I am one of those people that seems to attract weird shit like a magnet, and I am fast coming to the conclusion that this seems to happen the most on the days when I have planned to sit quietly and write some blog posts for the coming month.
Last month, I was sitting minding my own business working on my monthly blog roundup when the café I was at caught fire, and today, I got off my boat, still half asleep and without even having had a coffee or a fag and headed out to the same café to do it all again (hopefully minus the fire…) when I spotted a tortoise just blatantly strolling down the towpath in front of me.
I was wheeling a barrow along with my rubbish and all crap in it, so I stopped and kind of…went and said hi to it. It appeared to be tame (didn’t hide back in its shell when I picked it up) and healthy, so not knowing what the hell to do next, not within range of wifi and not really able to carry it with all my junk in the barrow, I knocked for my friend on a boat nearby, who works nights and was not that pleased to see me.
I pointed out that I had an actual real life tortoise with me, which woke her up a bit, and we sat down on the grass to decide what to do with it. There were no other boats in sight and the nearest houses are a way away across the fields, so there was no obvious answer to the question as to where the hell it had come from.
And it wasn’t a dinky tiny tortoise either (and as I ended up telling around ten people over the course of the next hour, no it was not a turtle/terrapin) and while it was not huge, it was a reasonable size.
So, we called the RSPCA, and nearly dropped the call in fits of giggles when their greeting message started with “press one if you have found a dog. Press two if you have found a cat” wondering exactly what sort of number a tortoise might warrant, but fortunately, option four was “for anything else.”
Question one when we finally got through to a live person was the ubiquitous “are you sure it’s not a turtle or a terrapin,” which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day.
So the RSPCA agreed to come out and get it, and I put it in my cat carrier, which we furnished with a plate of water, some greens and cucumber and other things that we assumed tortoises might like.
Turns out, all this tortoise liked was shitting all over the place and trying to climb out. Clearly he had a plan to go places, and we’d just pissed on his bonfire good and proper.
I named him Thor, and we carried him to the café to await the RSPCA.
A lot of tortoise selfies were taken over the course of the next hour.
Of course, everyone outside of the café immediately asked if we were sure it wasn’t a turtle or terrapin, and the café lady (Hilary) gave us some lettuce, which Thor was more than happy to shit all over.
By this point I was getting annoyed-I am a qualified veterinary nurse, and while we don’t do a lot with exotics like tortoises in clinics, I fecking well know one when I see one. Also, fun fact: You can microchip a tortoise, but you have to glue the skin closed over the chip.
By this time, Thor is in his box by my feet, making a rhythmical thumping noise as he attempted to climb out of the carrier and succeeding in doing nothing but driving me mad.
The owner of the boatyard next to the café came in to see what was happening, and I said “I’ve found a tortoise,” to which his response was “maybe Hilary can use it in something?” Which made a welcome change from “are you sure it’s not a terrapin or a turtle.”
The RSPCA lady turned up soon after (but not before he’d pissed all over me) and her first comment was “oh, it really is a tortoise, not a terrapin or turtle!” Which was deeply gratifying, but also kind of a relief, because boy would I have looked like a dumb fuck if it actually was a turtle or a terrapin.
Thor is now in the care of the RSPCA West Midlands, awaiting a slot at the Proteus Reptile Trust in Dudley-so if you know anyone who has lost a tortoise in the area, hook them up, and they can go and get their walking shit-factory back.
I kind of miss him now, actually…