Friday, 20 February 2009


When I was in my early teens, there was, not far from where I lived, an area of wasteland left over from a demolished council estate. Called Stow Estate, it was the place to go to hunt for slow-worms. Now there's a misnomer if ever there was one. You'd find them under bits of corrugated iron warmed by the sun. You'd lift it up, and stare at the grass underneath. And stare and stare, and you would never see the slow-worm until it moved. Then, if you were quick enough you could grab it just behind the head, but if you missed it, it was gone, and you had missed your chance. I used to bring them home and release them into the garden. They stayed in the compost heap and ate slugs and snails.

Today I found a handsome green lizard in my garden under some hardboard. Since it's January, I think he must be hibernating. I disturbed him just enough to take this photo, and then put the hardboard back into place. I can always tidy it up later, when the weather is warm enough to be sure that he will have gone his way.

Last year I was demolishing a small dry stone wall. There behing one of the stones was a grass snake. Unfortunately, as I demolished the wall, he kept moving along it, so I kept uncovering him a bit farther along. Since a snake can come to harm behind a wall in the process of being dismantled, the next time I saw him I tried poking him to get him to go away. He hissed at me. Quietly. But it was menacing in such a way that my hair stood on end. Must be some racial memory of dangerous snakes. But at least, he disappeared straight after.

Incidentally, the french word for lizard is lézard, but they also have a verb "lézarder, to lizard", used informally, which means to lie around basking in the sun.

My green lizard

My grass snake

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