All crea­tures great and small

Country Life Every Week - - Spectator -

THE re­sult of the 67-page bat sur­vey for which we paid nearly £8,000 last sum­mer is that one or pos­si­bly two com­mon pip­istrelles were spot­ted go­ing into one of the roof voids where they may have what is de­scribed as a non-breed­ing day roost. Es­sen­tially, the two bats are us­ing the void as a sort of day­care cen­tre rather than a fam­ily home. Our ren­o­va­tions, the re­port says, will have ‘low im­pact’ on their ar­range­ments.

The main is­sues sur­round­ing this bit of roof are that there is no cur­rent in­su­la­tion and some of the rafters need re­plac­ing. In or­der to rec­tify ei­ther of th­ese things, some tiles must be re­moved and, in or­der to com­ply with the re­port, a bat ex­pert must be on site, stand­ing next to the builders, as they do this. There is a risk that a tile might be dropped on one of the two (pos­si­ble) bats. Should this ‘high im­pact’ event hap­pen, the bat ‘will be taken to a vet­eri­nary sur­geon so that the ex­tent of its in­juries can be as­sessed’.

Al­though we are ob­vi­ously keen to pre­serve the two (pos­si­ble) bats who eat up to 3,000 in­sects a night and weigh about the same as a 20p piece, I cal­cu­late that they’ll prob­a­bly have cost us more than £10,000 by the time we’ve paid the ex­pert to stand on the scaf­fold­ing (as he charges on an hourly rate, it’s im­pos­si­ble to know a fi­nal fig­ure).

How­ever, we would also like to in­su­late the roof and had been look­ing at breath­able mem­branes and sheep wool as en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly op­tions un­til we dis­cov­ered that nei­ther of th­ese are al­lowed be­cause the bats can get their feet tan­gled up in both. I’m still search­ing the re­port for what, if any­thing, we’re al­lowed to use and have reached the com­mand to ap­ply non-breath­able bi­tu­mi­nous roof­ing felt when I have to aban­don reading and head off to col­lect Zam.

At Sal­is­bury sta­tion, I’m sur­prised to see him on the wrong side of the ticket bar­rier, flanked by two ex­cited guards with note­books. I grin at him from the main con­course, mouthing ‘what are you do­ing?’ to which he replies with an ex­as­per­ated shake of his head. He con­tin­ues talk­ing to the men, who, I then find out, are tak­ing down the fol­low­ing de­tails: Day, Date, Time, Lo­ca­tion, Trav­elled From, Trav­elled To, Sur­name, Fore­names, Date of Birth, Place of Birth, Ad­dress, DVLA num­ber, Oc­cu­pa­tion, Tele­phone Num­ber (‘re­fused’), Na­tional In­sur­ance Num­ber (‘not known’). De­scrip­tion: A white Euro­pean male, medium build, 6ft 3in–6ft 5in tall, short light brown colour hair, wed­ding ring, glasses, right handed, green colour eyes.

This is fol­lowed by a de­tailed de­scrip­tion of Zam’s ‘crime’, which was that he’d for­got­ten he’d bought a day-re­turn ticket and, as he’d stayed in Lon­don overnight, the ticket was in­valid. He boarded the train at Clapham Junc­tion, where there were no bar­ri­ers to alert him to his wrong ticket, and only re­alised at the Sal­is­bury bar­rier, at which point he of­fered to buy the right ticket im­me­di­ately.

His ex­pla­na­tion was con­firmed by his Oys­ter card, which the guards had now an­a­lysed. The three-page state­ment, signed by Zam, con­cluded that ‘the facts of the mat­ter will be re­ported’.

We re­turn home rather stunned by this bruis­ing en­counter with of­fi­cial­dom to find the tele­phone ring­ing. ‘Please don’t talk to me about bats,’ I tell the builder, who is ac­tu­ally call­ing to say we’re go­ing to need an as­bestos ex­pert on site.

Into my head pops my great un­cle, who, as I be­gin to tell Zam, used to de­scribe traf­fic lights as ‘bu­reau­cracy gone mad’. He’s not lis­ten­ing be­cause he’s reread­ing his state­ment for the trans­port po­lice with a broad smile. ‘See that?’ he says, point­ing out pos­si­bly the big­gest sur­prise of the day so far, ‘I’m medium build.’

‘The two bats are us­ing the void as a sort of day­care cen­tre

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