May 27, 2011

High Drama

 

It has been a day of such protracted high drama I feel I should do tonight’s blog in bullet points. I will restrain myself. Well, from bullet points.

I was awakened this morning at an Ungodly Hour by the sound of someone knocking on my door. I opened one eye. And heard someone saying . . . in case they want to move their cars first. I was considering answering the door—I usually do consider answering the door if someone knocks on it: I realise this will come as a shock to those of you I have trained in my hellgoddessy approach to life—but fortunately the implications of ‘move the car’ penetrated before I got very far. Get dressed enough to move the car? Move the car where? Get dressed enough to walk back from Third House having moved the car? No. Whatever drastic thing was about to happen, Wolfgang would just have to bear it.

I closed the eye again. ROAR ROAR ROAR ROAR ROAR grumblegrumblegrumblegrumble THUNK. BANG. creakycreakyleverleverlever FWANG. I rolled over and put a pillow over my head (again). This was arguably worse than bats. FRAKFRAKFRAK CLANG. I gave up on sleep eventually and got up and got dressed, but it was too late to move Wolfgang. Whatever the roarer and gnasher was about, it was up at the top of the hill, and Wolfgang was behind it.

So I rang the Bat Conservation Trust. Polite young man on the other end of the phone, very professionally soothing . . . until I got to the FOUR HUNDRED AND TEN bats part and I could hear him moving my spot of bother up a category or two.* I’ve had several people who Shall Remain Nameless tell me that the last thing I should have done is ring up the official bat admin, because all they are interested in is bat welfare and if the bats want my house I can move into a tent in the back garden. Too late now. But I don’t want to drive my bats out or close down my nursery or anything—to try to do which would be illegal, just by the way—I only want them out of my attic, and it seems reasonable that the Official Bat Admin People would know the most about bats . . . ?  Well. The Nice Young Man said he’d send me a Trained Bat Worker to advise me on my problem.

The attic in daylight looks very much like it always used to. Attic. Carpet. Chair. Geraniums. Small chest of drawers. Ridiculous paper star-lanterns left over from my predecessor. Yoga mats. Wall of Sweaters.** Stuff. This is the horror-movie element: you know how the pathetic, traumatised survivors of the night strike of the vampires/zombies/triffids/extra-large termites/killer rabbits totter out after dawn to stare hopelessly at the landscape that used to be theirs?  Yes.  And when I want a sweater or a pair of All Stars I brace myself. . . .

The Roarer and Gnasher was still at it, so I finally went out to inquire. Nice smiling man looked up from where he was obviously striving with a major underground demon*** despite the (presumed) assistance of a very large vehicle making loud lurid noises. Main sewer blocked up, he said cheerfully. Oh, ah, I said. Doooooo carry on.

Atlas arrived at about the point that the R&G and its wrangler moved to the bottom of the hill for a fresh assault on the demon. We conferred, and then hellhounds and I went off for a belated hurtle. When I got to the mews I felt the need to moan to additional people† so I emailed Niall, who replied:

….you lucky person….they’re not bats…they’re the embodied souls of your readers that have passed away and can’t bear to be parted from you. They know that if they just suck a little bit of your blood,…….they can become handbell ringers too!

Thanks. Never go to a bloke for sympathy. No, wait, never go to a handbell ringer for sympathy. But in fact I’ve been thinking . . . Tabitha gave me a stern lecture on Creating Your Own Reality/Positive Thinking, and the downward spiral of fretting. Yes. I know. It does no good at all, it wastes your energy, and it’s a downer. I still fret. But I can’t help feeling somehow mythically at least a trifle responsible for the Largest Bat Nursery in Hampshire: what more appropriate way for hellgoddess energy to manifest in this world? I may confuse the issue with bells and roses and knitting and singing . . . but the warm beating hearts at the cottage belong to two hellhounds and a hellgoddess. And ninety squillion bats.

So after this unsatisfactory exchange with Niall I settled down to a little handbell practise and . . . discovered, of course, that (almost) successfully ringing Cambridge in the tower last night has pretty well trashed my handbell Cambridge. GAAAAAH. Here I’ve just been thinking that I can finally see some useful relationship between learning methods on handbells and in the tower and . . . GAAAAAAH.†† I mean, I did a little homework last night, just in case I was going to get to ring Kent or Cambridge, and I felt I was risking enough by looking at two methods at the same time: this tends to result in Kridge or Cament. I suppose getting away with it last night had to come out somewhere. GAAAAAAAH. But I persevered. Because I am a sap.

And you know what? We’re beginning to stagger through to the end of a plain course of the wretched method—Cambridge, I mean, on handbells, not Kridge or Cament.††† I went into tonight’s practise thinking, you know, Cambridge on handbells may literally be too much for me. ‡ I may not be able to do this. And came out the other end thinking, no, damn it, I can do this. I just need a little more practise.

And so, suddenly and absurdly confident that I can do anything . . .

I went to Muddlehampton Choir practise tonight. Yeeeeeeeeeeep. . . .‡‡

* * *

* He also attempted to be reassuring by telling me that bat mums only have one offspring per year. I KNOW, I said. THAT’S STILL EIGHT HUNDRED AND TWENTY BATS. —All right, more like six hundred and fourteen, assuming half of last year’s are the babies and half of them are boys. And that the girls all lived to grow up and get pregnant. And that my arithmetic has more of a clue than usual. Whatever. Lots of bats. Which seems to be the theme recently. Lots of bats.

** And backlist. The All Stars shelves climb up the chimney.

*** Possibly a zombie or vampire.

† And Peter has his own problems. We need a roarer and a gnasher down here to deal with his kitchen sink. I said this morning, it’s better than bats. I’m not sure about that, Peter said thoughtfully. 

†† Niall is not helping. He says I should be learning third or fourth place bell for the tower because it will blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and then Colin joins in and says oh yes blah blah blah BLAH BLAH BLAH and pretty soon they have peace in the Middle East and Obama elected for a second term. And I can ring a quarter peal of Bristol Surprise Maximus.

††† Although Colin has this hilarious habit when he and I have derailed yet another attempt—since it usually is one of us, it’s rarely Niall, although he goes wrong occasionally just to make us feel better—of saying, Robin, ignore me, you just hold your line and I’ll figure it out. CHANCE WOULD BE A FINE THING.

‡ I’ve said this before, haven’t I? It feels kind of familiar. Hey, Cambridge is hard. Even on one bell.

‡‡ Hint: all their sopranos were home with flu/young lovers/knitting deadlines. There were about twelve altos and . . . two sopranos. One of the altos switched sides. That made three sopranos.

I sang with the sopranos. And when he needed first and second sopranos that meant there were two of us. . . . I was not a credit to either Nadia or Oisin—or Blondel—but I sang.

Invasion

 

I was in the garden for a long spell this afternoon, a topic not without interest (to me, anyway, which means blog), and then tonight was one of Wild Robert’s occasional next-step-up ringing seminars—I hesitate to call them upper level, although they’re upper level to the likes of me, who wasn’t originally planning to get even this far—and I actually made it to this one. There are gremlins between me and Wild Robert’s seminars but we FOILED THEM AT LAST tonight and I went and it was brilliant and I was going to tell you all about it.

So I went back to the cottage on a high of Kent, Cambridge, Stedman and Little Bob, brain dead, but who cares? It was worth it.*

I went back to the cottage because Peter was playing bridge tonight, and I don’t leave hellhounds to their own devices at the mews. If there’s going to be a nasty accident, I’d rather it happened at my house.  At a little after nine, leaving the tower, it was still daylight; twilight was finally arriving as I got home. I turned the hall light on as I went upstairs. I pulled curtains closed. I was thinking about bells, and the amazing, the fabulous excellence of Wild Robert, who can haul me through Cambridge.

There was a funny noise.

It seemed to be coming from the attic.

It was a sort of whirring noise.

I had opened the attic hatch this morning, you know.** And closed the window. Just to be, you know, sure. Sure that Atlas’ bat-blocking manoeuvres had been successful.

I stood at the foot of the ladder and looked up. There was enough twilight coming in through the big Velux roof window to see . . . little flying things. Lots of little flying things. Lots and lots of little flying things. Zapping back and forth. With, I might add, every evidence of enjoyment. These were not the poor lost solitary things I’ve had downstairs, bouncing off my geraniums and getting mixed up in the bed canopy. These were bats doing what bats do, which is whizz around. Hilariously. While this does, unfortunately, put paid to EMoon’s attractive theory that my one-at-a-time visitors heretofore have all been only a single hero-worshipping adolescent bat dazzled by the hellgoddess schtick, I would have no trouble believing that these were the original adolescent rebel and her eighty-four closest friends. There were high jinks being expressed in my attic. There were aerial acrobatics of a majestic order. There was also some semaphoring of frustration: bats kept landing—with tiny pattery whups—on the window and creeping briskly along the sill as if to say, where’s the frelling exit? I know there was one here yesterday. . . .

Lots. And lots. And lots. And lots of little flying things. Quite amazing numbers of little flying things. There were four hundred and ten of them last year. And let us not forget—I have not forgotten—that the returnees are all pregnant.

And I was going to have to go up there. And open the window. And CLOSE THE HATCH.

Different people have different breaking points, of course. I could have simply grabbed the hellhounds and shot out the front door, never to return, at least not until morning. Not as if I don’t have two other houses to choose from. Or I could have (maybe) found something to hook round the handle of the hatch and slammed it shut from floor level. But . . . that’s my house. That’s where my bed is, not to mention the hellhound crate: sleeping anywhere else is going to be a large frelling nuisance, and will probably involve the stealthy self-insertion of hellhounds at some untoward hour. And—speaking of breaking points—there is no way I’m going to close the hatch on (apparently) ever-increasing numbers of bats in my attic with my All Stars and my cashmere sweaters with no exit. I mean, yes, the bats could turn around and go back the way they came, but they clearly aren’t going to: on the contrary, there are more and more of them coming in.

Do it before you have the chance to think about it too much. I climbed the ladder. I crouched at the top. Given the aerobatic fantasies this lot are performing their echolocation whatsit is working fine and they can just avoid me. I’m sure they could.

They didn’t.

You know that hoary old urban myth about how low-flying bats can get tangled in your hair? Well, keep your hair combed. They won’t get tangled in it, they’ll just fly through it. I HAD BATS ON ME. None of them stayed longer than a wingbeat, but they touched me as they brushed past, and when I finally forced myself to stand up to open the window—and, just by the way, I have to stand on tiptoe, reach up as far as my gorilla-length arms will reach, and yank repeatedly on a horrible stupid bar to get that ungleblarging window*** open—THIS IS NOT A COMFORTABLE POSTURE WHEN YOU’RE BEING DIVEBOMBED BY HUNDREDS OF BATS—when the beastly bar finally unlocked and I could push the bottom out, I had several bats patter swiftly over my hands . . .

I don’t know about bats. I don’t know what they thought they were doing. I didn’t feel assaulted or attacked. I felt totally freaked out, but that’s a different issue. What I felt like was the new vaulting horse for the third-grade gymnastics class. Ooooooh, look at this one—I bet I can do a triple somersault and a back flip. . . .

I also don’t know how many bats were in my attic tonight. A dozen? Twenty? Seventy-six thousand and twelve? But even with several of them on each of the two windows—the smaller, end window is the other side of the attic and I wasn’t even going to try to get over there and open it—there were still enough of them to be simultaneously scorching around the attic and parting my hair.

Lots.

I went back down the ladder and closed the hatch, and please, Kindly Bat God, the nice one responsible for pregnant adolescent bats having a really good time, let none of them be downstairs exploring further when the hellhounds and I return to the cottage†. Yes, I rang Atlas, and he’s coming back tomorrow, bless him. And tomorrow I am so ringing the national bat people. Block Visible Holes indeed. Because the thing that is worrying me most is my sense, tonight, that the reason they were so jolly is because they’re colonising up there. My attic is now part of the bat nursery. Because I’m almost sure I saw a few bats fly in the opened window as well as out. . . . ††

* * *

* And while I still want to sing tonight, I haven’t yet learnt to engage my brain with the process, so I won’t miss it.

** Anyone who follows me on Twitter does know.

*** It’s on the list for replacement. It’s been a ratbag since I moved in. But I hadn’t realised how crucial its ratbaggery was going to be.

† After I finish this very large bar of chocolate.

†† A good half dozen came steaming around the corner of the house and sped up the cul de sac as I was locking the front door. Hellhounds looked at them interestedly.  I may have whined a little.

Concerning a hoped-for absence of bats

 

I’d been expecting Atlas back at the cottage this morning, to continue with the barricade. I got up so I would be not merely awake but upright and dressed when he arrived. Articulate was going to be pushing it, but I’d be chugging my first cup of tea down as fast as possible.

He didn’t show up. Arrrrrgh. No, wait, that may be aaaauuugh. What if the Evil Bat God, the one who is planning on taking over the planet, and putting water back in all those drained swamplands to create more mosquitoes, good luck in the weather around here honey, heard that Atlas as my instrument was trying to limit the reach of the Largest Bat Nursery in Hampshire, and, employing regiments of bats working in perfect consonance and symmetry* stole Atlas’ distributor cap**, let all the air out of his tyres and put sugar in his petrol tank?

So after potting on a lot of gasping snapdragons*** hellhounds and I ventured up to Third House to find . . . Atlas peacefully getting on with staining the new door.† About the bats, I said. He looked at me in surprise. I finished yesterday, he said.

Finished? I said. Where is the steel cladding? Where are the six watchtowers, and the martial-arts-trained sentries?

Atlas, fortunately, is a little used to me. No, he said, don’t worry. The wake of destruction left by the cowboy plumber has been sealed, corked and stoppered.†† If they’re still getting in . . . they’re getting in somewhere else.

So . . . I said with deepest reluctance. I should open the attic hatch and . . . see what happens.

Yes, he said, not without sympathy. If you’re still having bats, ring me, I’ll come back. †††

I went back to the cottage and stared at the (closed) attic hatch. I’m going to open you, I said, and found myself downstairs making a fresh cup of tea. It’s been like that the rest of the day. Every time I go upstairs, I’m going to open the attic hatch, and the next thing I know I’m downstairs cavorting with hellhounds or in the garden planting dahlias. ‡

Meanwhile I’m becoming increasingly schizophrenic about my lodgers. Peter and I went to my Bowen massage lady today‡‡ and I was telling her about my bats and she said oh, how awful, it’s like a horror movie or something, bats swooping at you and getting tangled in your bed canopy‡‡‡—and I said, no, no! They’re little! They’re cute! They’re warm and furry! They’re pregnant mums, and they feed their babies milk!

I JUST DON’T WANT THEM IN MY LIVING SPACE. I ESPECIALLY DON’T WANT SEVERAL HUNDRED OF THEM IN MY LIVING SPACE. SEVERAL HUNDRED FECUND ONES.§

I have to go back to the cottage now, and go to bed. And stare at the attic hatch some more. I am trying to take comfort in the fact that I haven’t seen another bat in the kitchen. . . . 

* * *

* Exactly how I would not like to moot

** Do cars still have distributor caps? It’s been a long time since I’ve done anything but take a car to a mechanic and say ‘fix it please’.

*** Last time I went to the garden centre the snapdragons weren’t on sale yet. Went yesterday and they were not merely available but cracking their little Styrofoam trays and sending roots twisting down the legs of the display tables. That was before I picked up the bag of exploding Sterilised Farmyard Manure. The Evil Bat God is definitely on my trail.

† The new front door! Yaaaaaaaay! The old front door belongs to the same mindset as the plastic baronial chandelier that used to hang in the hall. I haven’t got round to replacing the light fixture, but the naked bulb looks a lot better.

†† Note that the hole Atlas thinks was the likeliest bat portal is one I hadn’t even seen. This is why I love Atlas.

Note also that the cowboy plumber was nothing to do with me. Another of my predecessor’s blunders.

††† This is a handsomer offer than you realise. Atlas has about as much spare time as I do. Spare? Time?

‡ Just on the mark for a TOTALLY FRELLING UNSEASONAL FROST. IT’S SUPPOSED TO GET DOWN TO FREEZING TONIGHT. IT’S THE END OF RUMPLEHAMMER MAY IN SOUTHERN GRANGBLATTING ENGLAND. GIVE ME A (*&^%$£”!!!!!! BREAK.

‡‡ I love this business of going in tandem. In this weather I sit in Tabitha’s garden for the entire hour that she’s pummelling Peter, soaking up rays, breathing in the scent of her roses, listening to the water running through and over Tabitha’s-husband-the-architect’s complex of channels, statuary, tiny step-falls and shallow pools of big shiny pebbles, and knit. And . . . um . . . I’ve started the sewing-up of Secret Project #1. Um. What am I missing, about the unspeakable horrors of sewing up?^ It’s just frelling mattress stitch—well, what I’m doing is just frelling mattress stitch. It’s a little rustic but then anything involving the squares I’ve knitted is going to be a trifle rustic. I’m also doomed because I’ve used three different kinds of yarn and am deliberately putting the different colours next to each other—and the mottled-green yarn doesn’t go with itself. There is a certain creativity involved in getting the edges to match up . . . and since I haven’t had a clear idea how much tail I should be leaving there’s going to be an awful lot of extra ends after I finish sewing up the holes. Still. As horrors go, this one is kind of a non-starter. I’ve no doubt I’ll feel differently if I ever get to the end of some garment for which rustic is not appropriate. Off hand I can’t imagine this happening any time soon.

^ Barring trying to use your nobbly yarn. I am not driven too mental by knitting with it any more—beyond the fact that my knitting is still a little nobbly generally—but SEWING UP with nobbly yarn??!???? First I had to rip it the frell out, and then I CUT OFF ALL THE NOBBLES AND DID IT AGAIN. Arrrrgh. But the nobbly squares have long, sew-uppable tails like all the other squares. Because I thought I was using them for sewing up. MY MISTAKE. GAAAAAAAAH.

‡‡‡ Tabitha didn’t say this, but what kind of fruit loop has a bed canopy in the twenty-first century anyway? It’s not like I’m keeping out malaria mosquitoes. Yet. They’re supposed to be on their way to southern England, if the science guys don’t get ’em first. If it’s a choice, I’ll keep my mosquito-eating bats. . . .

§ Bats are the second-most speciose^ group of mammals after rodents. The approximately 925 species of living bats make up around 20% of all known living mammal species. In some tropical areas, there are more species of bats than of all other kinds of mammals combined. (Hill and Smith, 1984; Nowak, 1991; Vaughan, Ryan, and Czaplewski, 2000)

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Chiroptera.html

I didn’t know this. I’m trying to tell myself that the fact that there are nine hundred and twenty five SPECIES of bats has NO relevance to how many pipistrelles are living in my roof.

^ Rich in number of species.

http://www.defineonline.com/Definition.aspx?Word=speciose

I Should Not Be This Tired

 

They’re vampire bats. And any night now I’m going to rise from the dead and . . . I dunno, lately I’m thinking that the superhuman strength and tirelessness would be worth never going out in daylight again. Maybe. I get to keep the champagne and the chocolate, don’t I? Even vampires have peccadilloes. And Con drank some orange juice (probably).

I’m sinking the medicinal champagne right now, and the chocolate is soon. In the middle of my singing lesson today Nadia’s mum came in and laid a bar of chocolate on the edge of the piano. From your brother, she said.* I love my brother, said Nadia. And no, this hadn’t even registered with me as slightly bizarre behaviour for the middle of a voice lesson—I mean, this is chocolate. The world keeps turning because of the existence of chocolate. Nadia looked at me apologetically. I ran out this weekend, and then I forgot to bring my wallet, she said. I shuddered. If that ever happens again, I said in all seriousness, email me**, and I’ll bring you some Green & Black’s. I’m not sure if the look she then gave me was of one woman who knows what keeps the world turning to another, or a, isn’t this supposed to be a singing lesson? look. And she didn’t unwrap the chocolate till I was on my way out the door. She’s so professional.

Atlas has been striving with the Visible Holes in the attic all day—I didn’t get back in time to ask him how it went, but I notice, somewhat uneasily, that the attic hatch is still closed. If he doesn’t finish tomorrow, it’ll be another week of small ricocheting raiders about the place before he can come back. The plan is that he’s going to do what he can see to do in the attic, and then we . . . wait. Which is to say that I open the attic hatch again but keep the dustcloths ready. And maybe sleep with a pillow over my head anyway just so I don’t get woken up by . . . anything. I’m sure I can hear the next several dozens of expectant bat mums flying up my eaves. If—supposing he finishes tomorrow—this week is just as rowdy as last*** then he will start going over the rest of the house for horrors like the open trench in the kitchen ceiling. He says bracingly that there won’t be a problem with blocking the inner labyrinth because, of course, any wandering bats can always turn around and go back the way they came. Yes. Like the brontosaurean raccoon who died under the doorsill between my kitchen and sitting room at the beginning of one long Maine winter could turn around and go back the way it came.† And may I say that while Atlas is a wonderful human being†† and thorough he is not cheap and I don’t know what the Bat Proof Super Sealant costs either. It’s all very well that we’re not allowed to disturb our bats†††, but where are the government grants to cover the costs of remedial construction to enable us to live in peace and amity with each other?‡

Meanwhile I’m so tired I didn’t go bell ringing at Glaciation tonight: Niall is ringing some superfluous handbells, the traitor, and I don’t think I’m safe to drive. Which means I would have rung like . . . like a pipistrelle trying to find her way out of the bed canopy‡‡, so it’s probably all for the best.‡‡‡ I’m almost too tired to knit. Not quite. And I did cheer myself up briefly, after I told Anthea I wasn’t coming to bell practise, by buying two pairs of vintage pink plastic knitting needles on Etsy.

* * *

* Clearly Wild Robert is a man of many unsuspected virtues. And here I thought he just rang bells.

** You’ll note I said email. Not phone.

*** No, no, no, no, NO NO NO NO NO. . . .

† It was probably a mouse. It smelled like a brontosaurus. For several months.

†† He hoovered before he left today. The upstairs hallway is now cleaner than it was before he sawed or drilled anything.

††† That they are disturbing me is entirely beside the point, of course

‡ And no, I haven’t talked to any officials at the Bat League since the advice from the local Bat Squad to Block Visible Holes. I basically don’t want to know—at least not yet. The idea that there would be any financial support for major corrective surgery to a small cottage in Hampshire is a bad joke in poor taste. But there are all kinds of unworkable conservation-of-this-or-that rules out there that simply exist, and you can cope or die: I’ve seen a few friends going under from the fiscal strain of owning a ‘listed’ building—there are practical drawbacks to living in a country quite as history-ridden as this one, however passionately you support the charities devoted to preserving as much of it as possible. And I know a few churches have had their budgets strained to breaking because they’ve got bats in their roofs. I don’t know the ends of any of these stories, and right at the moment I don’t want to.

‡‡ Or possibly like a dead raccoon

‡‡‡ Being this tired is never for the best.

Whimper

 

When I reeled downstairs this morning to make my Sunday morning extra-super-strength BLACK BLACK BLACKER THAN THAT tea, which is the crucially necessary rocket fuel for service ring*, I was just about awake enough to notice . . . ahem . . . there seemed to be more dust on the kitchen countertops than usual. Not a light, tactful layer such as might accumulate on the Aga overnight** but great fat gobbets of the stuff, like the early stages of a planet coalescing out of the atomic murk.*** NO NO NO I thought, I AM NOT THINKING ABOUT THIS. Tea and bell ringing is enough for early Sunday morning. I am NOT THINKING about how these hairy rolls of dust remind me of what might be the result of some light wing sweeping across the tops of my cupboards†. . . .

Furthermore I have CLOSED the hatch door into the attic . . . I do not want to think that there may be other exits.††

I was, however, not terribly surprised when I got back from the florist’s after ringing and picked up my flower bucket†††, which lives beside the kitchen sink . . . and discovered a bat in the bottom of it. Oh expletive, I said, aggrievedly, and tipped her outdoors under the triffid.‡ I then decided to finish the dusting job she’d started‡‡, and while I was up there—remember the cottage has tall walls: I can stand on the Aga and still have head clearance—had a wary look around. The corners all look pretty solid, but . . . there’s a whacking great beam that runs the width of the cottage ceiling. And behind it, tucked cosily into the ceiling, is a massive great open gutter chopped out for the wiring. Which seems to disappear into the walls at both ends.

If my bats are cruising through the wiring channels in this little old house . . . I am so frelled. I am sooooo frelled.

Meanwhile, after several people posted/emailed/tweeted about dealing with bats and Blocking Visible Holes I decided I wasn’t going to try to do the job myself with duct tape—I was going to hire Atlas to do it. Among other things he’s going to know which gaping service holes you can afford to squirt expanding foam into, and which will make the house explode if you try.

But I admit my hysteria level is rising somewhat. I was in the attic this afternoon, beating back the encroaching tides of stuff§ so Atlas would have room for whatever sorcery he was going to have to employ. I had closed the hatch and cracked the window two nights ago . . . and while the floor hasn’t been exactly pristine in a while§§ there is clearly something going on up there that wasn’t going on a week ago. And ‘block visible holes’? The round plumbing pipes all plunge into large, roughly hacked out square holes. And the plasterboard that serves as a ceiling appears to have been odd bits rescued from a tip, and none of them fit against any of the others.

I’m telling myself that if you’re going to have a wildlife invasion, pipistrelles are probably about as good as it gets. They’re tiny, in a country that has about one case of rabies in a decade they’re harmless, they don’t eat your wiring or chew your woodwork, and their crap is dry and crumbly. They may even eat your clothes moths.

But I had four hundred and ten bats in my roof the end of last season. My modest little cottage contains the largest bat nursery in Hampshire, according to the local Bat Squad, who counted them.§§§ And this is the time of year that the mums are setting up this year’s nursery.

And they’re protected. It’s illegal to disturb them.

Yeeep. Yeeeeeeeeeep.#

* * *

* Bell? Rope? Wha’? What time is it?

** Yes, I’m an appalling housekeeper. Although I don’t mind housework itself all that much, I mind the time it takes a lot. And if I have a tidying impulse I tend to spend it on the garden, which is a lot more interesting. Things happen in a garden.^ But very slightly in my defense allow me to say that the Aga’s chief fault is that she is a dust factory. She has many virtues and I wouldn’t want to be without her . . . but she creates dust the way humans create carbon dioxide: by breathing.^^ You really do have to give her a quick mop off every day, unless you fancy being able to see that you didn’t by the dust-ring your tea mug makes. Any pot, pan, vase, mug, or general surface area you haven’t used in over a week . . . well.

^ Although things happen indoors too. Especially lately. I suspect the suicidal leap one of my geraniums took off its windowsill yesterday had some help. SIIIIGH.

^^ Hellhounds create hair similarly. If you watch them closely as they sleep, you can see the tiny hair-launches with every outbreath.

*** My kitchen, the laboratory.

† And who leaves open cupboard tops in a kitchen with an Aga in it, for pity’s sake? My predecessor could have run them up to the ceiling and put doors on them. If I ever pay off Third House I’m going to replace both the cupboards and the countertops at the cottage. If you would be so kind as to direct your closest three million friends to buy my books.

†† I urgently don’t want to think the exit(s) is in the attic, but I’ll get to that (again) in a minute.

††† You know you’re supposed to cut the stems again and then let them soak in water up to their necks? This is worth the trouble. The florist loads me down with the end-of-week stuff she can’t sell, and a surprising amount of it lasts a surprisingly long time if treated seriously.

‡ This one was lively for midmorning. Not so lively that I was worried about her getting out of the flower bucket—I don’t think she could: it was too narrow to spread her wings^—but definitely taking an interest in her unprepossessing surroundings. When I dropped her under the honeysuckle she walked promptly over to a stem and began climbing. I have always thought of birds when I think about the pegasi’s hands but that one finger pipistrelles have left over from the wing membranes is useful, which I don’t think ever happens at that joint on a bird’s wing, does it?

^ Which begs the question of how she ended up in there in the first place. Someone posted in response to my inquiring testily why I keep finding bats on the floor, that they collapse there in exhaustion. Oh dear. I don’t like having small furry flying house guests but I don’t like thinking about what a really awful time they must be having either. But my flower bucket is only about six—seven?—inches across at the top, fifteen inches high, and it’s half-tucked under one of the dust-covered cupboards. What was she doing?+

+ And, may the patron saint of bats help us all, what other bat-traps are there in this house that I need to check before there are dead bats in the bottoms of them?

‡‡‡ Cough cough cough cough hack gak sneeze

§ Yes, of course I have Third House. An attic is still an attic, which is to say a magnet for stuff.^

^ Note that the All Stars collection lives at the cottage. Ahem.

§§ See: appalling housekeeper

§§§ Teach me to garden organically.

#I prefer Elizabeth Moon’s version. She wrote me today:

I just figured this out. It is the same bat, an adolescent female bat, who does not want to spend her life alternately eating bugs and hanging upside down and having bat-babies. She was born in a writer’s house, in your bat nursery, and she’s figured out that you are a very special person. For one thing, you don’t hang upside down all day and eat insects at night. For another, you tell stories.

She thinks, by hanging [sic] around with you, she can learn to be a writer and tell her own stories, and then she can give up the hanging upside down, the annoying attentions of the pimply boy bats her age, and spend her days smelling roses, playing with yarn (she doesn’t quite understand knitting^), singing, and so forth. At night, she could go to belfries and–though she does understand she can’t ring–she could watch you ring and catch any flies or mosquitoes^^ that bothered you. . . . it came to me that this young rebellious bat just wants to be you. Tiny All-Stars on her feet. Pink something (it would have to be very light…)^^^ She may be wondering if she could train a couple of beetles to play hellhound to her hellbat. . . .

I like this version a lot. I especially like the only one bat part.

^I’ll teach her. She’s got two fully functioning fingers on her wing-hands, and prehensile four- (I think) toed claws on her feet.

^^ This would be very popular.

^^^ Ankle bracelet? I’ll plait her a pink friendship bracelet. In thanks for the mosquitoes.

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