(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
The girls were busy playing on their computers answering the questions I set them and I was finishing my tea while checking my emails. Oh great, just what I didn’t need, a paper sent to a journal about the predation of edible dormice by tawny owls, needing to be peer reviewed. That could take a week for me to check over and it’s not really my thing. Edible dormice or Glis glis (Linnaeus could have suffered with a stammer, I suppose) is a very different animal from my beloved Muscardinus; it’s a noisy, aggressive illegal immigrant which is supposed to be destroyed on capture though because of the vagaries of the Wildlife and Countryside Act, may require a licence.
They’re spreading around England like wildfire considering they first escaped from Rothschild’s private menagerie at Tring in about 1902. For many years they remained in relatively small numbers but in recent years they seem to have exploded in population and are thought to be spreading at about 5Kms per year, depending upon which expert you believe. They’re not really my subject other than being mammals and dormice, as I’m a mammal ecologist, but they just don’t cut any ice with me unlike another continental species, the garden dormouse or Eliomys quercinus which I saw on Menorca, or the Balearic subspecies of that animal.
The edible dormouse is the largest of all the dormice species living today and is widespread across Europe, where some researchers consider they’re squeezing out Eliomys from its nesting places and possibly doing the same in this country to our native hazel dormouse. However, it looks as if the big bully is here to stay as there are probably too many to eradicate. I suppose they’ll continue to provide juicy meals for various mustelids, especially pine martens if they ever manage to recolonise the more southerly counties of England as they are probably the most arboreal of the badger family and quite capable of catching our furry interloper.
I read through the paper and wasn’t convinced by much of the research, which is being done by a PhD student—if this is based upon their dissertation, they wouldn’t pass at this university without something of a rewrite. Noticing the time I left the computer to start making up a salad for tea with the thing which will actually get the girls eating it, some homemade bread. David made us a couple of loaves yesterday and one has gone already—mind you, with Simon home, it does tend to reduce the shelf life of any home baked anything.
It was nearly all ready and I called Trish to come and make up a mix for a new loaf. She still enjoys doing it, filling the machine, and when she saw the pile of salad stuff growing on the table she grumbled until she spotted the loaf. My girls will kill for home baked loaves—at least in a metaphorical sense. I liked Alexie Sayle’s one liner at the Edinburgh festival about no longer using rhetorical questions, no point is there?
Simon arrived as I was thinking of declaring it teatime and his parents who’d brought him, entered with him. “If you’re here to try and persuade me some more, you might as well leave now.” I stated standing with my arms folded.
“No. I’ve come to see my grandchildren—is that homemade bread?” asked Henry and invited himself to eat with us. I got one of the crusts as Simon and he demolished the loaf in very short order with most of the salad and the accompanying cooked meats and fish. I made two pots of tea and was pouring the second when Henry declared. “That was every bit as good as the lunch we had at the hotel. Cathy, you make a terrific salad.”
“Much of it was grown in our own garden.”
“What—that bloody spaniel has watered all the lettuce?” asked Simon
“I did wash it.”
“I helped,” said Trish deciding she wasn’t going to be ignored.
“That’s good,” said Simon, “the problem with having a wife who’s a biologist is that you never know if you’re part of an experiment.” He then laughed at his own joke, which was probably just as well because everyone else groaned, even Lizzie.
“Can we pway tennis on you-ah Wii, Wivvie?” asked you know who and before he could refuse Trish was dragging Henry off to challenge to a game with the others cheering as she did so. Within a minute only Monica, Danielle and I were still sitting at the table sipping our tea.
“Like overgrown schoolkids, aren’t they?” suggested my mother in law.
Danielle rolled her eyes, “Yeah,” she sighed.
“So, young lady, have you got yourself a boyfriend yet?” asked Monica of our international footballer.
“Um,” she blushed, “not really.”
“What a pretty girl like you, don’t you like boys?”
“Yeah, course I do.” By this point she was as red as the average pillar box.
“You have had the odd boyfriend,” I said trying to steer the conversation away from my embarrassed daughter.
“Gotta go,” said Danni rising from the table and then sauntering out of the room.
“Oh dear, did I embarrass her,” said Monica knowing very well that she had and that it was deliberate, a sort of toy to play with.
“Didn’t you find such things embarrassing when you were sixteen, Monica?”
“I can’t remember that far back, but I doubt it. At her age, I’d reached double figures in the number of boys I’d dated and had sex with.”
It didn’t exactly surprise me and I suspect Monica’s hormones are one of the controlling influences in her life. “Really,” I said as much for something to say as anything else. “Danielle’s quite shy, like many adolescent girls.”
“She takes after you, doesn’t she? I’ll bet you were shy around boys at her age.”
I shrugged rather than answer her question, after all it should be common knowledge that at sixteen, I was still trying to survive in an alien culture living as a pretend boy. I also felt myself get rather warm so suspected my face was glowing hot enough to make toast on.
“Oh dear, am I embarrassing you, Cathy dear.?” Monica was really enjoying her moment of power over me and I was trying to work out if it was just her pulling rank by dint of age and being assigned the correct sex at birth, unlike Danni and I; or if there was something more than that—perhaps she gets off on doing the power trip. As she was a guest in my house, I’d ignore her abuse, because that was what it was in some ways, but in future I’d avoid her if I could which was a shame because I quite enjoyed Henry’s company.
Henry saved me from my torment by returning sweaty and his shirt open at the neck. “My idiot son has just beaten me at tennis—first time ever—I must be getting old. He said something about some cold drinks...”
I went to the refrigerator and showed him a door full of different sorts. He opted for a grape juice and swigged it from the bottle. “Right, Missus,” he addressed to Monica and ten minutes later they left, all of us waving them off from the drive way.
Later in bed I declared to Simon that, “I don’t want that predatory female near me or my children again, or I shall say or do something I shall regret.”
“She didn’t make pass at you again, did she?”
“No, thank goodness, but first she embarrassed the hell out of Danielle asking her about boyfriends and then turned her attention to me.”
“Don’t take any notice of her, just tell her to mind her own business.” It was all right for him, I was still fuming while he was snoring away an hour later.
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