Hedgehogs, fox kits and old racing trophies. Prior to my birth and a couple of years afterwards, my father raced in Motocross and accumulated a number of the hard waxy green laurel garlands that were placed on the winners. The other prizes were crystal vases, plates and other paraphernalia. The vases and plates were kept by his mother, my grandmother, but the garlands were too much even for her, and were piled up in the attic, where I found them, aged seven. A few were donated by me to be awarded to friends competing in hugely important and world-renowned billy-cart races, conducted on a steep hill that possessed a most important requirement, being out of sight of most adults. The hill ended in either a main road if your steering did not turn right, or in a fast flowing creek if your steering did not turn left, so we were dicing with getting sopping wet or in serious trouble by getting dobbed in to our families if we ended up near the main road. Our own version of Formula1 finished abruptly when one of us ended up with a broken arm and we found out that hiding an open fracture was beyond even our ability. The adults refused to believe that this had happened whilst doing nothing but sitting on a park bench.
After this, my business dried up, but there were still a number of the garlands left. I very quickly realised that the garlands, placed one on top of the other, made a wonderful home for my ever-expanding wildlife finds. One of my unusual pets was a baby hedgehog, found after his mother had been run over by a car. I hand-raised him and he certainly appreciated the nest I made him out of the winner’s garlands. He was so cute. If he was frightened, he would curl up in a tight ball, and all you could see was the spikes. If you tickled his exposed body parts, he would uncurl. Next was a fox kit. It grew up more quickly than I had anticipated, stole a large piece of beef my grandmother was cooling down ready for beef wellington, and here ended my animal rescue and recycling of my father’s once prized winnings. I wonder how many more are out there; once the most precious possessions, only to be left dusty in corners of attics, garages and spare bedrooms.