29 Apr 2009
"There's a mouse in the living room," said Trish.
That's not an uncommon way to start the day. By the time Trish had found her gardening gloves, the little critter had scarpered. She never got a good look at it - just knew it was there by the way the curtain was twitching and the cats were staring in that transfixedly hungry way.
When I entered the living room, I caught a movement out of the corner of my eye. Then I saw it and I was confused. Not a mouse, I realised quickly. Too big. I had to recalibrate: I'd been consciously expecting a mouse and my perceptual systems were geared for that. A vole, then? Recalibrate again. My morning, not-yet-caffeinated brain finally ground into gear.
I coralled it while calling to Trish to get her gloves on. After some chasing, she grabbed the slippery blighter.
The mole screamed and bit into the gloves. It was chomping its way through. Trish's fingers would be next.
Trish got it outside and dropped it into the cider press garden. That's the last of that, we thought.
We were, of course, wrong.
Half-an-hour later I was in the courtyard and saw it scurrying towards the house. Zola, our spaniel, and Rockwell, a tabby cat, looked on with faintly surprised fascination. It wouldn't be long, though, before they'd switch into hunt mode. I ordered Zola into the house and grabbed my gardening gloves.
Picking up a mole is harder than you might think. The fur is sleek and they squirm a lot. And they bite.
It turned and twisted and shrieked, waved its stubby little forelegs in fury and finally sank its teeth into the glove. I knew my time was brief.
I ran to the edge of the nearby wood and dropped the critter into a gap in some nettles, where the cats couldn't go after it easily. I thought I saw a wound in its side, so maybe it had already tussled with the cats. But I couldn't be sure. I hope it lives, for all that it so viciously resisted our attempts to help it.
I went to relate my story to Trish. She told me she'd just had an encounter with a very large spider. Then she ordered me to be very still and pass her a tissue. The spider?
No, thankfully. A caterpillar. A weird little bugger, too. It looked exactly like a small piece of lichen-covered twig, until it moved. It was about 5cm long with four big hind legs for gripping while its front end (with six more legs) reared up to look around. I managed a snap of it. If you know what it is, please tell us.