Bats


Sparkling dew greeted us on this glorious early autumn day, encouraging an early start in the garden.  I tackled the ivy once more, and Jackie, general maintenance, including a bonfire.  An incinerator built by Rob many years ago from the innards of two washing machines still does the job perfectly.

During lunch, Elizabeth spoke of her friend’s late mother, Audrey Randall, a teacher who was voluntarily involved in wild life rescue, particularly specialising in bats.  We had harboured bats in Lindum House.  We never learned exactly where they lived, but they would swoop to and from the eaves, especially at dusk.  Their darting flight put me in mind of swifts.  Only on one occasion were they spotted in the house.  I was lying in bed reading at about one o’clock in the morning, when two of these creatures flew through the open window and began to circle the room.  At first I thought they may have been attracted to the light, but, from the little I knew about bats, that didn’t make sense.  Of course, I reflected, many insects were attracted to the bedroom light and the bats were attracted to them.  Mat and Tess were staying at the house, with a New Zealand cousin of Tess’s.  I thought my son and daughter-in-law, who had only just gone to bed, might be interested, so I let them know about my uninvited guests.  Very soon the three young adults became invited guests.  The most excited of all was Tess’s relative, who just happened to be a student of bats.  I swear I hadn’t known that.  She just happened to be writing a paper on pipistrelles.  And there, clinging to my bedroom curtains, were two, probably terrified, pipistrelle bats.  The young woman, armed with a camera, remained in my company for some time after the novelty had worn off for Mat and Tess.  After she had gone, it only remained for me to get rid of the intruders.  One was easily persuaded out.  The other, obviously not having had its fill of insects, not so.  I just had to turn out the light and wait for it to leave.  It’s quite difficult to sleep when a bat is whizzing around your room in the dark.

During my second year at Wimbledon College, Bats was my form master.  On one parents’ evening, Mum was rather keen to meet him, because, as she told him, she had heard so much about him.  She knew he taught maths.  She knew that somehow he always knew who had perpetrated my misdemeanours, like smashing a light bulb during a plimsoll fight.  She knew he was much feared.  Naturally, therefore, on shaking his hand, she wished to let him know what a well-known figure he was in our household.  That would have been perfectly acceptable on its own, but, Mum, why, oh why, did you have to prefix this with: ‘so you’re Father Bats’?  Upon hearing this, Reverend Father Battersby, S.J., fixed me with an evil leer.  I can see it now.  But his eyes were smiling.   I wanted to disappear, yet surely Bats had heard this many times before.  Not that I knew that.  He can’t have held this against me, for it was he who offered me free membership of the school boxing club (see 10th. July post).  You’ll probably understand now, why I could not refuse his generosity.

After lunch Jackie and I went off to Haskins Garden Centre for some stakes, and on to R. Owton, butcher’s at Chalcroft Farm Shop, for a chicken.  They didn’t have any so we went to Sainsbury’s and bought three for £10.00.

Next to this shop lies, as does a fakir on a bed of nails, a wooden building which houses a sign-writing company.  This is not flat on the ground, but supported by mushroom-shaped stones, one at each corner, and one half-way along each side.  The stones are staddle stones, the job of which is to allow storage buildings to be lifted clear of the ground.  The buildings once stored produce such as grain or hay, keeping the contents free of ground level water, and preventing rats or other vermin from reaching them.  It was Jackie who recognised these artifacts and their purpose.  The wooden building rests on the smooth round tops of the mushrooms; the fakir has no such comfort.

This evening the three of us filled ourselves alfresco with Jackie’s stuffed marrow, donated by Christine Strohmeier.  It is of course a truism that non-one ever buys a marrow to stuff.  They are always donated by a proud kitchen gardener or allotment tenant. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and Elizabeth and I shared a bottle of Montpierre Shiraz 2011.  Afterwards we ate Sainsbury’s lemon tart and cream, followed by After Eight mints.  Elizabeth was unashamedly relieved when Jackie and I refused coffee.


8 responses to “Bats”

  1. I enjoyed your Bats anecdote. I’m where you at college? I was there from 1964 to 1969
    I’ve been living in France 37 years. Sammy would be amazed at how much French actually got lodged somewhere in my brain although it didn’t seem like it at the time.

  2. So interesting to read about the bats. Sometimes I watch them at dusk and I agree they are so much like the swallows with the speed of their swoops.

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