The elephant not in the room.

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Common Brushtail Elephant Possum (Pencil sketch Paul Fairweather )

Hello Possum

A few years ago the late New Zealand architect Ian Attfield recalled the story of when he was redesigning the Wellington Museum, part of the brief was to display a stored 100-year-old stuffed elephant. To his surprise, this elephant was still urinating, however, upon closer inspection, he discovered a family of possums had taken up residence inside the elephant, and were relieving themselves through the elephant’s groin.

Possums are very cute, but when they take up residence in inappropriate places they can be a real pest. Besides the screeching at night, they make an enormous racket when they have triple jump races wearing hobnailed boots across my long flat roof. Sometimes I wonder if there is a herd of elephants up there.

A while back I would regularly wake in the middle of the night to a noise that sounded a lot like the trumpeting of an elephant. It was quite different from the sound of dogs howling, or cats (or neighbours for that matter) fighting or mating. In my half-sleep between dreaming and thinking, the only logical, albeit drowsy explanation seemed to be that it was some unusual possum call. As I would doze off with the Baby Elephant Walk song playing in my mind, I would make a mental note to google possum sounds, but never remembered.

Sometime later when de-cluttering the toy boxes in the TV room, I heard that possum call again. For half a moment it occurred to me that the possums were nesting in the toy box, however, it turned out that the sound was emanating from an infants puzzle book. There were four buttons that made different noises, a fire engine, a racing car, a duck, and an elephant! Inexplicably the elephant button was going off at random times during the night, trumpeting through the house. Finally, I could sleep easy as the elephant in the room had finally been addressed. That just left the possums.

Whilst there are many resident possums around the house, I don’t have to do constant battle with bush turkeys, as many Teneriffe residents do. Mind you, the attention that they would give my often neglected yard could only benefit it. Whilst bush turkeys and possums are protected wildlife when people complain of the former, I pass on my mother’s outback recipe. The bush turkey meat is very tough, so to cook it, you boil the turkey in a large pot along with a stone of equal size. When the rock is soft, you can eat the turkey!

Maybe I could have found a possum solution had the Kiwi architect given me a recipe for the possum pie recipe. Then the problem might have been solved, not just the puzzle.

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