Since the British Parliament is back from the shortened Easter holidays, there is peace in the House of Parliaments. It seems to me the evil B***** word is under spell. Nobody says the word, nowhere a message about it and so they finally have time again to devote themselves to the important things of everyday life in England. And of course the gardening is at the top of their list. The lovely month of May is finally here and that’s why it’s high time to clean the grill, refuel the mower and move the living room more and more out to the terrace. For George it’s time to dig up brushes and buckets from the garage. The wooden fences, around the garden, need a new coat of paint. But first he has to go to ABC, a DIY store in Finchley. I expected a bulk purchase of primers, oil paints and colour glazes and was prepared not to see him again for a few hours. But far from it, already after half an hour he came back in a good mood. He had a small, light bag in his hand, not much bigger than a DIN-a-5 envelope. He threw it on the table with the triumphant comment: “One for three, two for five!” That means, he got a bargain and returns home victorious. He was successful to negotiated the full price down, but now we had twice something in the house that we can probably use at best once in our lives. No matter what you buy in England, you always get a second, identical item for free on top. And that’s why we have everything twice in the house, whether we need it or not. There are two tick pliers, two door lock de-icers and two replacement fluorescent tubes, of which even the first did not fit.
When I unpacked the phenomenal purchase, according to George, I was not badly surprised. I held four bright green plastic signs in my hand, with the imprint ‘Hedgehog Highway’. Meanwhile I am English enough to know where the boards will find their place. It will be at the two wooden fences to the neighbours on the left and right. Both fences are in typical UK construction, so two and a half feet high, absolutely opaque, starting right over the lawn and not very pretty to look at. They don’t serve as decoration, but as a protective wall for the Englishman’s PRIVACY, which he writes in capital letters. They signalize to every visitor: So far and no further! What happens within the fenced area is of concern only to the closest of relatives. Only to spouse, kids and dog(s). The shed is subject to stricter laws, where only the owner of the house is entitled to enter. Whenever somebody is moving into a new house, the first job he will do is to pull up an opaque wooden fence around the yard. Then he cuts immediately holes into it. That’s tradition and therefore not questioned.
It is no different with us. A little bit later two holes give way for the hedgehogs. When they trample through the gardens, they need a clear path. This is the ‘hedghog highway’, which is used by them especially in the evening and at night. Of course we can’t deny them that. George is in his element, he is a good craftsman, that brings his profession with him. He saws, grinds and drills. Then the work is finished and is immediately tested by him full of pride. “I’m very happy to look at that,” he begins his dialogue. “I’m a big proponent of making space for nature.” “Do you think the hedgehog can read the message?”, I ask him. “B***sh** a hedgehog finds its way alone.” He tells me, that the prickly animals don’t have it easy. In the gardens their pathes are blocked and in the wild they are threatened by badgers. So you have to help and create a gap for them. The hole must not be larger than 5in, which corresponds to the diameter of a CD. The hole allows the animals to move freely between gardens to find food and find a mate.”
Then I can only congratulate you on your good work and active help in finding a hedgehog partner. But one question remains unanswered. So for whom is the notice on the sign saying: ‘Please keep this hole open’? We know what the holes are for, and if neighbour dog Benny comes, he won’t care. If he wants to bury a bone at exactly this spot, he’s closing the hole faster than you could make it. “No, no, it’s neither for Benny, nor his mate. It’s for the next tenant.” Now, I get it. If you sell the house, the new tenants know why the fences have holes. The signs will tell that to them. “That’s a great idea, maybe you can use it to explain other shortcomings elegantly. I’ll definitely keep that idea in mind.”
A hedgehog has already arrived. He’ll come as soon as it gets dark. He’s cute but he’s not shy either. Anyway, in terms of volume. He makes a whole series of noises, some remind us of loud snoring, others are even more embarrassing, but all are loud. In any case, he seems to feel well and when the nights get milder, hopefully the hedgehog’s wife will be there soon, too, together with a crowd of children. If necessary, we can saw a few additional holes, which will be done quickly. And some extra signs are still on the chest in the hallway. We have no idea where we can stow them in a way that they can be found in case of an accident. But throwing them away doesn’t work, after all they were a ‘tough negotiated addition’ and so we can never give them away again. But George found the solution: “I think the fluorescent tubes still have room for the signs”.