One day last summer, whilst I was surreptitiously tipping my empty rum and raspberry cider bottles into the recycling box, Malcolm, my neighbour, suddenly appeared by my side.
“Mornin’, Purbeck, been celebrating, ‘ave we?”
Malcolm originated from South London and still had a soft cockney drawl even after 5 years in semi-rural Dorset where he had settled in search of a more laid back and quiet lifestyle, with, in Malcolm’s own words; ‘less nutters about.’ Like myself, Malcolm loved the privacy and seclusion our houses offered, being located right beside the forest with high rhododendron and laurel shrubbery surrounding our properties, shielding us from the occasional mountain biker…and each other; for good neighbours, in mine and Malcolm’s book, were neighbours you didn’t have to see on a daily basis.
“Christ on a bike! Oh, hello, Malcolm.”
For a 6ft well-built cockney, Malcolm was surprisingly light on his feet when it came to sneaking up on me. I hurriedly slid the lid over my empties. It had been a tough week; don’t judge me.
“Err, yes, Malcolm, had a few friends over – you know, just to catch up and stuff.” It was a lie, but at least it made me look more sociable than I generally cared to be.
Malcolm eyed the recycling box with a penetrating glare which made me wonder if he had x-ray vision.
“We’ve got a problem with moles, Purbeck. Bloody molehills everywhere! Just in this last week they’ve appeared from nowhere – have you noticed any in your garden?”
“Ahhhhhh…” I adopted my innocent blank face with a quiet look of concern for my neighbour’s quandary. I had indeed had a problem with moles a couple of weeks before, but, after employing the ancient and holistic ways of we country folk, Mr Mole and his kinsfolk had decided, of their own volition and without any harm to them or any other wildlife, to move on…albeit just across to Malcolm’s garden it would seem.
“Umm, well…funny you should ask actually…”
“Julie is saying we need to get some poison as it’s the only way to get rid of them.”
“No! Malcolm you can’t poison them!” My sudden hysteria startled Malcolm, but, I couldn’t let him carry out his murderous plan. By forcing the moles to move next door I would be responsible for their genocide by default, and as an aspiring Buddhist, and someone who already has enough bad karma racked up against them, I couldn’t have that.
“No, Malcolm, you’ll introduce poison into the food chain and owls will eat the moles and then we’ll have dead owls lying around, I always hear owls, don’t you, and some live in that tree there, or a fox might eat them or, a badger or a deer and I think it’s illegal to poison deer, and you know that lady from The National Trust lives next door to you and you know what she was like about you lopping that tree that had a TPO on it and…” I gasped for breath, feeling slightly lightheaded and unsteady after my panicked diatribe – although that could have been the hangover kicking in.
“I don’t think deer eat moles, Purbeck…or badgers…” A perplexed looking Malcolm wasn’t quite grasping my point.
“Cats! Cats eat moles!” I screamed with exasperation. Malcolm and Julie adored their big ginger tom; my nemesis and arch rival in the battle of the garden birds.
“Your cat would definitely eat the poisoned moles and die. Probably a very slow and painful death behind my shed.” I had to tell it to Malcolm straight. It couldn’t be sugar coated. Although, admittedly, ever since I lined the space behind the shed with the spiky branches of the pruned berberis shrub in an effort to stop his serial killer of a cat from entering my garden-bird sanctuary, the fat tom just laid around on the shed roof now. But I didn’t want a dead cat on the shed roof either. If Malcolm and Julie went away on holiday it could be there for days, festering in the sun. I was sure the smell would be just awful.
“Ah, now you’ve got a point, Purbeck.” Malcolm looked concerned. “Can’t kill Gingernuts. That would be awful.”
Well, that was debatable, but, anyway…
“Actually, Malcolm, I used a natural repellent with my moles, which has obviously worked as, well, they’ve moved from my garden to yours. Sorry.”
I grinned apologetically.
Malcolm looked unimpressed.
“I peed in their holes.”
Malcolm looked aghast. He was really nailing the gamut of facial expressions today.
“It’s natural, Malcolm. All country folk do it. I expect.”
“Straight into their holes?”
I could see at this point Malcolm had a vision of me squatting down on my lawn, dress hitched up, peeing directly into molehills; classy burd that he thinks I am.
“No! In a jam jar first! Then I pour it down their holes. I think it’s a territory thing. They think another mole is around so they move on.”
As Malcolm pondered this theory, from the corner of my eye, I could see Gingernuts, stalking his way up my drive. Normally I roar like a lion and clap my flip-flops together to scare bird-killing felines off, but having just told Malcolm I pour my own piss on my lawn, I felt my Simba impression might push him over the edge.
I glared at the tom, trespassing with intent, whose eyes mocked me as it sauntered closer. There was only room for one pussy on this property, and it didn't have fleas and deer tics living in it.
“Well, I’m not sure what Julie will think, but I suppose it’s worth a try if it worked for you.” “Absolutely, Malcolm!”
My eyes were still on the cat. I casually edged closer to the recycling box. Desperation starting to seep through every pore. Gingernuts had to be stopped before a massacre ensued around my bird table. With an odd cough and splutter, like I was having a little ‘moment,’ I gently kicked the glass filled box, intending to startle the cat into running off home. The lid, which had only been resting on the top, slid sharply off into the path of Gingernuts, revealing my empty bottles of rum and cider to Malcolm.
Malcolm raised an eyebrow. Who was he to judge? I’d seen the crushed cans of Fosters in his recycling box. At least mine was pure Waitrose own brand rum and the finest artisan berry ciders from the farm shop.
Momentarily distracted by the events, Gingernuts stopped stalking with intent and sat in my driveway licking his balls. Malcolm eyed me suspiciously.
I suspect Malcolm sometimes yearns for the normality of his life back in London…