A poem by Mark Grist

Inspired by Nene Park

Hello! my name’s Horace and I am a Hedgehog
Perhaps you have seen me, here in Nene Park?
I live in a cottage that’s not often spotted
With walls made of sticks and a roof of tree bark

And I have such great neighbours - the otters are famous! 
They wave every day when they’re making a splash
there’s Felix the Fox, with his pans and his pots
Always cooking up treats for our Christmassy bash

And Bella the bat is such a good friend
Each year she asks what to get me for Christmas
I do love to see her, but this year instead
I don’t tell the truth - it’s such a sad business!

Whenever I’m asked I just tend to shrug
The Truth…it sounds silly.
I just …want a hug

yes a hug.
I don’t want a fuss
but hug is a thing that I can’t get because
and HEDGEHOGS are covered in spikes
these prickles just give all my neighbours a fright
I’m ever so prickly - if you try to give me
A hug me you’ll get stung by the spikes on my sides
spikes on my back - even spikes on my bottom!
it’s been so long now I’ve almost forgotten 
what hugs even feel like
I sit in my home
This hedgehog upset 
unhugged and alone.

To take my mind off this
I’ve been making presents
For each of my friends
Hoping to get them
Each something they’d love 
I’ve knitted and darned
and crocheted and stitched 
some colourful scarves
for all of the otters -adults and pups
For Felix, I made him some thick oven gloves
for Bella a blanket that could not be thicker
To help her keep warm as she sleeps through the winter.

I finished the presents, filled a huge sack 
Set off to the party, slowly I dragged
All the present's I’d made. My neighbours, amazed 
said that these gifts were the best that they’d had!

And I felt a bit better seeing how they loved
Their scarves, their blanket and those oven gloves
Then, once they’d tried out  their gifts a bit
Bella said ‘Horace, it’s time for your gift.'
Then the otters and Bella and Felix the fox
handed me something…
Oh no. It was… SOCKS

Some very nice, very thoughtful socks to keep snug
Lovely, of course, but still not a hug
And I know that I should be grateful and all
but I just felt so sad I rolled in a ball
and I started to cry - tears started to flood
‘I’m sorry I said - I just….want a hug!’

I thought they might laugh - but Bella the bat 
Said ‘Oh my dear Hubert - we can help you with that!’
‘Of course we can!’ said all the otters together
they chatted with Felix - then they wrapped Bella
In that giant blanket held tight with their scarves
With two oven gloves that they plopped on her arms
She wobbled about in that wooly palava
‘Horace!’ They laughed ‘we’ve made hugging armour!’

Bella stepped back - shouted ‘Right, here I come!’
She focused upon me and started to run
She leapt on my spikes, so tightly wrapped up
And then, yes it happened! Such warmth from above!
‘Bella, oh thank you! I feel it - A HUG!

OH it was amazing, yes just the greatest
I felt as though snow was melting inside
They swapped out the armour Felix went after
The otters then took turns to hug me so tight
And once they were done we shared a huge grin
The blanket and gloves had some quills sticking in
But nobody minded! Felix the Fox
Made us all cocoa with whipped cream on top
And everyone said they’d never forget 
that a hug is the best gift a hedgehog can get.

Of course there were games and singing and eggnog
But what meant the most, for this simple hedgehog
Who lives in a cottage right here in Nene Park
Is a hug, yes the hug, it speak to the heart
This Christmas there’s nothing as needed or loved
More important to give or to get than a hug.