It was a misty autumn morning in Knapdale when Bruce set off to meet up with his best friend and Riverbank News reporter, Harry Otter for a weekend at the ‘Best of the West’ Festival at Inveraray Castle. After living in Knapdale for five years, Bruce knows all the shortcuts and by first light he has swam down the Crinan Canal to Ardrishaig. From here, he hitches a ride with some friends from the local rowing club who take him down Loch Fyne to Otter Ferry. Harry and his family have lived here for generations and used to run the small animal ferry across the loch.
“Hi Harry! Apologies for disturbing your breakfast” said Bruce, noticing that Harry has a small fish tail sticking out the corner of his mouth.
“Sorry about that Bruce, I tend to go for the full fry at this time of year, after all winter is coming!”
“No worries Harry, I’ve been putting away the bark like there’s no tomorrow! But, we’re well ahead with all this good weather so let’s party!”
Without further ado, Bruce and Harry donned their festival wellies and shorts, jumped into the boat and headed for Inveraray.
“Let’s rock and row guys!”
“Wow Bruce! That’s the biggest bouncy castle I’ve ever seen!”
“Don’t be daft Harry that’s ‘THE’ castle, home to the Dukes of Argyll who have been heads of Clan Campbell since the 17th Century. It’s you that’s bouncing up and down.”
“Just excited Bruce, haven’t been off the territory much of late, but it is a big castle. Must be if you can see it Bruce, with your eyesight!”
But Bruce was off, having caught the scent of exotic greenery in one of the big tents.
“Whoa Bruce! Not sure if that’s meant for you. This isn’t one of the food stalls. So sorry about that madam, I never knew he had a thing about fuschias.’ Harry sifted some change from the fish scales out of his pocket and handed it over whilst steering Bruce away.
‘Let’s hit the food tent Bruce and fuel up for the day. Will it be oysters, will it be prawns, we’ll have to wait and see’.
‘They sell chips Harry! Look how much they cost! I made hundreds of those last night when I took down that birch tree. We could have made a fortune!’
‘I think you’ll find they’re made of potatoes Harry, not birch. Hmm, deep-fried birch chips…? You never know Harry, in these health conscious times we might be on to something. That Ray Mears chap would probably go for those. Maybe one for next year?’
The sound of music drew our two friends to another of the tents where a band was playing.
‘Not much room in here Harry, this bunch are really popular’
‘You can say that again Bruce, mind where you’re swinging that stomach! I’ll even forgive them for calling you a squirrel!’
‘I’d better put them right on that score Harry’
So at the end of the set Bruce got together with the Coaltown Daisies who demanded his autograph and apologised for thinking Bruce was rusty!
‘Rusty? I know I spend a lot of time in water but I’m a meticulous groomer and we have castoreum oil for that sort of thing you know.’
Not rusty, Bruce. “Rusty”, that’s the squirrel’s name. Oh my word! There he is. That’s one enormous squirrel!
‘Better go and say hello Harry, always happy to meet up with the woodland crew’.
So whilst Bruce and Rusty got together for a few photos, Harry, his reporter’s instincts on red alert had a quick scout around.
‘How did that go Bruce? Nice squirrel?
‘Sure is Harry, fellow rodent of course. His voice was a tad muffled and he was a bit nut-obsessed, but friendly enough.’
‘Tell you what Bruce, there’s something odd about him, he’s got green feet and his tail’s tied to his back.’
‘The shoes are probably a fashion thing Harry and you know that red squirrels are a mite sensitive about their twitchy tails.’
Our two friends were distracted by the music again and Bruce started an impromptu ceilidh outside the ArtMap tent.
‘Nothing I like more than a ‘Strip the Willow’ Harry.’
‘I know Bruce, I’ve seen the photos!’ Harry ducks as another member of the public becomes airborne.
As the sun started to set our two friends took a well-earned break.
‘That was some day Bruce. It was great to meet up with lots of the folk we’ve seen at other events this year as well. I lost count of the number of hugs we got, even if they did make a bit of a mess of that herring I was saving for later’.
‘Couldn’t agree more Harry and it’s good to know that we and all our wildlife friends around Argyll are so popular.’
Bruce glanced across and his eyes met a very strange sight at the back of a tent, a man hanging up a suit that looked very much like Rusty the squirrel.
‘Am I really seeing that Harry or is my head still spinning from the last dance?’
‘I knew there was something odd about him Bruce, but I’ve seen this before. Sometimes humans dress up as animals for fun and other humans seem to enjoy being around them.’
‘I’ll have to take your word for that Harry, I think it’s time we headed for the lodge. Fancy tea at our place, Sheila’s doing alder bark shreddies followed by treecle tart?’
‘Very kind Harry, very kind. I will join you, but I’m not really into bark. I’ll pick up a fish supper on the way back, do you fancy some chips?’