I expect some of you may know that when the congregation have left, choir practice is over and the Vicar has packed up his satchel and is away to the Vicarage on his bicycle, there remains a little guardian in most country churches and no I'm not talking about the Verger, I am in fact referring to a mouse.
Unlike his cousins who live off the bountiful fields and hedgerows the church mouse lives a frugal existence only nibbling on candle wax and the pages of old prayer books.
He does not mind though for he is a dutiful little fellow and is happiest in the warm familiar surroundings of the old church. He is not entirely alone there at night either, there are owls and bats in the bell tower too. At Christmas he couldn't wish for a cosier home filled with the fragrances of cinnamon, oranges and pine fir. In the spring too it is glorious; the churchyard is smothered in pale yellow primroses and the bells ring out happily for christenings and weddings.
Perhaps you have heard about the Church Mouse in John Betjeman's poem The Diary of the Church Mouse? I was luckily enough to illustrate this poem recently, and what fun it was. This particular little chap is frustrated by the arrival of several field mice and an unfriendly brown rat at the time of the Harvest Festival.
Even though they are not church going animals they come into the church and feast on the harvest gifts that have been lovingly placed there, before devouring the decorative sheaves of corn by the altar. When they have finished their glutinous activities they waddle out of the church not to be seen again...well not until Harvest Festival the following year of course.
I expect you now realise what the sentiment behind the poem is.
Here is the work in progress through to the finished illustration itself in it's beautiful handmade dark wooden frame ready for the wall!