An excerpt from

The Year of the Badger

<a class="link" href="/authors/seth-burkett">Molly Burkett &amp; Seth Burkett</a>

Mum was ever so cross when Sophie brought her English book home from school. Sophie had had to write a story about ‘Getting ready in the morning’. She had written that she had to crawl under Mum’s bed so that she could find the soap and flannel to wash and that while she was under there she had found the dog’s saucepan, Grandad’s braces and Mum’s new hat that she had bought for a wedding. Sophie continued that she had found the toothpaste behind the cushion on the easychair in the sitting room, but the tube was a bit chewed up so she did not bother to clean her teeth. She said that she had hidden her shoes under the pillow but when she got them out the shoelaces had gone, so she had to go and get another pair out of the refrigerator.

Mum said that Sophie made ours sound a terrible house and that people would think we were most peculiar, but the fact is we did often have to go round the house on this sort of recovery course before we could get ready for anything. And it was quite true about Mum hiding the shoelaces in the fridge. She had been so cross when Nikki had managed to open the broom-cupboard and found her secret supply that she had hidden the rest of them, herself, in the fridge, remarking that the badger would never think of looking there.

The thing is that badgers are well known for their tidy habits and Nikki was no exception to this rule. In the wild, badgers will keep their setts in a spotless condition. Anything out of place will be removed and discarded. Even a leaf that has been blown into the entrance hole, or a piece of straw that has been dropped when they renewed their bedding, will quickly be taken out.

Nikki developed this tidiness characteristic to an extreme. A piece of string, a bit of mud, anything that offended her sense of neatness was quickly gathered and hidden in one of her hiding places. At first Mum thought it was a delightful habit and one that the rest of the family should follow. She soon changed her mind about that though, because as Nikki increased in size so did the number of things that she considered out of place. Cushions, chair-backs, even cutlery from the table would be gathered up and hidden in one of her favourite places in an untidy heap. I can remember Mum replacing the chair-backs six or seven times one morning before she gave it up as a bad job.

The picture was much the same upstairs. Mum would have to crawl under the bed to recover her make-up, and probably her underwear as well if she had forgotten to close the chest of drawers up tightly.

One day when Aunt Gerty had come to tea, Nikki made a real entrance. She must have found a drawer a little open, Mum was always forgetting to shut them, and she had made the most of the opportunity. She suddenly exploded on us, completely entangled in Mother’s underwear. Somehow she had got her head through a bra of Mum’s and the rest of the garment was trailing along behind her and kept tripping her up, and each time she tripped she became more and more entangled. Aunt Gerty’s face was a picture.