The middle of August is one of the best times to watch bats and always reminds me of our daughter Sophie, because it was on a night such as this when a couple of bats decided to have a closer look at our bedroom. Jackie was heavily pregnant and she had been going all through the uncomfortable tendencies that women in this state go through, opening of all the windows, lifting of the legs, bed held up on wadges of books; one had to be careful getting in and out of bed when Jackie was in that state. It was a really difficult thought rendering experience. The tolerance of stealth needed were comparable to that of scaling the Eiger.
Going back to the night in question, it was a balmy warm late summer night and the bats were about in large numbers in the garden underneath the Beech and Sycamore trees. The combine harvesters had cut all the cereal from around the house and the moths were in their thousands, dancing all through the air. The bats were seemingly having a field day. The windows of the house were all wide open as the day had been terribly warm and humid and Jackie had been very uncomfortable all day. The baby was due anytime and Jackie had got her hands on this marvellous piece of kit called a TENS machine which, according to the midwives, would ease the pain of the contractions and make the whole thing a little more bearable. At twenty past nine, Jackie decided to call it a day and so up from the garden and into the house we both went. Once into the house Jackie did not hang about, upstairs to the bedroom she went and started to attach herself to this contraption. A little red light on the front of the little box you could clearly see flashing on, off, on, off. What this was actually telling us neither of us was certain, however, Jackie certainly knew it was on. I listened in the kitchen to the bed creaking and groaning, Jackie had obviously got into it. “My turn,” I thought as I went up the stairs. As I went into the bedroom, I could just make out Jackie on the bed, the bed at a rakish angle, her feet at least two feet from the ground. “Don’t turn the light on, the room will be full of moths and I can’t have this window closed tonight, I have been absolutely boiling all day.” The task of joining her on the bed was being made more difficult nightly and now I was having to negotiate walking around the bed, getting into it with the pillow side of the bed more or less on the floor and the feet side of the bed at least two feet up in the air, now I was being asked to do all of this in almost total darkness. Jackie was totally oblivious to the awkwardness and difficulty of this nightly procedure, but once in, we said our goodnights. Jackie would lay there with a feeling of safety and comfort and total trust in this new-fangled TENS machine. I was laying there thinking just how lucky we both were and hopefully we would be blessed with the most magical of all prizes, a healthy baby, due anytime now.
It seems to me, when you have those lovely peaceful, carefree thoughts sleep can come upon you very quickly and that night was no exception. I had learnt how to negotiate Jackie’s odd kick and flailing arm and the nights’ sleep for me were pretty much uninterrupted and the hard physical work during the day that I had been doing obviously helped. After what seemed like five minutes, but was actually about couple of hours, I felt an elbow in the ribs. I startled awake and thought of the baby. “Is it time?” I asked eagerly.
“No, I don’t think so, it’s bats,” Jackie whispered.
“No,” I said, “Not inside, goodnight, see you in the morning.” But I sensed that Jackie was laying there stock still. Yes, she was definitely looking through the gloom for bats. Then there was a scream and then the bed covers were pulled with such ferocity over her head that it actually burnt me round the neck. As I sat up, Jackie was still screaming, “Bats, bats, if they get in my hair I’ll go mad.”
“Don’t be so ridiculous.”
“Get them out, get them out.” I hadn’t actually seen any myself at this stage. I sat up in bed and I managed to calm Jackie down who was now much quieter underneath the duvet and she was right, for just then a bat flew right over my head, you could feel the draught of its wings on my forehead. It is surprising just how you can see in darkness as there are very few nights in a year when the nights are pitch dark. I quietly got off the bed and as I walked around my foot was stubbed into the pile of books which was keeping my side of the bottom of the bed in the air, it came down with a thump which in turn generated another lot of screaming and wailing from Jackie. Maybe this would be enough to send the bats on their way. After hopping around for a minute or so the bats were still there. I opened the bedroom door wondering how on earth I was going to get these bats out. Our bedroom door opened onto a large landing type bedroom and from there down a winding narrow cottage staircase. I went down the stairs and shut the door at the bottom of the staircase, I then returned to our bedroom, Jackie was in Egyptian mummy mode, and she was not making a sound with the duvet still pulled tightly over her. I opened the bedroom door to its widest extent and one of the collapsed books that was holding up the bottom of the bed I picked up and rammed under the bedroom door. I then pulled the duvet off Jackie and Jackie started to scream. I held the duvet up like a sheet and waved it, pushing the bats towards the doorway. They went through, I shut the door behind me. Jackie was still screaming, “They’re out now,” I shouted, Jackie’s screaming subsided, however, I still had two bats to catch. I was holding the duvet like a wide net and I was pushing them towards the stairwell. They went down the stairs and I followed them holding the duvet up to the sloping ceiling, nearly falling on every tread as I descended the stairs. As I got to the bottom of the stairs I had the bats between the duvet and the door. I gently slid the duvet from the top of the door down to the floor. I had them, the bats were inside it somewhere. I picked the whole thing up, gently rolling it into a rough shaped bundle and made my way hastily to the back door which was promptly unbolted and opened and the duvet was cast outside. I then followed it out and started to unfold it, there they both were, right in the middle. Up off the duvet they flew returning to the night sky for their summer night feasting on the moths that you could clearly see in the light of the moon. I picked up the duvet and went back to the bedroom. Jackie was laid flat out on a half collapsed bed but I noticed that she had been able to get up and close the window. As she lay there on the bed, the night’s scenario became clear. Her TENS machine was working on sonar pulses, it was this that had brought the bats in. I then tried to explain to Jackie this theory. “Well, I’m keeping my TENS machine on.”
“By all means,” was my reply, “But if you do, we will have to keep the windows closed for a bat free zone.” Jackie looked at the duvet, “Well I don’t want that on, I’m boiling.”
My daughter will be twenty in a couple of weeks’ time and I have never been able to look at her on a summers’ evening and not think of bats.