All creatures great and small
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