The Mole Issue
Peregrine has requested more mole features in The Post. Bless him. We did ask for feedback after all. Let's give the man what he wants, moles; probably more moles than he knows what to do with.
One thing you could do with excess moles is to make moleskin trousers or waistcoats, the traditional dress worn by the boatmen on the English canals.
In the classic account of a journey in 1946, Narrow Boat, LTC Rolt comments:
'Not so very long ago, the boat captain wore trousers of buff corduroy or dark mock moleskin, tight-fitting, but belling from the knee. These he kept in place by a broad belt, woven of such bright colours that it resembled a vivid sash. His waistcoat too was of corduroy or moleskin.'
When I lived on a narrowboat, my cats would regularly donate gifts of rodent wildlife, posting them through the hatch in the boat's roof and thus creating a pleasant little heap outside the bathroom door.
Maybe this was the original source of the free waistcoats?
What actually IS a mole? Or, for that matter, a peregrine, since he started all this!
'Swooping on its prey with a stupendous power dive. The female is appreciably larger than the male.'
Talking of size, I bet you didn't know that the mole flea3 is Britain's largest flea, did you?
The mole itself rejoices under the Latin name of 'talpa europaea'; I bet I can guess which way it would vote in a referendum. It is, apparently, absent from Ireland. Probably St Patrick, when dealing with the snakes, responded to requests of:
'And while you're at it, pal...'
In general, moles get a bad press. For some reason, gardeners and farmers don't appreciate seeing molehills appear overnight.
The Home of Today4 is quite matter-of-fact about how to deal with your friendly neighbourhood mole:
'In waging war against moles, there is nothing so simple and effective as a mixture of ordinary soap and water poured into their holes.'
In case you are thinking that all you'd end up with is nice, clean moles, I should perhaps point out that we're talking about 4 *gallons* of boiling water here.
I've been asked why the soap is necessary; I really don't know, but soap is certainly a vital ingredient if you're looking to Clean Old Marble according to The Hon Wm (Cocktail) Boothby:
'Take a bullock's gall, one gill of soap suds and half a gill of turpentine, make into a paste with pipe clay; apply it to the marble, let it dry for a day or two, then rub it off. If very dirty give a second application.'
Special prize for anyone who can supply a definition of a bullock's gall suitable for a family website.
As you might expect, Enid Blyton is firmly on the side of the moles. In The Children of Cherry Tree Farm, Uncle Tim threatens to bring in the mole catcher. The children decide to consult their wild-man friend, Tammylan.
'"If Tammylan can find any good words for moles as far as farmers are concerned, I'll be surprised!" snorts Uncle Tim.'
Tammlylan of course wastes no time in demonstrating the industrious and generally harmless existence of the mole.
'"Isn't it funny to think that moles are making a sort of underground world below our feet?" said Sheila.
"I suppose the people who made the Underground Railway copied the moles5!"'
The children make the point to Uncle Tim that moles gobble up nasty insects such as the slugworm, described in gory detail In The Home of Today:
'These are most disagreeable creatures, having something of the appearance of particularly dirty greenish slugs, and exuding black slime and with a sickening smell.'
Let's quickly change the subject; I have been requested to provide another fun word game from Enid Blyton's Book of the Year.
Have a go at this one:
'I am a fish; change my head and you may catch my first with my second; change my tail, and I am an ugly noise; add another head and I become a bird; add another tail and I am many people together; take away all but my middle and I am nothing.'
Of course, there are other sorts of moles and even the human undercover agent sometimes gets caught; the latest to hit the headlines being Stakeknife; who is apparently about to be exposed on the dear old internet.
No, I'm not going to provide you with a link. I'm sure that with a little judicious searching it would be possible to find out all about this if you are so inclined.
Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of espionage and infiltration, the internet can seem a tad scary at times. When was the last time you searched your name? An acquaintance of mine managed, with very little effort, to track down the home address of a person they had never met and was all set to pay them a visit by use of this online information.
Another person I know has a business card which includes the instructions 'Type my name into your search engine; I can't keep up with all the references.'
Just in case this seems to prove that 'google is god', maybe at this point, I should point out that all the research for this weeks column has been done entirely without the aid of the internet. Strange, but true.
Finally of course, one person's mole is another person's beauty spot! Much sought after in days gone by, to the extent that false ones were 'de rigeur' in fashionable society. I am fortunate to be the proud owner of one in just the right place; this must prove something!
To finish on a rather sombre note, but worth it if it saves someone's life, skin cancer is on the increase, but eminently treatable if caught in the early stages. So, please see your doctor about any mole which changes colour, size or shape, becomes inflamed, starts bleeding or itching, or is more than a quarter of an inch in diameter.
You won't be able to check out your back; so invite a good friend to do so... mole examination can be fun!