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We are at that time of year when we start obsessing about The Tortoise. Regular readers will laugh at this – knowing that we spend most of the year obsessing about the tortoise.  Ok, you’ve got me there, however it is true to say that this time of year is particularly fraught with anxiety as we prepare him for hibernation. 

So what kind of a year has Tonka had?  Well we finally found him a summer residence that he liked.  You may recall that in 2010 Christopher and our good friend Graham built Tonka a state of the art tortoise house.  We felt that this was what he wanted.  We did a lot of research as to the most appropriate homes for tortoises and created a very spacious residence adjacent to the greenhouse.  It was quiet, south facing, with a grassy area full of wild plants to graze, a small pond for wallowing, a glass covered corner to bask in (sort of a solarium), a wide entrance leading into a secluded part of the greenhouse where his heat lamp hung, and a dark cosy bedroom.  He hated it. Instantly.  We tried to get him to adjust to it. I even spent time sitting in it talking to him while he got used to his new surroundings.  The therapy didn’t work; he still preferred living in our conservatory. 

So this summer we tried again.  We built something smaller, right outside our front door.  Very square in shape, much less interesting, one bush to hide under, couple of stones to bask on, no inside area.  It’s much noisier and busier – the dogs spend hours sticking their noses through the fence to sniff him and wonder what he might taste like and the postman says hello to him every morning.  Tonka loves it.  He took to it straightaway.  Turns out it was all about the postcode.  Tonka is like one of those annoying couples on Location, Location, Location who start out saying they want to live somewhere with five bedrooms halfway up a Welsh mountain and end up realising that their dream property is actually a former council flat in Haringey.   However, one can’t stay cross at a tortoise for very long.

So Tonka has had a good summer and now it’s time to prepare for the big sleep.  He had his last meal a week ago and is now into the necessary fast before hibernation (they can’t hibernate with any food still in their system – it can turn toxic and kill them).  He’s been wormed, weighed, bathed and health checked.  So by the beginning of December he’ll be ready.  Obviously it would help if the weather played ball too – it’s difficult to convince Tonka that a three month snooze is a good idea when it’s still so mild.  Once he’s bedded down for the winter Christopher and I will begin our winter game of ‘where shall we put the reptile tonight’  (stop sniggering – it isn’t THAT SORT of game)  – the box with the tortoise in it has to be kept within a certain temperature range – not too hot or he’ll wake up, not too cold or he’ll die.  We discovered last year that very few places in our house remain consistently within that temperature range.  So his box will get moved about a great deal and houseguests over the festive period may find themselves sharing a room with him (we don’t charge extra for this).

So far we have managed to get to this stage in proceedings without a row.  That’s me and Christopher, not me and the tortoise (although obviously Tonka and I did have words when he relocated from the greenhouse). This is mainly because Christopher is satisfied that Tonka is a now a happy tortoise.  Past arguments were usually about Tonka’s state of mind and general well-being but now all of his needs have been addressed Christopher can relax safe in the knowledge that the tortoise is content.  It is slowly becoming clear to me that I am now so far down the pecking order in our household that even the tortoise has greater status.

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