Ruth’s loan of her childhood copy of Hare Joins the Home Guard (1942) sent me, as I went home and got stronger, back to my own Little Grey Rabbit editions, almost all given by older cousins as Christmas and birthday presents to my brother and me in the ’40s and ’50s. I found most were quite shockingly, if affectionately, defaced: by wax crayon colouring in of ‘the little house at the edge of the wood’ which appeared on every endpaper, by pencil drawings and wobbly capitals and even, at the end of Little Grey Rabbit’s Party (1936), a desperate attempt at long division. As for Little Grey Rabbit Makes Lace (1950), one of my favourites, its condition can only have c

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About the contributor

Sue Gee is working on a collection of short stories.

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