“Allan, Mrs Dixon rang, she’s got problems in her roof space.” That was the message as I came in through the back door.
“Ok, I will ring her back.” I picked up the phone and gave her a ring. “Mrs Dixon? Allan here, what’s the trouble?” Mrs Dixon started to go on and on about a terrible stink coming from her roof space or so she thought; “I’ll be there in about an hour” I replied. Over tea we discussed what it might be. Jackie thought of a scenario, Sophie and Sam put in their two penneth with their imaginations. I had thought they would come up with some good ideas for me but alas, it was not to be. Once tea was consumed it was outside to the Landrover and over to Mrs Dixon’s, a ten minute drive. On arrival I was met by a rather disgruntled Mr Dixon. “Hello,” I shouted, but he wanted no small talk.
“My house stinks that much we can’t bear to be in it.” Mrs Dixon seconded every word.
“What do you think it could be?”
“Well from here I’ve no idea,” looking at the house which was 30 yards from where I had parked.
“Have you had any trouble with your drains? I asked.
“No, none at all,” was the very stark reply. As we all walked up to the house through their cottage garden, which was awash with beautiful summer flowers, I could see there were a couple of beehives down by the vegetable patch. We got to the front door and, as I stepped forward, they stepped back. “Not a good sign,” I thought. I went into the hall and was hit by an awful stench. “Get upstairs!” they shouted, “it gets worse, once you get to the top of the stairs. It’s the door to the right to the attic.” The smell was horrendous. I got to the attic door and I couldn’t stand it any longer so I went back down, running out of the hall into the fresh air. “What is it? What is it?” They asked.
“I don’t know, I haven’t been in there yet, I’ve got to get something to wrap around my face, and it’s this warm weather.” Mr and Mrs Dixon both said simultaneously, “We can’t sleep in there anymore, we can’t eat in the cottage, in fact we just can’t live in it anymore.” Starting to fear the worst I said, “Well there’s no room at my place.”
“No, no!” said Mr Dixon, “we’re living there,” pointing down the garden, and there between an old pigsty and the beehives was a massive red and yellow wigwam.
“You’re not serious? You can’t live in that!” I exclaimed in disbelief.
“We’ve had more nights in tents than you’ve had hot dinners,” they replied. “In places a damn side warmer than this, I can tell you.” I still thought it was insane that two 85 year olds should spend their nights out in a glorified tent. I went to the Landrover and got an old shirt and then went down to the veg garden and soaked it under the outside garden tap. “If you sort this out, there will be a pot or two of honey for you,”
“Lovely lot this year,” said Mr Dixon and there did seem to be a lot of bees buzzing around. Tying the wet shirt around my face, I re-entered the house; up the first staircase and past the ancestral paintings on the walls. On opening the door to the second staircase up to the attic, I started to smell the stench through the wet shirt. I really didn’t like this much but it had to be done. Higher and higher I went. Once I got to the top I stood for a few seconds, getting my eyes adjusted to the dimness of the light. There was the odd chink of light coming in through the roof which, looking at it, wasn’t far off a re-roofing job. The smell was wafting the length and breadth of the attic. One had to be careful, it was only partly boarded over, and you would be through the ceiling if you weren’t vigilant. Their belongings were everywhere. An old Zulu shield caught my eye over the far end of the attic, underneath a beam of light coming through the roof; I inched my way towards it, got halfway across and then stopped as I spotted an old wicker small child’s chair; I sat in it and then just listened and watched, all the time honing in one’s senses to try and solve this stinking problem. As I sat there in the dim light, I heard a rustling. I sat dead still. It’s strange how one’s breathing always seems so annoyingly louder when trying to be deathly quiet. There was movement over by the shield. I heard a light squeaking and then, from between two teddy bears, I could just make out a weasel lugging across the floor a dead rat, almost as big as the weasel himself. “Aha, I see,” I thought. Mystery solved.
Weasels will catch every day to feed their young and if you are unlucky enough to have a weasel in your attic, with a few leftover carcasses, after a very short time the smell becomes intolerable. From my view point from the wicker chair, I made out three young weasels doing quite nicely and I estimated, going by their size, they would be there for no longer than one more week and then they would up and leave, or we would have to move them on. “Just listen to me!” I mused, “giving the OK to squatters’ rights! I’ll put it to Mr and Mrs Dixon as best I can.” I gingerly inched back to the attic door, crept through it, shut it tightly behind me and went down the stairs out of the hall, into the garden and down to this hideous coloured wigwam. There was Mrs Dixon bent over a wood fire stirring a pot, what looked to be some kind of rabbit stew she had knocked up. From inside the tent I heard as I got nearer, “I’ll have two good sized dumplings dear.” Mrs Dixon turned towards me as I approached, “So what is it?”
“A family of weasels,” I replied.
“What can we do about them?” asked a very wide-eyed Mrs Dixon.
“If you move them on the young ones will die as they are too small, but I bet you are not being troubled by rats with your chickens lately?”
“No, funny you should mention that, I haven’t seen a rat for weeks,” said Mr Dixon coming out of the wigwam.
“She is feeding them a rat as we speak. And, in about a week’s time, they’ll be ready to move out!” I said.
“This has been like a real adventure for us,” said Mrs Dixon smiling. “Now we know what it is the weasel can stay for one more week, we’re very happy down here beside the bees,” she laughed.
“How do you know it is a weasel and not a stoat?” asked Mr Dixon.
“Well this one is weasonably easy and the other is stoatly different. The best of the evening to you both,” I chuckled to myself softly as I closed the garden gate behind me, after waving goodbye to a very relieved-looking couple. I make myself laugh sometimes.
One of the countryside’s formidable hunters. A truly beautiful animal.