“To understand a man, you must know his memories. Anthony Quayle.
Of all the words in the English language I dread the most, "Mum, come quick; you have to do something!" ranks right up there. Like seriously. Me! You expect me to do something? With 5 kids I've heard those words more often than I care to remember & the surprise on the end of them was rarely pleasant.
I'm squeamish about things like other people's blood, other people's animals & things that aren't unidentifiable by the cold light of the moon. Being told that there is a fruit bat crying outside is not what I want to hear. Fruit bats are wild animals. Yes dear, they are meant to hang upside down like that. Leave it alone or it's mummy won't come back for it. No darling, I don't want a fruit bat for a pet!
Well, it's mummy didn't come back for it, did she. The poor thing was hanging upside down a bare foot off the ground & it was getting cold. Even to my untutored eyes this was one very young fruit bat who most surely should still have been with its mummy & it was most definitely crying...heartbreakingly.
I hardened my heart for another hour. What on earth does one do with a very young fruit bat? And besides there were all those spikes & hooks to consider. It was destined to be a losing battle. My children surrounded me with accusing eyes. 'It's crying, mummy!'
Yes, well. I've always been a sucker for tears & my children know it well. What could I do but gingerly approach something I was terrified of because I can assure you none of my oh so brave children wanted to do this. They never did, which is why the stream of ,"mum, come quicks".
I gingerly unhooked the unhappy beastie & got the surprise of my life. Up close the foxlike little face was rather cute. The huge eyes fastened on me trustingly. I was in love. The batlike wings were soft & delicate as silk. I had expected them to be rather rough & leathery but everything was delicate, fragile, softer than soft & this wild animal, too young & stupid to be afraid of us, was so grateful to be held warmly, carried, admired.
I spent an hour with the phone book looking for a wildlife rescue place. By the time I found someone who could help the last boat had gone & I had one very hungry, helpless bat on my hands. The man on the other end of the phone was cheerful. He would be, wouldn't he? He didn't have a starving bat in his kitchen & 4 wide~eyed children. I described my predicament. I had an extremely young bat who must have fallen off his mum's back because young bats spend their life being carried round by mum. Great. I have a doey baby! Pulp up some fruit he said sensibly & feed the bat with an eyedropper & someone'll meet you in the morning...& he hung up! I stared at the phone in disbelief. What sensible home owns an eyedropper?! We certainly didn't own one & this was the island of 15 years ago. We had one tiny store that most certainly wouldn't sell eyedroppers & was shut anyway. I had four children to have at a school concert in a little over an hour & a baby bat to deal with!
I began by pulping the fruit because city girl that I am I spent my childhood on my poppy's dairy farms & I knew perfectly well how poppy weaned his calves. You stick your fingers in the milk & get the calves to suck your fingers. I figured a similar process would work perfectly well for a doey bat... & so it did.
Unfortunately my wide~eyed children were intrigued with this method of feeding & began clamouring for a turn. I handed the fruit to Joss as the oldest. I forgot to mention there is such a thing as a sucking reflex & once latched on an animal is reluctant to let go so within seconds I had a bat glued to the end of the child's fingers & a shrieking child. Yes...well...hm...
We then wrapped our bat warmly in a cloth nappy & pegged him upside down on the inside clothes line. This did not make our bat happy. He was incredibly affectionate & only really happy ~ & quiet! ~ when he was being carried. He cried the entire time we were at our concert driving Dearest to distraction & he cried most of the night while we tried to sleep. However cute he was none of us were overly sad to see him depart in the morning.
Shortly after this our bat population contracted a rather nasty disease that can be spread to humans through bites so I would never take on another bat the way I did this one but I am so glad I had the opportunity to learn how soft & affectionate these small creatures of the night truly are. Their affectionate natures would actually make them an excellent pet choice.