COLLEEN SMITH: Mutant ninja genius badger
SO there I was, in the garden, stark naked, with a badger. And not just any badger. This mutant ninja badger has a genius level IQ, an attitude and must-have developed opposable thumbs. She (well, obviously I'm assuming it's a she, because she's so clever) is the Beast of Meadfoot.
Readers may remember that earlier in the summer I had problems with somebody or something opening my lockable food waste recycling bin and making a mess.
I had tried hiding it under one of the other recycling boxes. But in the morning I found both boxes pulled over and rubbish all over the terrace.
Then I tried standing the locked food caddy under a garden chair. That failed to deter the beast.
The critter pulled the chair over and in the morning the cellulose bags were ripped to bits with seagulls joining the party and trailing what was left all over the garden. Big yukky mess for me to clean up before work. Just what you want when you're late and on the school run.
I then put a great big rock on top of the inverted recycling box with the food waste bin hidden away underneath and that seemed to do the trick.
But instead the ravenous beast has recently turned its attention to the actual dustbins — not just mine, but the two closest neighbours as well.
Almost every morning for the last fortnight I have got up to find all three lots of bins pulled over and rubbish everywhere – in my drive and garden and all over the road. I've even gone out with a brush, picked up the rubbish and swept the road a few times to stop everybody else's rubbish blowing in through my gate!
Last Thursday night I finally got to bottom of the mystery. I was in bed, naked, for reasons I will leave to your imagination. It goes without saying that I was not in bed alone.
As I lay there, half-awake, I gradually became aware of a vaguely familiar background noise. Suddenly I leapt up out of bed. It was the sound of the plastic food waste bin being dragged back and forth across the stone paving on the terrace. At last! If I was quiet I would catch the Beast of Meadfoot red-handed.
I tried looking out of the bedroom window, but it was too close to the house, directly below the window, and I couldn't see. I tried standing on the windowsill and poking my head out. It was too dark.
This was the point at which my beloved woke up: to see me illuminated against the street lights, standing naked on the windowsill, with my bum sticking through the half-open curtains and my head out of the window.
I dread to think what thoughts first went through his head in his half-awake state.
I whispered something about the Beast of Meadfoot, which probably didn't reassure him as to my sanity.
We tip-toed down to the kitchen and looked out onto the terrace. I was only a couple of feet away but whatever was out there carried on determinedly trying to get at our food leftovers. I switched on the kitchen light, positive this would scare the creature away, but hoping to catch a glimpse as it ran down the garden path. We could only vaguely make out something dark with a tail. Even switching on the light didn't bother it.
We went out to the utility room, opened the back door and I walked out. Yes, as I said before, I was stark naked. But don't worry, I wasn't going to scare anybody. My back door is well out of sight from the street, behind a 6ft-high stone wall.
A badger lifted its head and stared short-sightedly back at me. I love badgers. When we lived in rural Teignbridge a massive badger used to stand on its hind legs and eat off our bird table. We loved watching it.
But I was surprised to see this relatively small, probably 2ft-long badger, within a few hundred yards of Torquay harbourside. And I was amazed it had worked out a way to open a supposedly animal-proof container. More cunning and stronger than a fox. Clever old badgy.
I approached it, thinking it would finally run off, but instead it moved towards me. My beloved told me not to go any closer because it might attack, which I found hard to believe, but I wasn't prepared to test out the theory in my vulnerable state of total nudity.
Instead, we went back into the kitchen and it refused to leave until we had banged on the window hard a few times.
The next day I saw the lads who rent the house opposite and told them about the badger. They said they already knew, and told me that it had tried to attack one of them!
I found this hard to believe but after looking up badger attacks online I found it is extraordinarily behaviour for an animal that is usually wary of people, but it does happen.
The only documented case I found was in 2003 when a rogue badger attacked five people during a 48-hour rampage in a quiet suburb of Evesham. According to the BBC it was believed that this badger had been brought up from a cub with people because it had no fear of humans.
Today, I have been on the phone to the Badger Trust and Tor2. The Badger Trust said somebody will come and do a site visit. A very, very helpful young woman on Torbay Council's customer service line said: "Wow! I'm glad I don't live in your street!"
She then made a few calls and managed to get hold of a Tor2 boss locally who has promised to come around and take a look himself, within 24 hours.
Within an hour a lovely young man called Matthew was here, with a new wheeled bin for me. Hooray! I had always been told that I didn't qualify for a wheeled bin because I was in a town-centre weekly area.
Then he made a few calls, and organised for new bins for the lads in the flats opposite too.
Thank you Tor2 for a brilliant service.