'There's cat shit on the floor in here' said Emma as she looked into what used to be our conservatory and is now a chaotic laundry room.
From my angle and with my 7.00am blurry eyed goggles on I couldn't see what she was talking about. I wasn't taking any chances though, and there followed a brief 'exchange' on the subject of who might have left the conservatory door open and who should therefore clean up the mess.
Thinking no more of this episode other than to resolve to remind Emma to shut the door next time, I went about my usual business. A full day's work, an evening meal, an hour-long soak in the bath, and a two-hour visit to my mum's house. It was Thursday, and my mum's house is the only real safe haven from Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy and Third Watch.
I got back late to find that Emma had already gone to bed. It was after 11.00 and so I put the television on with a view to having half an hour of the tennis and then retiring. James Blake's second round match against a man whose name I can't even recall now was never going to hold my attention for all that long, and so I headed towards the bedroom. As I did I could hear what I thought was something or someone shuffling around in the kitchen.
I called Emma's name. No answer. I tried again, no answer. Finally I approached the kitchen to investigate, and found that Emma was nowhere to be seen. Yet I could still hear something shuffling around. It sounded like it was coming from behind the washing machine or the fridge freezer but I couldn't be sure. And so I did the only thing that any rational man would do in this situation. I woke Emma to help me investigate further.
Emma's not at her best when she has just been involuntarily woken up, so it did not help my cause when she followed me into the kitchen to find that the shuffling had stopped. There was nothing. Deathly silence, and no sign of any living thing other than ourselves. We looked around hesitantly for five or ten minutes, decided there was nothing to see, and went to bed. It was well after 12 by now and we are not great at getting up for work at 7.00 at the best of times.
A short doze followed, but by around 1am I was awoken by what I thought sounded like the fluttering of wings. I now downgraded my initial assessment which had been that there must be a mouse or a rat on the loose, and decided instead that it might just be a moth at worst, and at best a butterfly with a seriously flawed sense of direction. Emma put the lights on. The noise stopped again. If he hadn't been dead for at least five years I'd have been waiting for Jeremy Beadle to pop his head round the bedroom door.
A moment later the shuffling noise returned, but it was much louder. We were still in the bedroom but we could hear it coming from the kitchen area. Emma shot out of the bed, opened the door and announced;
"Shit! There's a hedgehog in the house!"
It was pure Victor Meldrew from then on. I literally did not believe it.
When I got out of bed I found the proof. The hedgehog was there behind the sofa next to the telephone wires. We'd obviously startled it because it had decided that the only way out of this prickly predicament would be to curl up in a ball and do nothing. All of which meant that Emma had to physically roll it through the front door with some kind of cleaning implement. I sat guarding the living room in case it roused from it's stupor and made a run for the other sofa. Fortunately it did not and she managed to manouver it on to the ramp at the side of the house. We've found hedgehogs on the ramp before, but this was the first time one had managed to infiltrate the four walls of our home.
Before we returned to bed we contemplated the fact that, in all probability, the 'cat shit' from early that morning had in fact been hedgehog shit, and that therefore our spikey little intruder had spent the whole day somewhere in our house. The crafty little bleeder had managed to go 18 hours undetected. It is more than likely that he spent most of that time curled up and motionless, what with hedgehogs being mostly nocturnal creatures. They only wake up when Babestation comes on.
The whole affair is just incredible. We left the house this morning pleased to note that there was no more shit around, and that the hedgehog had left the ramp area. It must still be alive then, which was a relief to Emma who was mortified at the prospect of murdering an animal with a mop. A colleague of her's has warned us that hedgehogs are territorial creatures and so it may try to come back. He has advised us that if it does we should drive it at least one mile away and release it in a field or a park somewhere. Fine, just as long as it doesn't release any of it's waste in our house again any time soon.
I don't believe it.