Of course you must understand that Grey Rabbit's home had no electric light or gas, and even the candles were made from pith of rushes dipped in wax from the wild bees' nests, which Squirrel found. Water there was plenty, but it did not come from a tap. It flowed from a spring outside, which rose up from the ground and went to a brook. Grey Rabbit cooked on a fire, but it was a wood fire, there was no coal in that part of the country. Tea did not come from India, but from a little herb known well to country people, who once dried it and used it in their cottage homes. Bread was baked from wheat ears, ground fine, and Hare and Grey rabbit gleaned in the cornfields to get the wheat.
The doormats were plaited rushes, like country-made mats, and the cushions were stuffed with wool gathered from the hedges where sheep pushed through the thorns. As for the looking glass, Grey Rabbit found the glass, dropped from a lady's handbag, and Mole made a frame for it. Usually the animals gazed at themselves in the still pools as so many country children have done. The country ways of Grey Rabbit were the country ways known to the author.
(The Foreword to the Little Grey Rabbit books by Alison Uttley)
I've always been a sucker for Alison Uttley's lovely little books about motherly Little Grey Rabbit, and silly Hare, and Fuzzypeg, and Moldy Warp, and Squirrel. I had a lovely collection of the Little Brown Mouse books as a child as well, all about Snug and Serena the two little mice who lived at the Rose and Crown in a bank beneath a wild rose bush. Children today must not be all so different either, because Jemimah feels as kindly towards them now as I did when I was her age.
Today's selection from our Basket of Delights is Uttley's little book, Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas, beautifully illustrated by Margaret Tempest. In fact I'd go as far as to say that the story is sweet, but that in this case it is the delightful illustrations that really maketh the book.
This is a story about Carol Singing, Stockings, Mistletoe and Holly, Kissing Bunches, Mince Pies, Primrose Wine and lovely warm crackling fires. Just like our Australian Christmas, in fact. (Grin of sarcasm.)
It is a couple of days before Christmas, and Little Grey Rabbit presents Hare and Squirrel with fine scarlet sledge with their names written in flowing rabbity letters round the sides. With great excitement they all take it to their favourite hill.
"One to be ready!Late on Christmas Eve, silly Hare takes the sledge out alone for a moonlight ride, hoping to see something of Santa and his reindeer. Frightened by his own shadow Hare hurries home, leaving the sledge behind in the snow. It is lost.
Two to be steady!
Three to be OFF!" Hare cried, and away they went down the steep slope, shouting with excitement, clinging to one another as the sledge gathered speed. It flew like a streak of lightening.
On Christmas day all the woodland creatures are invited to a party by kind Moldy Warp, the Mole. When Little Grey Rabbit, Squirrel and Hare see the tree with candles on every branch, and beneath it piles of barley bread, wheaten cakes, jars of hone, platters of berries and bottles of heather-ale, the sad loss of the sledge is almost forgotten. But the biggest surprise of all is when unlikeable Rat comes up to them with the lost sledge - piled high with beautiful presents.
"Three cheers for Rat!" cried Fuzzypeg, and they all cheered "Hip! Hip! Hurrah!
And here we must leave the friends as they make their slow way home. All's well that ends well.
Merry, Merry Christmas, Little Grey Rabbit.