Rats in the Belfry?

Today’s Radio 4’s News Quiz programme reminded me of another case of ‘mistaken identity’ in Hanover House a few years ago. On the News Quiz, a quote from a local newspaper was read out, in which animal welfare inspectors were called out to a restaurant kitchen where it was reported that there was a rat expiring on the floor. A closer look by the inspectors revealed that the rat was actually an onion!

The item reminded me of the time when we had a full house of guests at Hanover House during the summer, with some staying several days and others departing and arriving. Our very pretty Rossetti ensuite bedroom at the back of the house overlooking the garden had been vacated by departing guests, when the cleaner subsequently reported that there was a bat on the wall in the room. The windows were frequently kept open during the warm days of the summer and it could easily have come in from the garden and park outside. Knowing that bats are protected, and not knowing really how to handle one without hurting it, or what to do with it once captured, we rang our local vet surgery who put us on to a bat sanctuary in Gloucestershire. The sanctuary told us to secure the room and a bat expert would arrive some time in the afternoon to remove the bat.

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‘Bat Rescue in Progress’

Veronica manages the bookings and knows who is coming and going but on this occasion I was not fully in the picture. When the doorbell rang I answered it to find a man at the front door looking expectant. I welcomed him in and ushered him upstairs, explaining on route what the circumstances were and where the bat was located. We arrived at Rossetti, which had a note pinned to it to prevent anyone else entering while the bat was in residence. I opened the door gingerly and entered the room followed by the new arrival, and seeing the bat still where it had always been, high up on the wall, I pointed it out to the man. He looked at it for a moment with some apparent interest, then turning to me asked where his room was located – it turned out that he was an arriving guest I had not known about and nothing to do with any bat. His first impression was probably that the people occupying this house were clearly bats anyway!

Bat in Rossetti

The Rossetti Bat

a little later, having found the new guest his room and getting him installed, the ‘proper’ bat-man arrived, removed the young Pipistrelle bat from the wall carefully, then to my surprise took it out into the back garden, looked around and surmised that there was probably a bat colony nearby, and carefully placed the bat amongst the ivy on the high garden wall, where he said it would either be ‘collected’ or would find it’s way to where it ought to be. Sure enough, we never saw it again.

However, when recounting the story to guests at breakfast the next morning, the incumbents of the Nursery at the top of the house, suddenly realized that the bat had been resident in their room the previous night! They said that they noticed it on the wall, but because it was a nursery and full of children’s books, toys and pictures, that they had assumed it was part of the decoration, particularly as – fortunately – it had remained in one position the whole time they were in the room.

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