The flittermouse chronicles

[This item, written in a hurry, continues the flittermouse series that began
here, and continued, here. As Idleposts go, it is not very good.]


Bats have long been objects of fascination to me; verily, since I first encountered them in considerable dusk numbers, as a wee lad in Lahore. At this diurnal signal they would drop from trees in which they’d been invisible all day, and launch for the mosquito hunt, airborne upon their incomparably lean, membraned fingers. This was in the Lawrence Gardens, across The Mall from my home in those days — a botanical garden, adjoining a zoological garden, and as I recall, the seat of Paradise. The grounds contained, too, Montgomery Hall, a grand club and library from the Raj times, wherein my father once bought me a camel sandwich.

What, really, do I think of bats? My love for them is enhanced by a delicious terror. I was amazed by their sudden numbers, broadcasting from the darkness beneath the trees, wildly acrobatic, dancing in the air at hyperbolic dervish speed. At six, I was afraid of them, but drawn back to their spectacle again and again, assured that no bat would ever collide with something so big and blatant as a boy. A bat can avoid a wire thin as a hair in the dark. By the twirling of those umbrella fingers his flight is more nimble than any bird’s.

While writing yesterday my protest against despotic city by-laws, I mentioned bats. We have plenty in the Greater Parkdale Area, mostly small brown items, barely thumb size until the wings are twitching, and the chiroptophobe’s imagination gets working on enlargement. Much smaller than the bats of my childhood, which were yuge, I assure you.

Our subpolar bats must be out of hibernation now. Saw some just this evening. Aha, I thought, the first bat of spring.

It is true, as I wrote yesterday, that one may not keep bats as pets in Toronto; let alone as a highly inefficient dairy herd. Though I can’t see how you could keep a bat, without killing the little thing to no purpose. Bat dormitories, on the analogy of dovecotes, perhaps?

My old office in Saint Nicholas Street I also mentioned yesterday. It was the location of my only adventure in bat-herding. This wasn’t intentional, I should explain, to avoid takedown by the local vegan posse comitatus (who seem to compete with fruitbats for their food supply).

It was, you see, in the heat of summer, that I went off for a few days, leaving my fifth-storey window open. I returned to find a starter colony of brown bats in a corner of my ceiling. They were sleeping, and only one agreed to be disturbed, briefly, until returning to his hang. They left of their own free will at dusk, and I resolved to get a screen for the window, being opposed to any further accumulation of bat guano.

Now while a bat is quite sharp-witted when awake, he spends most of his day asleeping, and the late night, too. At least these brown bats do. And when, finally, he awakes, he does not ask for coffee. Instead he stays groggy for a while. That is when the cats get him, or other preying beasts. Out and flittering, a bat is immune to capture, since he can spot anything that moves, and out-fly, or at a pinch, out-manoeuvre. I am told that bats who have found safe shelters may live for decades, even in the city.

I love their pointy little ears, equipped to provide surround-sound for their echolocation. The eyes, of course, are not so good, but they only need them to check their watches. Assuming of course that bats have watches, which, if they have them, must be very very small.

N.B. nothing in this post is to be interpreted as a criticism of Pope Francis, or Bernie Sanders.