It’s like the Easter Bunny, but less fluffy and more scaly. Also, significantly slower and more rock-shaped.
I went for a post-lunch Easter Sunday walk in the wilds of Cheshire, and chanced upon this rather unusual specimen. Apparently, ever since the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, escaped pet terrapins have been slowly colonizing British waterways. It was evidently heading for the ditch between two fields, but had managed to get itself very solidly wedged into the wire fence inside the hedge.
I looked at it. It looked at me. It waved its limbs helplessly, suspended in mid-air, then retreated into its shell, almost as if embarrassed to be seen in such an awkward situation. Did it want my help? Or would it rather struggle on alone? It clearly couldn’t move, and didn’t seem very happy. Assuming it didn’t have a death wish, lifting it over the fence and placing it next to the water seemed the most charitable course of action.
It’s not easy picking up a terrapin. First you touch it, to make sure it’s real. Then you look at the dusty residue it leaves on your fingers. You might expect it to feel cold and smooth, like polished marble, but it was warm to the touch. Then you wonder if it will mind being moved – who knows what goes on in that impenetrable reptilian brain. Do they bite? I’ve heard of snapping turtles, but this one didn’t look especially bloodthirsty.
I wondered: do you pick them up by the edges, or lift them on your palm from below, like a waiter raising a tray in a silver service restaurant? I opted for the edges, being very careful not to put my fingers in the soft, squidgy, limb-holes. It felt a bit like lifting a full soup bowl into the air, being anxious not to spill. I carried it over the stile, and across a small plank bridge, before gently depositing it in the long grass by the water’s edge.
And there I left it, to bury its wounded pride in brackish waters. Odd creature.