We were rolling merrily along a quiet country road, fresh from the rubbish tip, when I spotted this German-Helmet-on-Legs paused mid-amble and mid-tarmac. With lightning reactions and superb control, I missed him by an inch. (Fortunately, we were at reasonable speed – the extortionate fine we once got copped for, worked)!
The tortoise had come to a halt in prime splat area, so George ran back to rescue him. As soon as George picked him up, the brave little specimen retaliated by peeing vigorously down his leg. Amazing how much liquid can come out of such a tiny little tum. Luckily, George’s reactions are also pretty lightning when his trousers are at risk; the road bore the brunt.
Once deposited on the other side Tarquin (it suited him), retreated under his German Helmet. He was unscathed physically, thank heavens - Lord knows how we’d have dealt with a half-mangled tortoise. It’s bad enough when you accidentally step on a snail - heavily, but not quite heavily enough, so you have to resort to mercy-bricking. Don’t you? Ghastly, but better than their further suffering, surely. I once employed the tactic with a badly cat-gored goldfish, and George has never quite adjusted to the fact that I could.
Anyway, Tarquin soon got bored with our gawping, unleashed his legs and set off in search of fun. He soon disappeared purposefully into the ditch.
But I started to worry – do tortoises live wild and free in France? Or had he been abandoned by grotty people like the dog in that TV advert: ‘Brutus loved his owners; he thought they loved him too…’ And they abandoned him by the ringroad – I’m frequently racked by this image at 3am.
Had Tarquin been abandoned? It’s hard to read the expression on a tortoise’s face.
George was sure he was a happy wild tortoise with a happy huge family. In fact, after a quick google, he was sure Tarquin was an exotic pond turtle from Greece. We sought advice from a friend who has a turtle with its own tiny pool in the living room. But as George and I still cannot agree on Tarquin’s markings, (George is Wrong), identifying him is tricky.
The important thing is, though, that our knowledgeable friend reassured us that tortoises/turtles do live joyously in the wild. So we were right not to retrieve him and bring him home to meet our rabbit and two savage cats, the hunting dog next door and the sudden plummet into the stream at the bottom of the garden .
I have to admit, though, I do wonder how he’s getting on…