les etoiles et les herissons

It occurred to me, sometime around half four when I woke up this morning, that there is a whole life in Les Ecures that I don’t know about: the night life.

Last night, it was an incredibly star-lit night; I’d even dragged Mr H out to have a look at it before I retired for the evening. The moon wasn’t yet up and it has been a long time since I saw so many stars. Out in the desert, maybe, in Morocco. Manchester has far too much light pollution and cloud cover to see anything clearly, and the night sky is not unlike the day sky, just with a grey-amber glow.

This morning, the stars still seemed super-bright when I got up, so I put on a jumper, got the torch and binoculars and went down into the field.

It was amazing. First, there was a warm breeze and it was easily still 15 degrees, following an unusually hot autumn day yesterday. It was the kind of breeze that always reminds me of Brazilian nights, or Mexico, balmy and pleasant – like taking a shower in something very lovely. The kind of breeze that perks you right up. Basil accompanied me down the garden, and it was clear this is ‘his’ territory. He was about as alert and kittenish as I’ve seen him these last few years, running from tree to tree, racing up them then jumping back down. The crickets were in full chorus with their cri-cri, but other than the wind in les trembles and the crickets, there was no sound. No cars. No people. Bliss.

We don’t have the ambient light pollution either, although there was a faint, light glow above Angouleme 20 kms away. They switch some street-lights off here after midnight.

It’s about 50 metres from the house into the field, walking under all kinds of obstacles for an unobstructed (well, fairly… the trees are fairly tall around here!) view – but when I got into the middle of the field, sitting there looking quite bewildered was Mrs Tiggywinkle and her family!

Three lovely, bright-eyed hedgehogs sitting there! I was so close to one I’d almost stepped on it!

Now I’ve never seen a real ‘live’ hedgehog. Plenty dead by roadsides to assure me of their existence, but no real, live ones. And there, at six o’clock in the morning, are three – in my garden!

They soon scuttled off after they realised I wasn’t going to do anything to them, but it was lovely to see them, all the same.

After that, I just sat and stargazed for half an hour or so, Basil racing about the garden, the wind in the aspens and the crickets cri-cri-ing. It’s amazing how much life there is round here in the middle of the night!

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