Monday, 11 June 2007

Turtle Soup (and other culinary issues)

I saved a turtle’s life the other day.

Even as a regular rescuer of random wild animals, this is not the kind of statement that I find myself making on a regular basis. It reminds me of the enormous wall diary in my FE college, where I and the other students were supposed to record our activities for the campus radio station, but quickly started defacing the surface with surreal statements regarding tasks involving animals. “Save a turtle’s life!”, while not quite of the quality of "Made a crow burst into tears!, might have been worthy of inclusion alongside “Scared some pigs!” and "Messed with an otter's mind!".

But I really did save a turtle’s life in this instance. I first spotted it last summer, basking on the rotting jetty at the bottom of my garden. I even managed to take a couple of quick photos of it before it took a lazy dive back into Norfolk’s most famous town mere. I guess it was an unwanted pet, and it made me feel melancholy. Sure, it might have got to eat the mouldy bread that the town’s notoriously fussy ducks left behind, sup on the dregs from the mere’s ample supply of beer cans, but what was its sex life like? What did it do for conversation? After entertaining a few thoughts about rescuing it, or at least finding it a mate, I didn’t think about it again until the other morning, when I saw a strange shape next to the jetty.

From a distance, and I assumed the shape was the heron that sometimes visits the same area: there was a torso-like blob above the water and then, above it, something thinner. This was a busy deadline day and it was only at about 4pm that I took a closer look. What I saw, as I neared the end of the garden, was an upside down turtle, its head in the water, its shell above and above that, one leg, trapped in the wire mesh on the jetty.

My initial thought was that it was dead, but as I got onto the jetty, it twitched its leg slightly. By this point I'd gone into panic mode, and was thinking all sorts of irrational things, like, "What if it’s shell falls off and I turn it into the world's biggest snail?”. After an aborted, truly pathetic attempt to flick at the leg using some kitchen roll, I used some scissors to cut the wire mesh and it sprang free. A moment later, I saw the turtle swimming happily into the middle of the mere. Maybe I was a bit of a chicken not to have actually got hold of its leg, but somewhere in the back of my brain I could remember the phrase “snapping turtles”. Also, it had got a lot bigger since last year: its shell is now about the circumference of a an old vinyl album.

Which is more than I can say for Pablo.

Actually, Pablo doesn’t have a shell, but I feel sure that, if he did, he’d be crawling under it right at this moment. Two hours ago, Delawney jumped from behind a chair onto his head, and he hasn't been seen since. He’s generally become very distant recently, fearful of his brothers: not just of his long-time tormentor, Shipley, but also of the Bear, who has never laid a finger on him, but happens to be, like Shipley, black (does this make Pablo a racist?). He is also significantly skinnier than he was back in February and March. This is a phenomenon known as “Summer Pablo”, in which, whilst still having the diet of a medium-size rhinoceros, my most primitive-minded cat begins to shed his winter weight. After two years of this, we know not to be too alarmed, but it’s sort of difficult, when you’ve seen ginger pom-pom fluffiness turn to a redheaded streak of sinew in what feels like a matter of days. This has never happened to any of my more mimsy, domesticated moggies, so I wonder if it’s a feral thing?

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