“Do you have glis glis yet?” I was asked. “You know, the ones Baron Rothschild brought over?”
“Keep talking,” I replied. “This is bound to start meaning something eventually.”
When I got home I did some research. It’s not in Chambers, even under its common name of ‘edible dormouse’, but the internet is less reticent. These largeish rodents (by dormouse standards) were indeed brought over from Europe by the then Baron Rothschild, in 1902, and installed in his bestiary at Tring Park. Naturally, they escaped (or were released if you believe the Daily Mail) and since then have apparently been devastating house prices across a 200 square mile of the Home Counties. Well, you don’t want things that go bump in the night in your attic, do you? Or that have developed the noteworthy skill of being able to gnaw through electric cables without being electrocuted.
They do have some endearing features though. Their name, for a start. ‘Glis glis’ must be one of the few cases of the scientific name being prefeered in the vernacular to the common one. ‘Edible dormouse’ somehow isn’t very appealing – although they were indeed eaten in large numbers by the ancient Romans, and still are in Slovenia. Also, they can make a noise like a lawnmower; it doesn’t say what sort, but I’m guessing not a Flymo or a sit-on diesel-engined one. And best of all, they like to climb up window panes and then slide back down. Aw!
If you find one, you’re not allowed to kill or release it – they’re a protected species! You have to call your environmental health agency, who will come and take it away. God knows what they do with it: hand it over to the present Baron Rothschild, presumably. Or have it for supper.