Hedgehogs: A Prickly Subject

Yesterday, while clearing a space in the alleyway that runs down the side of our house, I happened to peer inside a blue plastic bag that I presumed contained scraps of tree bark for use as kindling. It did, but that wasn't all. It was also home to a sleeping hedgehog. The shock was somewhat one-sided, as the hedgehog remained soundly asleep during our encounter, even during its brief journey through the air to a safer spot a few yards further along.

Once the shock had passed, my first thought was that the hedgehog was dead, a sad victim of illiteracy - hedgehogs, like so many wild animals, being unable to fully comprehend those safety warnings most plastic bags carry about the dangers of suffocation. (Macabre thought, but I wonder if they also have them on bodybags?) Luckily I could detect signs of shallow breathing under the thorny thicket of its spines. (Note to self: Moisturise! Moisturise!)

Now, I happen to like hedgehogs. I think a garden with a hedgehog is blessed, though my wife is slightly less enthusiastic given the results of their nightly foraging through her flowerpots. However, as with so many things in life, it's often about context, and it has to be admitted that the charm of a hedgehog is markedly reduced when its setting is a scruffy plastic bag in an even scruffier alleyway. The effect was like encountering Mrs. Tiggywinkle cidered-out on a bench on the Embankment: The hedgehog: nature's rough-sleeper. When one remembers the ticks and fleas that are rumoured to be rife in and between their spines, the comparison seems even more apt.

This morning I was relieved to find that the hedgehog had moved on. Hopefully it's found somewhere more upmarket, like a cardboard box. Maybe even one from Waitrose. For me, 'Hedgehog in a carrier bag' sounds just a tad too much like something from the Modern Romany Cookbook, or Heston Blumenthal's kitchen.

Older readers may remember the 1980s vogue for hedgehog-flavoured crisps. Of course, questions were immediately asked about their method of manufacture: 'How do you make a hedgehog crisp?' Answer: 'Greatly overcook it.'