NZ Woman's Weekly

Kerre Woodham: hedged in

Over the holiday period, I found myself hosting a different time slot on the radio. Instead of lurking behind the microphone during the twilight hours, I was covering for our morning hosts, who were still on holiday. It was fun – different people listen to the radio at different times of the day so I met a new range of listeners. But after a week back at work, I was ready for Saturday.

I planned to catch up on errands, attend an exercise class and then blob out by the pool. The weather was hot and muggy and I decided I’d have a swim before I set off. Only to find I’d been beaten to it.

There, paddling furiously, was a tiny hedgehog, swimming for his life. I bellowed for Tom and he rushed outside, thinking there had been a disaster. I suppose if you were the parents of the hedgehog, the situation could be described as calamitous.

“Just get the net and lift him out,” said my Irishman, grumpy because he’d managed to stay sound asleep while I’d been faffing around – until my shout woke him. “I can’t,” I said. “You know what I’m like with hedgehogs.”

My brother almost died after he got a scratch on his head as a toddler that became infected with hedgehog germs – he was in hospital for months. Then there was the terrible day when I was in form one at Waihi College.

A group of boys tossed a hedgehog they’d found in the bushes into the girls’ changing rooms by the school pool. It had been dead for some time, the weather had been hot – needless to say, that experience scarred me and a number of other girls for life. Not even the caning of the chief culprits made up for that horror.

And then one night when I was a teenager, I was hanging out a dress on the line, hoping it would be dry by the morning, and a hedgehog charged at me. I know it sounds absurd, but I heard a snuffling and a scurrying, I looked around – and there was a huge hedgehog, running towards me. I managed to outrun it – but yes, hedgehogs and I have history.

That doesn’t necessarily mean I wish them ill. I just wish they’d drink the water from the dog’s bowl rather than attempt to drink from the pool.

Tom scooped the little critter out and carried him down to the local park where he reported that the little hedgie was able to stagger off into the undergrowth, presumably to recover. I know the British are nuts about hedgehogs so I googled a few hedgehog appreciation sites and they suggested putting little polystyrene floats in the pool for them to cling to if they fall in.

Alternatively, the sites recommend putting some chicken wire down the sides of the pool so the hedgies can clamber out. Given this is the fourth hedgehog this summer to beat me to the water – and not all had the same lucky escape – I may well resort to hedgehog-proofing the pool.

After a hedgehog’s been in the pool you have to give the water a really good dose of chlorine to get rid of all the germs they carry. So that meant while my prickly intruder had enjoyed a cooling swim, I was left to swelter, thinking malevolent thoughts as sweat trickled down my back, until the chemical levels subsided.

If only hedgehogs followed pool rules and cleaned themselves before taking a dip. That way we could all enjoy the pleasure of a swim on a hot summer’s morning.

Issue 1541

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