Staying in Westmeston Place, near Ditcling, there have been a number of surprising encounters of the animal kind. There was the Robin in the kitchen. There was the wallaby sighted by my landlady's daughters. The panther spotted by Dermot who lives next door. I shrink from mentioning the other kind of visitors who came to the kitchen looking for some nibbles. There was even the incident a few weeks back when an old man in Lewes high street called me over and told me:-
"I can't go back into my house because there is an enormous red snake in there."
I offered to tell the police, and then went and did so, to their surprise. I left my details and the address of the man with the snake, and they said they'd send someone round.
The next day the people I'm staying with in Westmeston told me there was a strange messsage for me on the answerphone. I pressed the button.
"Mr Glyn-Jones it's Lewes police station. We're calling to tell you that there wasn't an enormous red snake in the man's house."
I can understand why my house-colleagues would have found this a little strange. And the police hadn't really enlightened me as to why the old man had thought that there was an enormous snake in his house, although thoughts of Weston's Strong Vintage Organic Cider come to mind.
None of this, however, prepared me for the creature that crawled along the kitchen floor a couple of days ago in Westmeston Place.
"Oh my god! What is that!" cried Alina, one of the landlady's daughters.
I went over to have a look.
"It's a lizard!" I said, and suddenly the enormous red snake in the man's house in Lewes didn't seem so impossible after all. "That's the wierdest animal we've had in here yet!" Then I wondered if that sounded a bit rude.
I thought about the matter for a moment, not very clearly.
"Maybe it's a slow worm," I said. "They're actually snakes but they look like lizards."
I thought about it a bit more.
"Oh no, hang on, they're actually lizards but they look like snakes. They haven't got any legs."
This fellow, however, did have legs. What on Earth was he doing walking around the place in December?
"What shall we do with him?" asked Alina.
I responded by placing a bowl over him and said "First I'm going to finish my dinner."
I wondered whether the newly built swimming pool shed in the orchard at the end of the garden might be the safest place for a lizard to hole up during the night.
"What about the swimming pool shed?" Alina suggested, just after this thought.
"I was just thinking the same thing!" I said.
So after my dinner I took the little fellow down to the shed, although not without misgivings. What if he had a perfectly good home which he had been on his way back to before I put the bowl over him? And how would he find enough to eat and drink before he settled back into hypernation? Still, it seemed the only way forward.
Shortly after when I was back in the kitchen my landlady returned.
"It wasn't a newt?" she suggested when I informed her about the recent goings on.
A newt! Of course it was a newt!
"There are lots of newts in the pond," she added.
Yes indeed there were, and now I recalled Dermot telling me how at night after it has rained the newts go crawling around the fields. This was such a night - the grass all lovely and wet for a newt to go crawling around in.
Using my phone as a torch I hunted around the shed to try and find the poor little fellow who I had cut off from the moisture a newt loves and needs. But nowhere was he to be seen. I had another look the following day, and left the door open for an hour or so to give him a good chance of escape. Let's hope he's doing fine, and has found his way back to the pond.