Monday, May 28, 2007


Hello all

Following the decision that the weekend was cancelled after finding a note-pad full of experiments to be performed on the baby by the twins, we were left to entertain ourselves. The twins are under house-arrest until this evening, and have been sulking the whole day. They still protest that they were not going to actually perform any experiments, but they both have form, and frankly I don't believe them. Dolores is in complete agreement, which makes things a bit easier.

I was in the office, reading some emails, when I heard Dolores start to shout. I left the office and ventured into the living area. Dolores was clutching onto the latest copy of 'Green solutions' - a locally produced publication aimed at people interested in saving the environment. She heard me enter, threw the magazine on the floor and shouted 'I don't believe it!'

'What's up dear?', I asked.

'Global bloody warming!' she said loudly, scowling.

'It's here to stay, darling, so you might as well get used to it', I suggested, trying to be helpful.

'Every day I get bombarded with new ways to help save the planet. I mean, how much further can we go? Look at this...' she jabbed at the magazine on the floor, '...this bunch are saying we should piss in our plant-pots to save water. It's sending people barmy.'

'Yes dear. Do you want me to go to the garden centre?'

'Sod off, Joseph.'

I left my fragrant, if occasionally irrascible wife to her diatribe against the environmentalists and retired to the office. Having read my emails I was suddenly struck by a nugget of creativity, and thought of writing a song. This is something in which I've dabbled previously, but without much success. My trouble is not with the lyrics, but with the tune, for I have no gift for melody. This time, I decided, I would use an existing tune. I had the famous 'My favourite things' from the Sound of Music in my head, and Dolores' rant as a basis for the lyrics. Three hours, 6 flapjacks, 4 cups of tea and one lunch later, I had it. Here then, for the first time ever, I present a song what I wrote. It is to be sung to the tune of 'My favourite things', and is entitled...

'Ode to the disgruntled environmentalist'

Argentine Mangoes and Lamb from New Zealand
Too many airmiles to fly them to England
Organic turnips are what we must buy
So long as they've travelled no more than 2 miles

On a donkey's back, in a woollen sack
Shorn by hand from the sheep
Pick your own berries and wash them in pee
Recyle the tears, that you weep

Meat from a small cow that never saw light of day
Crabs that were plunged into death the old fashioned way
Frogs legs in garlic served on a hot plate
These are the foods we've been told we must hate

Trainers and clothes from developing nations
Coffee from farms in rainforest plantations
Engery from unsustainable source
These are all forbidden products of course

Opting to fly on your annual holiday
Leaving your dvd plugged in the mains all day
Driving to anywhere beyond your street
All of these things are stamped on your crime sheet


Grow your own compost and eat it for dinner
Nettle tea stewed with bath water's a winner
Rip up your decking and use it for fuel
Wear long grass skirts, pack your kids off to school


Sunday, May 27, 2007

Twin trouble

Oh dear

The twins came home yesterday from boarding school. They were very pleased to see No3 again, and for a short time, in the early evening, I was content with the whole family. Dolores was cooking dinner, the twins were paying attention to No.3, and I was reading the local free paper. There was a story about a local farmer paying someone to dispose of a suspected case of bird flu, a picture of twins who were doing a 3-legged marathon for charity, the sad tale of the demise of the village butcher's shop, and a guest article by the village's new community support officer, warning of a local crime spree.

It was whilst reading this story that I noticed a piece of paper hanging out of the back pocket of Twin X's trousers. I couldn't make out all of what it said, but I did quite clearly see the word 'Experiment'. Pleased to see the twins taking an interest in science, I asked them what the experiment was about. Their reaction was somewhat unexpected. Instead of simply relaying the required infomation, they spun round and began to back away from No 3's cot. They then began disssembling in the manner of 12 year old children caught in the act of some petty crime to which they cannot possibly admit.

So far as I was aware, no crime had been committed. They'd only been back for a few hours, and had been supervised the whole period. The fact that they ran away therefore made no sense. I called them back into the living area, keen not to ruin the peace and quiet that had so far blessed their return. But it was fruitless. They were determined not to yield to my gentle persuasion, and that fact alone made me increasingly suspicious. If they hadn't already committed an act of hostility towards something/someone, they might well be planning it.

'Show me the piece of paper boys!', I shouted down the corridor at their rapidly retreating selves. On hearing this cry, Twin X did not do as commanded, but instead tore up the paper and put it in his mouth, chewing furiously before swallowing. The act of standing still to destroy the paper was their fateful flaw, as it slowed them enough that I could catch up. I just managed to pull the last piece of paper out of his mouth. It was blank.

'Why did you swallow the paper?', I asked in a traditionally firm tone.

'I was hungry?', suggested the youngster. This was an unlikely explanation as they had recently finished a pre-dinner snack of cheese dippers.

Faced with this clear untruth, but a lack of any evidence, I had to concede that they were just being their usual, boisterous, dad-baiting selves.

Or so I thought.

We were putting the boys to bed that evening. It was quite late, as they'd been regailing us with dubious tales of their escapades at school. I volunteered to tuck them in, and held their hands as we walked towards their bedroom. The sound of one of my favourite Genesis tracks - the 23 minute long 'Supper's ready' - was playing on the Hi-Fi in the living area. Ravel was out somewhere with friends, and Dolores was reading a magazine. The scene was set for a peaceful night, free of stress, free of admonishment, free of punishment.

The boys changed into their pyjamas, brushed their teeth and climbed into bed. They looked almost angelic as they smiled and said they were glad to be home. I returned the sentiment, kissed them on their foreheads, and made to leave the room. Had I not paused before switching off the light, maybe the night would have continued to offer a sense of calm, and not a cross word would have been spoken. But pause I did, and all because I wanted one last look at my twin boys, a moment to ponder how fast they had grown, how much they had developed in recent months as puberty began to transform their minds and bodies. I was filled with a small amount of pride, knowing that, despite their flaws, I had raised two fine, intelligent boys

Perhaps I was jumping ahead in my expectations of my children. After all, they were still just only just 12 years old, and it's well known that boys develop slower than girls. On the other hand, maybe I'd just drunk a little too much wine.

It doesn't really matter now.

What happened is this: as I turned back to gaze once more on the face of Twin Y, I saw his hand move rapidly to push a bag underneath his bed. One eye was open, the other tight shut. For a fraction of a second I was tempted to ignore what I had just seen, but unfortunately for Twin Y, the act of pushing the bag had dislodged an A5 sized note-pad that had been sitting in the top. It fell out of the bag with a barely audible whisper, as the pages brushed over the bag's handle, and flopped onto the floor, opening in the process to reveal a page with writing and a diagram.

Perhaps if the boy had remained calm, I might have overlooked what had just happened. After all, I have always tried to distill a sense of tidiness in the twins, and this hasty act of self-organisation could have been considered to fall within that remit. But unfortunately for him, and his brother, and me, and Dolores, he didn't remain calm. Instead, he looked down at the pad with a look of horror, pointed over to his brother and shouted 'he's farted!', before pulling the covers over his face as if to avoid the smell.

Twin X looked non-plussed for a second, which was just long enough for me to realise that the notebook was significant. I stepped forward and peered down at the page. This is what I saw...

We did not get much sleep that night. The pad was full of protocols, the majority of which used No.3 as the experimental subject. None of them, so far as I could tell, had the health and welfare of the newborn anywhere on the agenda. The boys strenuously denied that they were going to carry out any of the experiments, but as I looked back on the evening, I recalled that they had taken a particularly keen interest in the day-to-day activities of the infant, even going so far as to write down details such as what time he generally slept in the afternoon, and where we disposed of his nappys.

I confiscated the note pad. The kids have been confined to quarters until further notice. The bank holiday weekend trip to the village fair has been cancelled. No.3 is never more than two feet away from either myself, Dolores or Ravel.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Roger's dilemma

Hello all

In a recent post, I encountered a sick badger called Roger. I was concerned at the time that he was coughing in a way not dissimilar to an animal suffering from TB, and resolved to test him for the disease. Timothy Hedgehog appeared to be satisfied with my suggestion, but the badger was less than keen.

'I cannot submit, Doctor' said the short legged mammal as I bent down to pick him up.

'Huh?' I said, although I wasn't entirely surprised. Seeing as the animal could talk, it was possible he already knew what would happen if he was positive for the disease.

'It is not that I am personally afraid...'


'But I'm afraid that I belong to a badger sect whose prophets are the revered Bodger and Badger, bovine blessings be with them. The teachings of Bodger are sacred to us, and one of his commandments is that we should never submit to medical tests, for fear of disturbing the universal badger aura that unites us all. I cannot allow you to test me doctor. You may only offer palliative care.'

I sighed. This was a clear case of sect-conditioning. I doubted that Roger had any real idea who Bodger and Badger were, but he remained adamant that I must not test him for TB. I was faced with a dilemma. Should I go against his wishes, and risk violating his badger's rights. Or should I take a wider view that society was more precious than the wellfare of a single animal.

Timothy hedgehog supplied a surprisingly diplomatic answer. 'We have some spare cages I think, Doctor. Perhaps you could put Roger in one of them, temporarily, until he gets better?'

I was forced to mull over the idea as we walked back to the hotel. I held Roger in my arms, stroking his fur and equating him, in some bizarre anthropomorphic way, to No. 3. I imagined that myself and Dolores had the same ideaology as the badger, and that someone wanted to test our baby for a genetic disease - the outcome deciding the baby's fate. What would we expect?

Of course, we would expect others to respect our way of life and leave us alone.

I couldn't bring myself to break the poor badgers heart. His stoicism was admirable, more so in my eyes, perhaps, because I lack stoicism sometimes when it is required. As we approached the Institute, I therefore resolved to offer the badger the care he desired, and let nature take its course. Roger is now in a cage, and is given all the food, water and warmth that he desires. So far, there is no sign that the disease is progressing, but he does have a chronic cough and rheumy eyes. I'll let you know he he progresses.


Friday, May 25, 2007


Hello all

Like every blogger, I get stray visitors looking for somewhere else but whose keywords seem to fit in with a post of my own. I ignore most of them, but this one from google made me chuckle..

'i close my eyes to see for certain ahh - joseph'

I had no idea a story about a disastrous trip to a pizza restaurant by Ravel and a girl from the village would find me associated with the Lord Lloyd Webber. I am humbled.


Sunday, May 20, 2007

Love to win

Hello all

Well, who would have thought it possible....

After a rather volatile affair lasting 4 months, it is finally all over.

I wrote several times, hoping to explain myself and give answers to several difficult questions.

For almost the whole four months I was spurned, and eventually I gave up trying.

Then, quite suddenly, the following email appears....


Subject: Merit prize

Good afternoon

I've pasted a url below which links to the article which, it has been
decided, is the best of the competition.

Would you agree?

Warm regards



I clicked on the link and hey presto....

Of course I agreed, and yesterday I received the congratulatory email. So my thanks finally go to Love to Lead and Toshiba. Bless 'em.

I'm now an award winning blogger!



Saturday, May 19, 2007

Badger in the undergrowth

I wondered last week why Timothy Hedgehog was so keen on me writing something in support of the badger community. He told me it was essential that people took pity on badgers and treated them with the respect they deserve. I was a bit surprised by his approach, mainly because I've never heard Timothy lobby for anything other than a more comfortable cage since his arrival several months ago.

After the post had been up for a few days, everything became clear. 'Dr McCrumble...' said Timothy one morning as I was picking lice and other ectoparasites from his body. 'I have something to tell you...'

'Mmm...' I murmured, not really taking much notice due to be pre-occupied with a particularly strong tickthat refused to be removed, and was grasping hold of one of Timothy's hind legs.

'You like badgers now don't you?' asked the hedgehog.

'I always like badgers. Unless they're sick...'

'He's not sick, as such...OUCH!'

'He...?' I replied, holding up the tick, now fully engorged with hedgehog blood.

'Do you have to be so rough?'

'I had no option I'm afraid. I might have been too late already. If he was carrying....'

'I don't want to know.'

'So, what were you saying?'

'There is someone I'd like you to meet. His name is, er, Roger.'

'Right...', I said slowly, unsure where this was going.

'He's over by the art studio. Can we go now?'

I'd just about finished picking arthopods off Timothy's legs and so agreed. En route to the art studio I heard the sounds of No.3 crying, and the gentle tone of my wife asking Ravel to find Timothy to help soothe the infant. 'I'll bring him in a minute', I shouted.

Timothy directed me to the back of the studio, and pointed with his front left leg towards a sheet of corrugated metal sheet that had been previously used to shield some firewood. Lifting the sheet must have startled the animal hiding beneath, and all I saw were the back legs and stripey rear of a small badger as it scuttled out of sight underneath the art studio.

'Roger!', cried Timothy, 'It's me, Timothy. You can come out. I've brought the doctor.'

I mulled the combination of Roger and Badger in my mind whilst waiting for the timid animal to re-emerge. The combination sounded not unlike Bodger and Badger - the name of a long running children's TV show starring a puppet badger (named Badger), and his master (called Bodger). It was a show I've never seen, but which was immensely popular during its ten year run, apparently.

Anyway, it took a few minutes of coaxing by Timothy before Roger emerged. I could see immediately from the dullness of his coat that he was not in the best of health. Judging by his size, I could also tell that he was a juvenile.

Roger sniffed loudly and looked at me inquisitively with rheumy, dark eyes. He then produced a rather large amount of phlegm, which he coughed out at my feet. It was yellow-green, indicating that he might be carrying some form of infection.

'Hello Roger', I said quietly, as one might to anyone one meets for the first time.

'Are you a doctor?', asked Roger, his quiet voice barely audible above the background sounds of birds in the neighbouring wood.

Before we go any further, I should point out that I am not Dr Doolittle's twin or direct descendent. Nor have I ever met Rex Harrison or Eddie Murphy. I was not expecting a reply from the badger, as I was under the distinct impression that Timothy hedgehog was alone in the universe for being the only animal that could talk on a par with humans. To be faced with another mammal that apparently converse, in English, was momentarily both surprising and shocking. It is a testament to my scientific training that I was able to keep control of my feelings in order to keep the animal calm.

'Well, er, Roger', I began, 'I'm not actually a medical doctor, nor indeed a vet, but rather a Phd. Is that any help?'

Roger emerged a bit further into the light. I could see now that he was really quite sick. He looked both underweight and dehydrated, and I was forced to manifest the idea that the poor animal may be infected with tuberculosis. If so there was only one course of action...

******TO BE CONTINUED!*******

Monday, May 14, 2007

Save the badgers - The Daily McCrumble

An attempt in the Republic of Ireland to control the spread of bovine tuberculosis by culling badgers has failed, miserably. Thousands of badgers were killed in the attempt, prompted by the speculation (and very limited reasearch evidence) that badgers spread TB to cattle. The incidence of TB has increased. This is not the first time that killing off the much-loved, black-and white striped, short-legged omnivores has failed to do the job, which makes you wonder why they keep flogging such a dead horse. Could it be do to with the perceived improvements in cost-effectiveness of snaring badgers vs routine TB testing in cattle?

TB testing still happens in the UK. But did you know that during the foot and mouth epidemic a few years ago, the testing was suspended for 9 months. And guess what happened...

That's right - the badgers got sick (ref 1).

On top of that, badgers are very socially mobile creatures. Badgers in general are attracted to smaller groups (ref 2), and male badgers will head off for groups with a higher proportion of females. You can easily see how killing off part of a group increases social mobility, thus potentiating the spread of various infectious diseases

What happens, then, if you stop testing for TB and cull badgers?

That's right - you move TB infested cattle around, thus spreading TB to the local badger population. Then, by killing off a proportion of the badgers, you cause the badgers to move around, thus spreading TB amongst the badger population.

This is what happened in Ireland.

RIP, badger


(This report was commissioned by Timothy Hedgehog, who wishes to bring the plight of his woodland friends to the blogosphere)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Not another phone scandal? The Daily McCrumble

News just in...

Here in the UK, ITV have apologised, after forgetting to remind viewers that a phone-in quiz show that depends on people phoning in to guess the answers was not, as you might expect, live.

Is this another example of a phone-in scandal, something to rival the escapades of the BBC when they 'forgot' to remind viewers that one of their 'live' cookery programmes was recorded two years ago - a mistake that had thousands of amateur cooks throwing mushroom fritatas at their televisions in frustration?

Sadly no. It turns out that the program was shown on the hugely popular ITV2+1 channel. Anyone familiar with the imaginative abbreviations that TV executives like to use to separate their channels will immediately recognise that the program in question could not have been live, as it was being shown 1 hour behind the mother channel, ITV2. Nonetheless, ITV estimate that 'hundreds' of people may have been affected when they tried to phone in. My sources tell me that the 'unfortunate human error' was due to the fact that the girl who normally writes the reminder that goes on the screen was out shopping for a new Kate Moss dress (allegedly).

Mmm. Look closely at the BBC article and you'll see that ITV have offered refunds, despite the lines apparently being closed. My scientific training allows me to spot a discrepancy here. If the lines were closed, how could people be charged? One suspects the lines never close - it is simply the case that there is no-one there to take the call.

Were you affected? If so, you might be ideal for an experiment that I'm conducting as part of a damning expose of the whole industry. Read on for details of how to take part.

How to enter:
Think of a word beginning with N that describes someone who likes to play on these TV quiz shows. Send your answer to I'll pick someone at random, (but it will probably be you) within the next 24 hours. If you are chosen, you'll be given a special premium phone line that you should ring at least 50 times in the next two days. All you have to do is simply count how many times you hear a real voice after the 5 minute recorded message, and tell me by email at the above email address. If for some reason you don't make it to 50 calls (eg, a technical failure after your 48th attempt!), let me know and we'll start the clock again. If my expose is commissioned by ITV2+1, I'll make sure your contribution is given full accreditation by including your name in the list of victims that I will show on screen, thus ensuring you finally make it onto the telly.

Good luck!


Friday, May 11, 2007

The fat man runs

Hello all

My marketing manager, the slightly overweight Dr Booth, has told me that he intends to shed his beer/cake gut by undertaking a sponsored run around the sights of London. He is quick to point out that he is not doing this for fun, but as a way of raising money for Stand Up for Africa - the registered charity to which the Matangini Project belongs. The run is scheduled for the 1st July, under the banner of the ASICS 10k British London run. He also asked me to point out that he never normally runs anywhere, so although the 10k may not be in the same league as a marathon, it's still a mountain to climb...

Dr Booth has established a page at

You can donate any amount from just £2, and if you are a UK taxpayer, the charity will claim 28% giftaid on your donation.

The money raised will be put towards a borehole in a rural Kenyan school. The borehole will provide approx 300 children with a sustainable source of clean water, and considerably reduce their exposure to a wide range of water-borne diseases.

best wishes


Sunday, May 06, 2007

Milk stupor

No.3 is now a month old, and putting on weight like he was trying to out-perform that chap who tried to commit suicide by eating McDonald's burgers for a month. He gulps down milk from Dolores' breasts like a seasoned beer drinker downing a yard of ale. It makes me wonder if maybe he possesses one of those gullets that can stay open for prolonged periods to allow rapid flow of whatever fluid is being swallowed.

Such is the little one's appetite that he cannot be satisified with the content's of my wife's breasts. His little face reddens the moment she prises him off - often after an hour or more of constant suckling. At first we thought he just had colic, but the constant chewing of hands straight after each feed led us to believe that maybe he just wasn't getting enough. Eventually, we had to concede that perhaps his natural feed would need topping up with formula.

I had forgotten since the days of the twins just how much formula a new-born drinks. The instructions on the packet said about 3 fluid ounces, so that is what I told Ravel to prepare. He was gone a while, during which time I tried to placate the infant by taking him on an educational tour of the living area. When I met Ravel in the corridor he was not returning from the kitchen, as I expected, but seemed to have emerged from the main laboratory. 'Everything alright?' I asked.

'Sure boss, I was just using bunsen burner to warm bottle', answered my research assistant. 'Quicker that way, yes?'

No.3 knocked the whole lot back in a matter of minutes, and I swear I saw him pointing at his toothless mouth as if to say 'feed me' as soon as he had finished. 'They know when to stop', said Dolores, so I told Ravel to prepare another 3 fluid ounces.

He didn't quite make it through the second bottle, but he gave it a damn good try. Those of you with children will know that a newborn's stomach is about the size of their fist. I figured we stretched it by a factor of four or five, but he didn't seem to mind. 'I think we may have spawned a binge-drinker' quipped Dolores as he finally fell off the teat and closed his eyes.

It certainly appeared that way. No3. remained motionless for a moment or two before his eyes re-opened about half-way. His arms were limp, his legs were extended and floppy. I picked him up and he made not a move. His arms did not flail, his legs did not kick. His eyes remained half closed, the pupils glazed over, his lips puckered. I jiggled his arms to elicit a response, but he was effectively comatose. I reckoned that not even the sight of his grandma McHaggarty in a polka-dot bikini and full make-up could have awoken him from his milk-stupor at that point.

'Have we overdone it?', I asked, not recalling seeing the twins in quite such a state during their time on the bottle.

'We might have. But frankly, if it keeps him quiet for a while, I don't mind. You?'

'Er, I guess it'll be ok. I mean, like you said, they know when to stop, don't they?'

The stupor lasted 2 days. No3 remained half-awake the whole time, quiet as could be, barely a movement beyond the occasional startle reflex. He refused both breast and bottle, and passed neither solid nor liquid into his nappy. We were unworried for the first 24 hours, then we started to fidget, before wondering if we should take No.3 to the nearest A&E (a long long way away).

Sometime after the 50th hour, something stirred in No.3's moses basket. Dolores shouted at me to come to the bedroom. No.3 was still under the covers, but had curled himself up into a tight ball, head tucked down into his chest, arms drawn inwards, knees up to his chest. The only bit of flesh showing was on one of his feet that had lost its little sock. He was making small snuffling sounds and breathing rapidly.

'Colic?', I suggested, though, from what I remembered from the twins behaviour when they were colicy, it seemed a bit extreme.

'Don't know', said Dolores, shrugging. 'I think we might have to go the hospital though. This isn't normal.'

Ravel entered the room at this point, munching on some toast. He peered into the basket and said 'OK, now he is good. He will be less trouble now.'

'Huh?', we said, in unison. Sometimes my research assistant is just a tad too cryptic.

'I add something to formula to make him less angry', said Ravel, bending down to look more closely at the infant. 'We use it all the time in Bulgaria. It worked good. Look...'

I bent down to get a closer look but saw nothing unusual. 'Just what did you add?', I asked, pointedly.

'Timothy hedgehog gave up small sample of blood. I heat up formula and...'

'You did what?', we cried in unison.

'I mumble?', asked Ravel. 'I said I...'

'Yes, we heard', I said, impatiently. 'What were you thinking? Why?'

Ravel moved away from the basket and gazed into the garden beyond. 'In my home, we have many hedgehogs. We use them for many things. They make good companions for infants, but first you have to give baby a drop of hedgehog blood. You will see now that when they lie close, your baby will be instantly quiet. Wake him, I bring Timothy, we test, you see I am right.'

'How much blood did you use, actually?', asked Dolores sharply, her maternal instinct shining forth.

'Just to make formula very slightly pink. Timothy not miss it', answered my research assistant.

'I don't give a fig about Timothy. If you've done something to my baby Ravel, I'll...'

'I promise no harm. We test now. I bring the animal.'

We waited for Ravel to return with Timothy. The hedgehog was looking a bit fractious, undoubtedly due to having lost some blood unnecessarily. Seeing that No3 was still asleep, Ravel prodded the infant until a sharp cry was heard. I moved to pick up the baby and check he was OK, but Ravel stepped in front to bar me from getting close enough. He then prodded No.3 again, this time prompting a continuous stream of noise. 'OK, now baby is awake, you watch what happens', said Ravel, having placed the screaming infant on our bed before finally moving out of the way.

The term 'awake' was an understatement. No.3 was bawling like never before. Dolores bent over with arms outstretched, but before she had a chance to lift her baby to her chest, Ravel had already placed the hedgehog on the bed next to No.3.

The effect was instantaneous. No3. stopped crying. He assumed a relaxed position with arms and legs loosely stretched. As Ravel pushed No.3 closer, the baby first tried to latch on to Timothy's lower jaw....

When he realised that no milk was forthcoming, he put his arm around the hedgehogs abdomen, seemingly oblivious to the spines, and promptly fell asleep...

Ravel stood there, a big smile on his face. 'See, I told you it works!' he said.

'I'll reserve judgement, Ravel,' said Dolores sternly. 'This doesn't explain why he was in a milk stupor for 2 days. If Timothy's blood was contaminated...'

'No dear', I interjected. 'I've tested Timothy for just about everything. It's very unlikely. And Ravel said they use this all the time in his family. Look at Ravel. Nothing wrong with him, is there?'

'Not on the surface', acknowleged Dolores. 'OK, so it worked this time. But the effect will wear off soon, won't it. Then what? Do we put Timothy on a line and milk his blood every other day?'

'Dolores, this is long-term solution.' remonstrated Ravel. 'I sincerely promise, the hedgehog will not lose more blood. Baby will not cry if you put hedgehog nearby.'

Well, that was four days ago. So far, No.3 has been very peaceful. A couple of times he's started crying and we've put him next to Timothy with the same results. Could be just coincidence, of course, and under no circumstances can I recommend this course of action to anyone else. I would not have let Ravel use the blood of any hedgehog had I received prior knowledge of his intentions. But sometimes the greatest scientific discoveries are entirely down to serendipity and circumstance. Watch this space, as they say...