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Flash the tortoise remains in my household in body if not in mind or spirit. The Family Friend is due to collect him tomorrow and I can safely say that my parents and I are counting down the hours, minutes and seconds.

To be honest, I've only been able to cope with Flash this week because my parents got back from a mini-break on Monday and took over tortoise sitting duties after the following exchange:

Mum: "Why is there a tortoise in the back garden?"

Me: "[Family friend] dropped him round as he's gone away on a break."

Mum: "Doesn't he know that you're not great with animals?"

Me: "I tried telling him. He was desperate."

Mum: "He must have been. Remember what happened with the school hamster?"

Me: "That was 25 years ago and we all agreed never to speak of it."

Mum: "I couldn't look your teacher in the eye and the fridge kept making a funny noise for months afterwards ..."

Me: "Really, can't we just move on? If you're that bothered, feel free to take over."

Anyway, Flash's mind games ceased working from Sunday because I came down with a nasty flu thing that left me good for little other than watching Diagnosis Murder and groaning and certainly wasn't going to see me going out into the cold garden to check up on him every so often.

Thus stripped of his ability to inflict psychological torture, Flash moved on to a new game: "Pretending to be Steve McQueen in The Great Escape".

So hands up everyone who knew that tortoises could dig.

Because, I've got to tell you, I had no idea. At all. I know that sea turtles can dig - I've seen enough nature shows with David Attenborough breathing huskily as they roll up on beaches to lay their eggs to grasp that - and I knew that tortoises had claws. But I assumed that tortoise claws were there for decoration purposes. Something to make them look a bit more bad ass to the rest of the animal kingdom, given that the whole shell look is a bit dorky.

How wrong I was.

Tortoises can dig with those claws faster than British airmen trying to escape a POW camp in World War II. They are fierce and they are quick. The first we knew about it was when my mum went out to feed him in his hutch and discovered him dipped down in a hole about half his body size, which we think he'd been hiding beneath a particularly large lettuce leaf. The thing is, we can't work out where the spare earth went as he was digging the hole. It wasn't in the hutch. It's almost as though he was hiding it in his shell and then disposing of it when we took him out to let him have a wander around the garden.

I seriously believe that if we'd not discovered it when we did, the first we'd have known about it was when we went out and discovered mail bags sewn up to resemble a crude tortoise shape (and before you laugh this off as ludicrous, I don't think that Flash was for one second going to let a lack of opposable thumbs stand in his way of accomplishing it).

Needless to say, having discovered the hole, we moved the hutch. Flash adopted his best "You realise of course, this means war?" expression and after sulking for a few hours adopted a new strategy.

When we let him out to wander around the garden, we put up a makeshift barrier to make sure that he doesn't get anywhere that he might hurt himself. Flash did not like this barrier. He did not like it at all.

At first he tried to go over it and he actually managed to get his legs over the top. The problem though was that because tortoises are quite heavy, he lacked the strength to get his back legs up afterwards. Not that this was due to any lack of trying. When we found him, we couldn't quite work out what was happening and thought that he was actually trying to have an "intimate moment" with the barrier.

When we realised that:

(a) Flash was not trying to hump the clothesline prop; and

(b) he was stuck,

we helped him down. No gratitude from him needless to say.

He took to marching up and down along the barrier, having a stroll, so we thought. In truth, he was probing for weaknesses. And he found one.

There was a small gap where the clothesline prop met a small ornamental wall, which Flash decided to exploit it by powering his way through, using the wall to give him a stance where he could physically shoulder the barrier out of his way. Now, this clothesline prop isn't lightweight. It's actually pretty heavy and bulky. Flash seems to have powered it aside like it was nothing and made his way to the very back end of the garden, where he would probably have made an escape if it wasn't for his complete inability to maneuvre over the windfall apples that litter the back area.

Again, we found him part marooned on top of a rotting cooking apple. His legs bicycling like mad as he tried to dislodge himself. Again we helped him. Again we got no gratitude as he chose to go into a sulk.

For all this, Flash remained undeterred by his failures and saved his best effort until last.

Hands up all those who knew that tortoises can climb.

Again, this was a completely new one on me. I mean, look at them. If there was ever a creature that was not designed for climbing activity then it was a tortoise. Look at the size of the bloody shell, for heaven's sake. It's not what they're supposed to do. Everyone knows it - tortoises crawl, horizontally, along the grass. They are not vertical creatures.

Flash had other ideas.

It was my mum who found him clinging to the wire side of his hutch where he'd managed to climb about half way up. Before she could get to him however, he fell off onto his back, where he was stuck, legs waving madly in the air as he tried to right himself. Fortunately my mum had spotted him and was able to right him up before he suffocated. I shudder to think that would have happened to him otherwise.

His response to this was to dash off and hide himself in a pile of leaves, head stuck firmly in his shell, presumably so that he can consider the humiliation he has brought on himself.

He's been hiding in his shell ever since. I'd like to think that he will leave our home a sadder, wiser tortoise. I suspect though that what's actually happened is that we've given birth to a tortoise vendetta and given how long the blasted creatures can live for, I don't give much for our chances of beating him.


( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 25th, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
I think you may have found an animal that can surpass my gay satanic cattle for sheer evil! Well done, you.
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
Wow. I didn't think it was that bad. I mean, you've got some pretty kinky cattle ...
Sep. 27th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC)
Well, you haven't asked yourself for what (or whom) he was escaping.

The love of kinky gay tortoises cannot be denied.
Sep. 27th, 2010 01:30 pm (UTC)
Oh dear Lord ...

I was having quite enough psychological issues already, thank you very much without having gay tortoise kink thrown into the mix.

I'm very disturbed.
Sep. 27th, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)
Then my work here is done! \o/
Sep. 25th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)
Once you become a rich and famous writer and knock JKR off her arse, you have got to go back and do a childrens book based on the adventures of Flash.

Hell, you've already mostly written it. You just need suitable illustrations.
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC)
Heh. Maybe it's worth a shot.
Sep. 25th, 2010 02:24 pm (UTC)
All sounds about right - he's digging because the weather has gone cold and he's trying to hibernate. The rest is just pure bloodymindedness ;o)
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
:twitches on seeing your user pic:
Sep. 25th, 2010 03:02 pm (UTC)
> Tortoises can dig with those claws faster than British airmen trying to escape a POW camp in World War II.

TBH, the latter aren't that fast, as they need to have enough time for the plot of the film to have a few ramifications.
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
Sep. 25th, 2010 03:18 pm (UTC)
You are so clever with words. Have you ever thought of being a writer? ;-D
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:51 pm (UTC)
Well, I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't occurred to me ... :)
Sep. 29th, 2010 04:39 pm (UTC)
I agree. DEFINITELY agree!!
Sep. 25th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
I knew they could dig, but climbing?!?! I think you have Houdini the tortoise here, I'm so impressed.
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:55 pm (UTC)
He's just full of surprises. We were all sitting at the breakfast yesterday watching him. My dad said "He's being awfully still. What do you think he's doing?" and my mum and I each said at exactly the same moment. "Plotting".

But of course, when the Family Friend came to pick him up and asked if he'd been any bother, we assured him that he hadn't. We're so British.
Sep. 27th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
Good lord, yes you are. Like he probably doesn't have stories himself of the diabolical schemes that tortoise has got up to!
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 27th, 2010 12:57 pm (UTC)
Ha! I'm already a candidate for Prozac ...
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


Caroline Hooton

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