I wanted to post something happy about our garden.
Since it's been so hot, Mr Fang and I have hardly stayed indoors in the evenings. We've taken to sitting in the garden waiting for the evening cool to descend, feeding the fish who now flock to the edge of the pond opening and closing their mouths, aquatic golden pac-men. As darkness falls we switch on the lamps at the side of the pond. It's lovely and peaceful.
The more you're out there, the more you notice going on.
We discovered there are frogs as well as fish. The first night we noticed we were out making a lot of noise talking with a friend. Suddenly a frog unselfconciously hopped out of the pond and made its way past our feet to the wall of the house, where the latest ant colony is trying to set up home. He spent the evening happily scoffing them down before heading back the way he came, ending his debut with a few swift laps round the lamplit pond. Then we spied another frog sitting right by a light catching the small insects that were attracted to it. And another. In't nature brilliant?
For a few nights now there's also been a strange rustling coming from one of the bushes next to the pond. We guessed at cats, birds, even rats... it never usually amounted to much. But other night we found out what was making it. Sitting in the gloom, enjoying the cool, the rustling began as it usually did. Then there was a new sound, a raspy, repetitive scratching sound. Whoever was in the bush had obviously decided we weren't a threat, so it was going to go ahead and make as much noise as it liked.
If you'd ever had a pet cat or dog you'd recognise this sound. It's the unmistakable sound of a hind claw furiously scratching at an ear. We grinned at each other and mouthed, "Hedgehog!"
A little later, after almost non-stop scratching at such a frantic level we desperately wanted to go into the bush and help, the hedgehog emerged. It looked sleepily around. It decided to have a scratch. Bumbling into the lamplight around the pond unaware or perhaps without a care that it had an audience, it stopped for another scratch. And another. It couldn't have put on a better comedy turn for us. We'd had a few glasses of wine at this point. The beleagured hedgehog kept interupting its movements to scratch, leaving us silently helpless with laughter. No doubt Bill Oddie would have had his head in his hands at our lack of respect for the distress of this poor wild creature. The frogs didn't think it was funny either. Every step the hedgehog made brought it closer to them - although it clearly wasn't able to concentrate on anything but scratching. One step. Stop for a scratch. Splash into the pond goes the nearest frog. Another step. Another scratch. A splash. A scratch. And so on, until all the frogs were in the pond, whereupon the hedgehog paused to look a little annoyed at our stifled giggles. With further comedic effect, it hauled its flea-plagued bulk over the small brick edging at the back of the pond and disappeared under a conifer. More scratching noises. Making the assumption the show was over we relaxed and howled with laughter.
This was quickly cut short by another hedgehog-shaped shadow barrelling into the pond area, passing right under Mr Fang's sun lounger. We stopped laughing to see a smaller hedgehog, who looked like it knew exactly where it was going, corner the pond and scramble rather more deftly over the brick to underneath the conifers.
Rustling ensued, then it all went silent. Was it a hedghog rendezvous? We waited with baited breath, wondering what the next noise was going to be. I think if we'd heard another scratch at this point we'd have been in hysterics. But what we did hear wasn't another scratching noise... Having never fully understood what gave hedgehogs the name 'hedgehog' before, I was about to find out.
The strangest racket began emanating from the lower conifer branches. HUMMMNAHAARUMPHHH, HUMMMNAHAARUMPHHHAAAA, HUMMMNAHAARUMPHHHA HA HARRGGGHHH! The lower branches were shaking. I shot a wild look at Mr Fang. He was doubled up again on his sun lounger with the giggles.
"What's going on?" I whispered frantically "Are they shagging?"
"No, you idiot," he shot back, "It's HEDGEHOGGING! That's why they're called hedgeHOGS...!"
We both collapsed with the giggles again. It really is a very funny sound. Now and again, the hedgehog stopped it's outrageously loud snuffling to listen to us, but pretty soon it realised it wasn't under any threat and we could talk normally.
I've seen hedgehogs before, of course, although they're mostly flat and therefore have a tendency to be on the quiet side. I've never heard them make the snuffling noise that gives them their name. I'd heard screaming at night, which is apparently what they do when they shag, but I'd always blamed that on cats.
It was nice to know the local wildlife felt comfortable in our garden. And I do mean was nice to know...
The night before last, I'd gone to bed early. Mr Fang was in the garden by himself enjoying a glass of wine. The frogs were by the lights at the edge of the pond catching flies. The hedghogs were snuffling for insects under the conifers. Indeed, all was right with the world.
Without warning, a large moth flew into Mr Fang's ear, startling him and causing him to cry out in alarm. He jumped up, and in his haste, threw the glass of wine all over himself. Yelping at the sudden wetness, and the tickly buzzing thing trying to find a nice dark place in his ear, Mr Fang did a little dance round the garden, trying desperately to make sure his ear was free of moth.
Plop! All the frogs dived into the pond.
The hedgehogs fled in fear of the stompy cursing thing to the garden next door.
We haven't seen or heard them since. I do hope they come back.