Category Archives: Hedgehogs

If everything in the world were made of edible plastic, you would not have the problems caused by these green things

My eternally-un-named friend hunting for hedgehogs yesterday

Eternally-un-named friend hedgehog hunting

Yesterday afternoon, I was sitting having tea in a garden centre near St Albans – not my natural habitat.

My eternally-un-named friend had gone off to the Information Desk to ask about buying a hedgehog.

It is a long back story.

I have mentioned it in my blog before.

She is waging a war of attrition against slugs in my back garden.

“What did they say at the Information Desk?” I asked her on her return.

“There was this oldish guy there,” she said, “and I asked him Can you tell me where I can get hedgehogs? and he started looking at me slightly frowning.

“He said: Do you mean ornamental ones or real ones? and he was sort of frowning a bit more.

Real ones, I said.

“And he told me: There’s a place you can get them in Notcutts, but we can’t get them – and he’s still looking a bit oddly at me. They’re wild animals, you know, he says. You might be able to get them in Notcutts in Smallford. They have animals there. But I don’t think they’ll have them, because they do pets and a hedgehog is a wild animal.

“By this point, he was scowling even more at me, as if I’m a bad person who wants to buy a wild animal and you’re not allowed to. But, I said, you’re selling hedgehog homes, so I thought people must be able to buy hedgehogs.

Oh yes,” he said, “that’s to encourage any hedgehogs you already have to stay there. And all this time, he’s looking at me as if I’m a bit…”

“That you want to bake and cook hedgehogs?” I suggested.

“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “I think he thought it was like when you tie up a swan in your back garden.”

“They sell hedgehog homes?” I asked.

“Yes,” said my eternally-un-named friend. So we went over to look at them.

Hedgehog houses will encourage residency

Slate roofed hedgehog house (right) may encourage residency

There was one with a slate roof for £29.99, and one made wholly of wood for £44.99

“The other thing I’m thinking,” my eternally-un-named friend told me, “is that you have a massive ant problem in your garden.

“They’re all around. Scurrying. You can see them as you come up the road from Elstree station. They’re rife.”

“What happened to the ladybirds?” I asked. “You said you’d found a ready supply of ladybirds to kill the aphids.”

“I can’t get the ladybirds to kill the aphids until I’ve killed the ants,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “because the ants would kill the ladybirds.”

“How are you going to kill the ants?” I asked.

“I’ve got a load of white powder,” she explained, “and I’ve got sprays and I’ve been pouring boiling water on the ant nests. One day when you were away in Edinburgh I went out into the garden to pull out the dandelions – at least they’re not actually going round killing other things – and there were ant nests everywhere.

“The aphids are out the front on one of the plants. And every other day, I would take off the branches that had the aphids on and bin them, because the aphids sap the plant and there was always a little ant walking up the stalk trying to do something to an aphid.

“Those millions of invisible bugs that I put in the ground to kill the ants… Unfortunately they have to be kept wet and we had that dry patch for some time. They cost £11. I know that’s cheap per million, but they didn’t seem to be pulling their weight, so I put down the £3 white powder as well.”

“What if the hedgehog eats the white powder?” I asked. “It will die.”

“I have no idea,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “I’m dealing with ants at the moment. I haven’t found a hedgehog. Who else eats ants?”

“The French,” I suggested.

Anteater - the alternative to a hedgehog

Buying an anteater could be a viable alternative to a hedgehog

My eternally-un-named friend thought for a moment and then said, perking up: “We could get an anteater! It might be easier in the long run just to get an anteater. The problem is there are the ants AND there are the slugs. There’s a double enemy situation.”

“Or we could just get a Frenchman,” I persisted. “They’ll eat anything.”

“When you break open these ant nests,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “you see half of them have got wings, half of them are eggs about to develop and the other half are the ones running around doing things to aphids. That’s the problem. We have 150% of ants trotting backwards and forwards everywhere. it really is hell.”

“You see?” I told her, “Nature is a nightmare. That’s why I try to have nothing to do with it. Anything green is a nightmare. New cheese, old meat, anything with leaves or stalks. Nightmare. I try to have nothing to do with anything green. If everything in the world were made of edible plastic, you wouldn’t have these problems. It must be possible in the 21st century. Natural things are bad things.”

“Well,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “if part of Nature and wildlife is that hedgehogs eat slugs, it’s certainly not happening round Elstree and Borehamwood and I don’t see how hedgehogs are going to come to your rescue when you have main roads.”

“Tunnels,” I suggested. “We will have to build hedgehog tunnels.”

“I got a reply from Bob Slayer,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

A few days ago, she asked comedian Bob Slayer where she could get a hedgehog, on the basis he was brought up in the West Country and would know about such Nature-related things. Yesterday, he replied:

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society is based in Clee Hill near Ludlow where I grew up. I went to a local pony club with the daughter of the man who set it up in 1982 – Major Adrian Harcourt Coles. I thought he was dead, but I have checked and he is not.

“I remember he raised a load of money to put ramps in all the cattle grids on Clee Hill so that, if hedgehogs fell in, they could climb out. Then someone proved that hedgehogs don’t live over a certain height above sea level and that there are no hedgehogs on Clee Hill.

Hedgehog flavoured crisps

Hedgehog flavoured crisps were trendy

“In 1981, Hedgehog Foods Ltd decided, as a joke, to produce hedgehog flavoured crisps. To everyone’s surprise, the crisps were a huge success. But they were actually flavoured with pork fat and no hedgehogs were used in the manufacturing process.

“As a result, the Office of Fair Trading took them to court (in 1982) on a charge of false advertising. A settlement was finally reached when Mr Lewis of Hedgehog Foods interviewed gypsies – who actually did eat baked hedgehogs – to ascertain the flavour of hedgehogs. He then commissioned a flavourings firm to duplicate the flavour as closely as possible and changed the labels from ‘hedgehog flavoured’ to ‘hedgehog flavour’ and the Office of Fair Trading was satisfied.”

My eternally-un-named friend showed me Bob Slayer’s e-mail, then suggested: “If a hedgehog did get to your garden, it could have the run of the area. Your garden and other people’s gardens. There’s probably a good living for a hedgehog there.”

“And, if it ran out of slugs to eat, it could drink milk,” I suggested.

“No,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “They can’t drink milk. There’s an advert on television that says they’re lactose-intolerant. It’s an advert for lactose-free milk and they’re telling hedgehogs Yes, it’s OK to have this milk. I’m sure a hedgehog would like to live in your garden, although there is that fox around.”

“I saw it last night by the garages when I was parking the car,” I said. “We may have to set up a fox hunt. Where can we get horses and hounds? Can they be rented or do you have to set up a permanent hunt?”

“I think we should just get an anteater,” said my eternally-un-named friend.

“Or a Frenchman,” I said.

The debate continues.


Filed under Gardening, Hedgehogs, Humor, Humour, Nature

After the Edinburgh Fringe, glimpses of the real surreal world begin to reappear

A return to 21st century life in Edinburgh

A return to 21st century life even on the buses in Edinburgh

I am back in Edinburgh, after my trip to Wigtownshire, where my dead parents grew up as children – which is a lovely place, but no phone signal or sensible WiFi.

Here in Edinburgh, even the double decker buses advertise that they have on-board WiFi systems.

They trundle along streets now bereft of drugged, drunken and neurotic performers, as the Edinburgh Fringe circus has left town and its tents, walls, placards and egos have been or are being dismantled.

There is nothing as worthless as yesterday’s stars

There is nothing as worthless as yesterday’s stars

The 5-star review strips stuck on show posters are now coming unstuck in the wind, like skin rotting off a peeling corpse.

Look, the Fringe is a long three or four weeks and my ability to cobble together a decent simile ran out long ago.

Now the real world is beginning to re-assert itself in Edinburgh.

Or perhaps what I really mean to say is that the real surreal world is beginning to re-assert itself in Edinburgh.


A man with a message from God stood  in Princes Street

A white-bearded man was standing in Princes Street today with a large sign in five languages saying SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE IS SIN.

He was getting more laughter from passing strangers than many £7,000 Fringe shows got in four weeks at the Fringe. But he did not seem to care.

The only Fringe comedy game left in town seems to be Bob Slayer, who is still staging four shows per day in Bob’s Bookshop until the end of the month.

I presume this is because he has paid for the venue until then – or perhaps because he has access to a ready supply of cheap drink until then.

Meanwhile, my eternally un-named friend back in London is trying to persuade me to kidnap or buy any Scottish hedgehogs I may find.

My garden, she claims, has become a floral Himalaya of dandelions and ant hills… plus there is her rather unsettling ongoing genocidal obsession with slugs.

Mr Henry Hedgehog shown using or abusing a mouse

Mr Henry Hedgehog shown using or abusing a mouse

She tells me that, if I can kidnap or buy some hedgehogs, they will kill the slugs, although she seems to be vague about whether or not they impale them on their spikes first.

And there is some confusing story I do not fully understand about ladybirds feeding on the aphids which destroy my plants while the ants kill ladybirds to protect the aphids because they keep them on the plants to milk like cows.

My eternally un-named friend claims she has found a source of commercially-available ladybirds, but is unable to find a readily-available source of retailed hedgehogs.

I have tried to distract her by talking of the indiscriminate use of chemical weapons allegedly by the Syrian government in their ongoing civil war, but she tells me that the Middle East’s problems are really due to the disproportionate rights which men have in the region.

When faced with the double-fronted assault on my psyche of female liberation and buying hedgehogs to keep down the slug population, I fear I have been outmaneuvered and think I will have to find a ready source of hedgehogs which can be transported by car back to South East England. If anyone has any ideas for sources, let me know.

African pygmy hedgehogs available pre-loved

African pygmy hedgehogs are now available pre-loved

My eternally un-named friend – in an admirably-researched yet doomed attempt to enthuse me – says there is a source of African pygmy hedgehogs in Warrington, near Manchester, which I could pop into on my long drive home.

These pygmy hedgehogs are available from a site unsettlingly called Preloved: The Joy of Second Hand. They cost from £129.99 upwards and are said to be: “small and prickly and the very latest must-have pets. Would-be owners are happily willing to wait up to a year and will travel any distance to get their hands on an African pygmy hedgehog. These cute pets are a quarter of the size of a normal hedgehog and are fully domesticated and don’t carry diseases or fleas. They love being handled and rarely curl up in a defensive ball.”

My eternally un-named friend is quite insistent on my getting at least one hedgehog and her penultimate text message, perhaps sensing my lack of enthusiasm, says:

“I shall e-mail Bob Slayer and ask him where to find hedgehogs. He is from the West Country and must know about these things. If there are a lot of them, perhaps you could get four, keep two and give the other two to Martin & Vivienne Soan as presents.

Personally, I do not think this is a good idea.

Martin Soan is a performer best known for his naked balloon dance.

Nudity, balloons and hedgehogs can often result in tears and anti-tetanus injections.

Perhaps more relevant to the real world, though, is my eternally un-named friend’s last text message.

“My grandfather was gassed in Africa in the First World War,” it said.

‘Really?” I texted back. “I had thought it was only used on the Western Front although, now I think of it, we gassed Iraqis from planes in World War One.”

So it goes.

Only a few more days of post-Edinburgh Fringe surrealism and it will be back to BBC News reports and the real surreal world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Hedgehogs, Humor, Humour