Marmalade Beefeater Mouse !

London Book : Your Sneaky "Peaky" Preview !

It was early in the morning when Marmalade the Mouse stood on the platform at Paddington Station. The train he’d pulled in on had long since huffed and puffed its way off to somewhere else and everywhere was quiet. Too early for office commuters, the station platform was clear, except for a middle-aged man on a sweeping machine bopping his way back and forth to the sound of London FM. There was no one else to notice the little mouse, as he wheeled his travel chest into a good parking spot alongside the tourist information booth. 

Marmalade the Mouse was hungry. It had been a long trip from Cornwall, and the last few crumbs of his Cornish pasty were now stale and dry in his coat pocket. “I do hope I find something good to eat soon ?” he said to himself. "My tummy's starting to rumble. Oh, I do wish I had a nice cheese and pickle sandwich !”

Marmalade gazed upwards at the Paddington Station building. It was enormous ! There was concrete and steel everywhere and the dark grey arches of the roof blended perfectly into the pale grey sky. Nuts and bolts were all about and, through a vast glass ceiling, aeroplanes could be seen overhead. 

Then, out of the greyness, Marmalade thought he heard something speak. “Coo-coo ! Coo-ey !" whispered the voice. Gazing along the platform, Marmalade spotted a rather well-fed pigeon, with its foot wrapped in a bandage, hobbling along towards him. “Coo-ey ! Coo-coo !” repeated the pigeon, as if unable to say anything else. 

“Coo-coould you be Marmalade ?” the bird finally asked. “Errrr, yes ! I'm Marmalade the Mouse !" replied Marmalade, not sure how the bird knew his name ? “Welcome to London ! Now, coo-coould you please come with me ?" I am to escort you to your friends !" she said, rather formally. “Friends !” exclaimed Marmalade. "This is London ! I don't have any friends !”

The pigeon tilted its head to one side, with a "quizz-ickle" look, and seemed bemused. “Oh ! Coo-coould I be mistaken ? I was told to look out for Marmalade the Mouse … born Devon … arriving on the Penzance train at 5.40am Platform 4 ... carrying a large green trunk ! I coo-couldn't imagine that to be anyone other than YOU ?" said the pigeon. "Which means you dooo-dooo have friends ... and a new job tooo-toooo !"

“I've just got here ! I can't possibly have a job !” yelled Marmalade. “Oh, yes you doo-dooo,’’ replied the pigeon. “This is London where things move FAST ! My instructions are to meet and greet, then escort you to the palace !” 

“Palace ! What palace ?” shrieked Marmalade, in terror. “Why Buckingham Palace, of course !” replied the pigeon. “Now, coo-could you stop loo-looking so scared. It's just a job !"

As ever, Marmalade was utterly baffled and his head was spinning. All he could hear was “Coo-coo ! Coo-coo !” and it was starting to drive him a little nuts !

The mouse and the pigeon made a strange couple, as they exited the station and made their way up Marble Arch and down Park Lane. After twenty minutes of pavement walking, they headed up Buckingham Palace Road towards the palace gates. Red London buses could be heard whirring up their engines, at the Victoria Station depot, and scattered people in suits with brief cases and luncheon boxes marched along like wind-up toys. “Tick Tock ! Tick Tock !" Their day was about to begin.

There was a slight whiff of exhaust smoke hanging in the air. Marmalade felt it tickle his throat and coughed. “Coo-could you please walk a bit quicker ?” urged the limping pigeon. “There’s no time to dawdle ! Your first shift begins at 9 o'clock prompt, and yoo-you still need to sign in and get your-your uniform, so coo-uld you please come along ?"

The scene before them suddenly opened up into the biggest expanse of fountain, roundabout and railings Marmalade had ever seen. Behind the railings, rose an impressive building with more windows than walls ! “Crikey !” gasped Marmalade. “Is that what I think it is ?” The coo-coo pigeon nodded. "That, my little country mouse is Buckingham Palace ! Rather grand, woo-wouldn't you say ?” she smiled.

“It's grander than anything I’ve ever seen !" said Marmalade. "Are you sure I work here ?" he asked, nervously. "I don’t think those red-coated guards will let me in, plus it all seems a bit private ?" he wittered, now desparately in need of the toilet.

“You’re expected ! You’ve got a pass ! Now, coo-could you move close alongside me, and keep in-step ! The guards never watch the pigeons !" said Coo-coo.

Marmalade did as he was told. Things were moving so fast, he didn't have time to think ! The poor little mouse had been in London for less than an hour, and already he was skulking across the gravel in front of Buckingham Palace in the shadow of a coo-coo-ing pigeon with a limp ... and he hadn't even had his first cup of tea !

Being careful not to drag his travel chest too loudly, Marmalade and Coo-Coo walked across the outer courtyard towards an even smaller entrance within an inner courtyard, which in turn led off in many directions. Miraculously, the guard's gaze fixed itself hgh above the heads of the two little creatures … just as the clever pigeon had said.

“This is where I leave you now !” said Coo-Coo. “We’re perfectly on time ! Now, here’s your pass ! They'll be coming for yoo-you at 6.30am. Until then, stand here and wait ... and for goodness sake, don’t move !”

“But, who's coming for me ?” asked Marmalade. “Your friends, of course ! Coo-could not be luckier, if you ask me ? I’d say you’ve landed on your feet in fluffy silk slippers with gold bells on them !” laughed the pigeon who, with a quick tilt of her head, turned and limped off in the direction of the fountain.

The End of Chapter One.

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