Hedgehog season

They’re back.

It works like this: we have a back yard, with a terrace a Hungarian fellow made for us out of cobblestones left over from when he made our driveway for us. On the terrace is a tent-like-roof-thing structure with a heavy metal frame (to which we attach buckets of cobblestones left over from our terrace in windstorms). Beneath this we, my wife and I, and sometimes kids or other people, sit at night and drink wine or tea by candlelight and chat.

This is out in the country, sort of. Small town. It gets very dark.

Then my wife says, “Ssh!” and we all freeze. She has heard a hedgehog in the bushes.

We get lots of hedgehogs every year because our yard is set up to attract them. We have lots of bushes for hiding, and a brush pile under the catalpa where they can spend the winter if they don’t like the little houses I built for them a few years ago.

The tortoise house in the flowerbed in front of our house also seems to have hedgehog squatters.

Usually, I have to take my wife’s word for it. Here is a picture of what I usually see, because my eyes are blinded by the candles and like I said it’s pretty dark:

“Look, Mig, fourteen hedgehogs!”

Alpha is the Jane Goodall of hedgehogs. She knows their habits and gives them names derived from their appearance or individual personalities.

She can hear them eating in the bushes, and she can hear them rustling through dry leaves and stuff.

Sometimes I do hear them, too. I heard a couple fighting a few nights ago. They are territorial. They sort of hiss at each other until one gets tired of it and gives up.

Sometimes I actually see them.

Night before last, there were two young ones in our driveway. Our guess was they had been living in the tortoise house with their mother and were exploring. Maybe she had kicked them out, although they were quite small. Maybe something happened to her and they were hungry.

They were nosing around. We put out a dish of hedgehog food (they sell it in cans in petstores here. As I have said before, it looks like catfood with a picture of a hedgehog on the can, but is of course more expensive) and they had an interesting reaction. One (the more adventurous one) made a sound that sounded like delight, and ran to the dish. The other (more cautious one) ran over and shoved him away. We figured this was because young hedgehogs are shown by their mothers what is safe to eat, and maybe she never showed them canned hedgehog food. The adventurous one was willing to try it, but the other one insisted, so they wandered off.

Later I leaned a board onto the driveway near the fence so they had a ramp down into our back yard, which they immediately used. I guess they’ve moved into the back yard as we haven’t seen them in the driveway since then.

Then, last night we saw a large, light-colored one. Our hedgehogs appear to come in two colors, light and dark. Some have dark grey faces, some are nearly white. It doesn’t seem to be an age thing, some young ones are light too.

Gamma estimates we have 300 hedgehogs in our back yard, 302 with the new young ones.

I’ve seen four, and heard another one.

More on painkillers

An interesting side-effect of the various things I was taking was the inspiration; for example, it occurred to me that no one had made an album of metal classics played on Glockenspiel, and that the perfect title for such an album would be “Rockenspiel!”.

In other news, I think I nicked an artery shaving this morning. Do we have arteries in our chins? I went through three bandaids on my drive in to work, and about two feet of toilet paper sitting in my office.

The keg of beer (annotated version)

There is a keg of beer on the kitchen table1. It is there in connection with Beta’s high school graduation. This being Austria, my wife2 bought it for the graduation ceremony at the school. This being Austria, it was not consumed entirely because 1) my wife had also organized prosecco for the buffet3 and 2) the chemistry class had also brewed a keg of hefeweizen.4
So some was left over and now it’s on the kitchen table5 and I and other beer drinkers in our family6 and social circle are being encouraged to drink it before my wife has to return it.
You can maybe see where this is heading. This is the point where I gracefully segue into talking about my kid and her graduation and how proud that makes me.
First, I wanted to mention where we went to celebrate her graduation. The restaurant, I mean.7
Before that, though: she played harp8 at the graduation ceremony. Part of her solo9 from our orchestra performances this year. Some people at her school, such as the principal, were surprised that she could play the harp. Beta had kept it a secret to avoid being asked to play, something she learned about in grade school, I guess.10
Anyway, this restaurant.
Oh, I also wanted to say how much the other kids impressed me too. Bunch of smart people.11
The restaurant was pretty good. We went with my inlaws. Alpha’s parents were uncomfortable because it was urban and ritzy. The view was nice, it’s across the square from the big cathedral in Vienna. The prices reflect this, and the quality of the food, which is pretty good. Service was good too, until they got busy.12
I threatened Beta that I would make an embarrassing speech, as fatherly tradition requires,13 but she wasn’t horrified enough and I never really got a chance. I would have kept it short.
I would have said this:

    Beta was born on [date] in [place] in Japan at [exact time] in the middle of a typhoon. She weighed [exact weight]. I rode my bicycle through the storm (carrying a small, transparent umbrella Japanese-style) to the hospital and got there in time to see them rolling her to the ambulance in a little portable pink incubator to take her to another hospital specializing in preemies. She looked very small, 38cm long, being born 10 weeks early. I visited her daily in the hospital after that, delivering milk her mother pumped.14 In the hospital they called me the milkman. Once my wife was well enough to go too, we went together.
    The first time I visited her in the hospital, I disinfected my hands and put on a surgical gown and her doctor [name] gave me a tour and explained gently the risks she faced and that there was a 90% chance there would be no brain damage. She was so tiny, and yet when I looked around the ward, she was one of the largest babies there. They had 600 gram babies, too. They had a mentally damaged girl about 2 with no fingers or toes rolling around in one of those springy walker things kids roll around in rolling around the ward.
    They had everything.15
    Beta was small and yellow and hooked up to wires and had a feeding tube down her nose and was respirated for the first two or three days. “When can I touch her?” I asked the doctor and he said, “now if you like” and I reached into the incubator and she put her fingers16 around the tip of my right index finger. I managed not to cry, but only with great effort; I didn’t want to start a chain reaction and have all the babies in the ward start crying.17
    Beta came home after a couple months and things went okay except, like, for me almost drowning her during her first bath18 or the bumping her head on the ceiling while tossing her in the air incident later on.
    She appeared to develop normally except for never crawling (she rolled). Before she learned to talk, she had the scary habit of whispering when she was home alone with me and sleeping in the other room, but stopping whenever I went in to check on her.19
    She learned to walk, from which point on trips to the grocery store down the street took ten times as long because she had to stop and pick up every single cigarette butt on the way. She liked the playground across the street especially the slides.
    This is how we did the slides20: I never told her to be careful or let her see how much it freaked me out. She climbed up the ladder,21 stood at the top for a while and slid down. Meanwhile, I stood behind her on the ground while she climbed, ready to catch her if she fell. Then I nervously waited for her while she stood at the top, trying to stand on the side of the slide she would fall out if she fell, and then ran around to the foot of the slide when she finally slid, and caught her.
    And this is how things have gone for the last almost 18 years. Beta has explored her world with curiosity and without fear and I have done my best not to show her how scared I have been, in order to avoid passing any fear on to her, and to the best of my ability I have been there to catch her if she should happen to fall. And so far, things have worked out better than I ever dared dream or hope.

This is the speech I would have made, but I never got the chance.

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