September 22nd, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Snakes in a Car!

Yesterday was a strange day that began with chickens for breakfast. Not on the plate, but bursting unannounced through the French Windows - two of them, at great speed. The kittens were stunned. Gypsy, though, took it philosophically. We may not have had chickens invade our lounge before but, two years ago, we'd had three turkeys who used to wander in several times a day, make themselves at home and sit down by the door or in front of the television (they liked the wildlife programs)

Then came the snake. Thankfully, not into our lounge but out of our muck heap. I thought I'd make a start on mucking our vegetable garden for next year. I'd flung several forkloads from muckheap to garden when...

Hiss. I looked down to find I'd flung a one foot long snake onto the garden. It was not amused. It was rearing up, mouth open and hissing. But was it poisonous? We have loads of grass snakes on our land - including a four-foot long specimen in our stable roof. They lay their eggs in our muckheap but...

Weren't they supposed to be docile? All the grass snakes I'd seen either basked in the sun or slithered off at the first sign of human contact. This one was doing cobra impersonations and yelling abuse. And wasn't that a diamond pattern on its back and a V behind its neck. An adder?

Naturally this was the time that our two kittens, Kai and Xena, showed up. We had a King Cobra - or possibly an escaped rattlesnake - on our vegetable garden and two inquisitive balls of fluff on their way to play with it.

Kittens were scooped up and the Internet consulted. Several pictures later we decided that we couldn't tell the difference between an adder and a grass snake. We were 80% sure it was a grass snake but not kitten per cent sure.

So the snake had to go. Which meant... Snakes in a Car!

It was the only way to ensure it didn't come back. So I manfully donned some stout leather gloves and ... watched from a distance as Shelagh lifted the snake on the tines of a pitchfork and slid it into a bucket. Whereupon I raced over, covered the bucket with a lid and claimed half the snake catching credits.

I was then left holding the bucket - the very heavy bucket bulging under the weight of half a ton of python (or so I would tell Gypsy and the kittens when I regaled them later with my exploits of derring-do) - while Shelagh fetched the car.

And then off we raced. Snakes in a car! In fact, snakes in a bucket on my lap, the lid rattling as the killer grass snake - or maybe by now a giant Boa Constrictor - threw itself at the flimsy piece of plastic. Two minutes later we reached a woodland edge that looked perfect for giant wriggly things and I leapt from the car and freed the snake.

It was last seen crashing through the spinney, felling small trees as it slithered deeper into the wood.