It's a beautiful spring day in Cape Town, and the intermittent sneezing which attends this time of year (I think it's the oak trees which fling pollen at me) has backed off a little, hooray. We've just been out to Tokai to the whole-earth market, which is full of excellent food and friendly people. There's a foot-high pile of as-yet-unmarked Frankenstein
test scripts reproaching me, but I'm happy, at peace, noodling around on the internet for an hour or so before I stock up on Earl Grey and face my doom.
So I'm sitting at my desk, and I hear a cat yowling somewhere in the house.
"Gosh, someone's caught something," I think vaguely, employing my Universal Cat Translator skills.
I wander into the passage and Ounce streaks past me in his usual oh-god-oh-god-you're-about-to-kill-and-
"Hmmm", I think.
I do a quick spot search, but finding no felines in possession of small almost-corpses of the bird or rodent variety, I go back to Echo Bazaar.
I am interrupted by a rhythmic clicking sound. I look around vaguely, but can't place it. It sounds mechanical, like a wind-up toy. A moment later, the furry, rather rectangular form of a perfectly live and unharmed mole comes trundling into my study, its toenails clicking on the floorboards, chuffing along like a clockwork train. Not a big one - probably 10-12 cms long. They do this thing where, being blind, they quarter the house by means of running along the skirting boards, doing a perfect outline of each room in search of holes or soil.
I am adept at this by now, having learned the skills in sheer desperation after That Time
That One Mole Went To Ground Under The Piano and we couldn't retrieve it for giggling. I head it off at the pass from a foray under the guest room cupboard, swathe it in a towel very quickly and dump it into an empty wastepaper basket, where it continues to trundle around in a tight circle, slightly hopelessly but with undiminished energy. (I'd grab it in my bare hands, which I do with mice, but you can't with moles, they twist around in your hands with surprising agility and bite like furry little psychotics).
I cannot sufficiently stress how incredibly cute these things are. They're tiny, very solidly built and give an amazing illusion of squareness under the short, fine, silky grey fur - they must be almost entirely composed of muscle, which is probably why the cats never actually seem to injure them or attempt to eat them. Their tiny eyes are invisible, buried under a white blaze of fur over each eye; the little pink nose and paws protrude from the fur with ineffable cuteness. The most endearing thing, though, is the way they move - very quick, businesslike, efficient, with that suggestion of artificial motion. When I released it across the road it vanished almost immediately into a pile of sand like some sort of automatic digging machine, with its little round mole-butt protruding for an instant before it wriggled out of sight.
This is a very bad photo, because it was going round and round and round without actually stopping at any point, and most of the shots I took are a sort of streaky blur thing. Also, it kept trying to climb up the wire mesh of the wastepaper basket, so I had limited time - and hands - for photographs. But you can see the pink nose/feet.
(For the confused, my subject line is, of course, a Goon Show