… Intermediate Tortoise Wrangling.

So, the last you’d heard:  it was a beautiful summer’s day.  We’d allowed Humphrey out into the garden to enjoy some sunshine and munch some weeds.  We momentarily turned our backs, and when we looked round seven or eight short hours later Humph was… GONE! … Tortoise Wrangling for beginners

You’d be surprised how fast a tortoise can move when the fancy takes them. Being cold blooded it’s basically like having a solar-powered paperweight.  On cooler evenings if he’s away from his heat lamp he’s a glorified pebble.  Stick him in the sunshine and WHOOSH!

So we search frantically.  And we search.   You have no idea how many times rummaging through through the dead leaves under the trampoline I’d felt something solid, grasped it in relief to find I was clutching an upper medium sized cat poo.  We hunt long into the night and continue for days after. 

Search parties are sent.  

Posters go up.

Grizzled sea captains offer to locate him for me and bring back his head for a hefty reward. 

Actually, no.  Not the last one.  I think that’s the plot from “Jaws”.

But the thing is, as we’ve established, tortoises can shift a bit.  And dig.  And climb. So a small greenish brown reptile in a biggish, overgrown garden (the estate agents say re-wilded, the neighbours complain neglected) is pretty hard to locate.

Remarkably, within a few streets, two other escaped tortoises were found while Humph was missing.  It turns out lots of people don’t know how rapidly a tortoise can move in summer, nor their compulsive tendency to try and escape.  Several tortoise owners, like me, regretted allowing their tortoises to have vaulting horses to tunnel out under in the first place, like so many shelled Steve McQueens, Great Escaping into suburban gardens across Prestwich.

Doors were knocked.

Neighbours were roped in to search gardens.

We tried leaving out his favourite food, but leaving dandelions out as bait in an already overgrown garden was probably surplus to requirements.  Like a salad bar at an all-you can eat buffet in Greggs.

A friend played the sound of sexy lady tortoises having a lovely time in the hope of coaxing him back.

But no matter what. 

The solar-powered Houdini was missing. 

And for some months, stayed missing.

Until eight months later we got the call.

Like the victim of an East-end gangland murder, dog walkers had stumbled across a body.

But a small, greenish brown body, with a shell, munching dandelions and walking slowly across their garden.  They’d spotted him, gone out and found a poster: the only poster still surviving after a whole drizzly Mancunian autumn and winter, on a telegraph pole outside our house. 

A poster which the dog walker was familiar with because, after 8 months lost, Humph had managed to walk about 50 metres to the flats behind our own house. 

I’m writing this from my kitchen, and I can literally see it from here.

Idle beggar.

We positively identified him, firstly because he is a fine, wise and handsome looking tortoise (pets and their owners and all that) but also because he was still mottled with magnolia paint from that time I painted the ceiling but was too lazy to move his enclosure to another room.

“Do you reckon any of these stories about tortoises or bees are true?”

“No, mate. All rubbish .”

Cynics worried I’d just popped to the pet shop and bought a similar sized replacement for the kids, but I wasn’t cunning enough for that. (In fairness I had considered it, but I’d have been a bit in trouble when the real Humphrey came back asking who this imposter was sleeping in his bed, wearing his slippers and drinking his claret… you get the picture).

Humph was finally home.

The relief was huge.

Nothing could possibly go wrong now.

And then his kidneys failed.

To be continued…

6 thoughts on “… Intermediate Tortoise Wrangling.

  1. Great pic .Nail biting narrative . By the way did you ever just think of standing in your own garden yelling ‘Humphrey’ ! Can’t wait for the next instalment …..

    Liked by 1 person

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