The Plastic Hippo

October 27, 2013

A bustle in the hedgerow

Filed under: Environment,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 10:10 pm
Spiney Norman

Spiney Norman

It is, perhaps, the ultimate proof of failed parenthood when an announcement that the household alpha male has been followed home from the pub by a hedgehog provokes scant surprise or any comment from children glued to Family Guy on the television.

A couple of weeks ago, trudging back from the pub through a night that can only be described as “driech”, a movement in a hedge close to home suggested the presence of a rat. Quickening my step, I turned and saw a hedgehog emerge onto the pavement. I stopped; the hedgehog stopped. I moved on; the hedgehog followed. The vast majority of previous encounters with these creatures had led me to believe that they resembled flat, spiky fish and had external organs but this specimen was round and intact. There was no evidence of physical injury and it seemed in good health so I went home.

“No, really, a hedgehog just followed me home. It`s on the doorstep now.” The youngest cynic, already a veteran of tall stories from a dad full of Guinness, was the only one to respond, probably more out of sympathy than interest. Upon re-opening the front door and finding the hedgehog with wet and doleful eyes attempting to climb the step, the resultant “squeeee” (I believe that this is an acceptable use of language on Facebook) provoked the stirring of the household. Within moments the creature was wrapped in a towel and eating cat food in the kitchen. All advice regarding the hedgehog`s notorious reputation for harbouring fleas fell on deaf ears. A quick search found all manner of useful facts from The British Hedgehog Preservation Society and from West Midlands Hedgehog Rescue.

After reading the information, we decided that the hog was a juvenile desperately foraging to “bulk-up” for hibernation. Mercifully, it is illegal to keep a hedgehog as a pet in the UK so this latest freeloader would not be joining the growing menagerie of expensive familiars. Instead, the specimens of the expensive human menagerie were outside in the rain at midnight constructing a “hibernation nest” out of logs, newspapers and straw. I stayed indoors and opened the Bushmills.

The following morning, there was no sign of the new garden lodger and what laughingly passes for normality returned. That was two weeks ago. This evening as the light faded and faced with dire warnings of the end of the world due to the storm of the century, I nipped out into the garden to make sure that the Barbara Hepworth and the Henry Moore were secured to the ground and would not be blown away. There was a rustle in the undergrowth and, no, it wasn`t the wildebeest migration, but a hedgehog. As is evident, I lack any ability to recognise the bleeding obvious let alone an individual animal rummaging in soggy newspaper, but when emergency cat food supplies were airlifted from the kitchen, one of the children (I didn`t recognise which one) was sure it was “our” hedgehog returned like a prodigal. The cats looked on in high dudgeon as their dinner was scoffed.

If the beast survives this night`s super storm and the attentions of the scabby old dog fox that sometimes patrols these parts and the randy rabbit leaves it alone, it might last until the spring. If you are one of those people who at this time of year are inclined to celebrate the greatest missed opportunity in the history of parliament by burning bonfires, please poke your pyre with a stick to wake up hedgehogs before ignition. I understand that baked hedgehog tastes a little like chicken but there is a danger of involuntary, self-inflicted facial piercings.

As I click “publish” just before ignoring weather warnings and all that is sensible by going down to the pub, please wish me good fortune. Knowing my luck, I will be followed home from the pub by a zebra.

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