Susan Hill Susan Hill

Diary – 26 September 2009

Susan Hill opens her diary

‘Be very careful, Susans, I have find an adder in the wheelbarrow.’

‘Nah, it’ll be a grass snake, Spiros.’

Stern glare. ‘Susans, don’t forget I am from Corfu.’

‘OK, it’s an adder.’

All God’s creatures are welcome here — but an adder? I was treated for my wasp allergy by Professor David Warrell, a world expert on venoms, snakes a speciality, and he says, ‘Never underestimate the humble adder.’

Oh, don’t worry. I now know what to do, am reassured that adders do not strike out at random and the household is on high alert to wear Wellingtons in long grass at all times. Naturally the adder has vanished. Spiros says it emerged to bask in the one day of warm sunshine this summer. Shakespeare agrees.

Badgers are no more welcome. There is a subterranean maze of their tunnels here and they are not the dear old stripy Brocks of The Wind in the Willows. They are wild boar on short legs, and present an exciting challenge to the Border terriers. Last week, they escaped — again — and little Poppy returned in a sorry state, having shoved her snout into a badger hole and encountered the inhabitant. There were deep claw marks down her face, and a nasty open gash under her chin. Sedation, stitches, injections, tablets, several journeys to the V-E-T (we don’t say the word aloud in case they hear). But when you ring the out-of-hours vet they reply immediately and open up the surgery no matter what — and if you cannot transport your wounded animal, they willingly come out to you.

When did you last manage to speak to a GP out of hours, let alone get a home visit? Meanwhile, badger numbers increase, carrying TB and other foulness, lumber across roads causing accidents and are a general rural menace, but they may not be gassed, shot, or otherwise culled.

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