'Can I put you in charge of the snake?' she asked. She was up to her eyebrows in feathers, beads and over-sized potted palms at the time, preparing for the Great Twenties Speakeasy.
'Of course,' I said, kissing goodbye to the intensive week of Reclaiming My Veg Garden, which had been on the cards.
I haven't had much experience with snakes, but on the few occasions when I have been up close and personal with them, I was quite surprised to find that I wasn't panic-makingly frightened.
|Up close and personal|
We even had one visit the Market recently. Her name was Cinnamon and no one knew she was present - curled up inside her owner's jacket - until suddenly there she was, in the arms of his small daughter instead.
|Cinnamon visited the Market|
But I digress. Cecil was to be the new snake in my life. Cecil the Snake.
That had a nice ring to it.
I thought about him quite hard for a day or two, and put in several requests for vital equipment, but then I put it all on the 'long finger' as we say in Ireland. Which turned out to be a mistake, as come Thursday evening I was frantically trying to make up for lost time and get organised for imminent Cecil-dom.
On Saturday morning, I loaded the car with everything I could think of that any large snake worth its salt could possibly need, and set off for Beltra Country Market. There was barely room in the car for me. But lots of eager people were waiting when I got there (most of them under 10), but all potential Cecil-fans, and we set about the serious business of preparing for the advent of this slithery creature.
By the time I got home, I was shattered, but we had created all the accessories a snake could desire.
Now we just had to wait, as patiently as possible. One more vital process had to be undergone.
But it wasn't until the following Thursday that another Beltra friend - the Upcycler Extraordinaire - and I were able to get together to complete the gear that Cecil would need. Assisted by her lovely new dog Feena, we launched ourselves into the final stage of reptile-preparation. We sewed, snipped, shaped and stuffed, pausing only to eat a delicious salad at lunchtime. It was a tiring day, but we both felt quite excited. Cecil was finally about to put in an appearance.
He turned out to be a good deal larger than I'd really anticipated - more anaconda than adder - and although he was still rather sleepy, and not yet totally 'with it' when I finally got him home, I had some difficulty in transferring him from the car into the kitchen on my own. The In-Charge had not yet returned from college, and I couldn't risk involving the dogs in case Cecil was hungry after his long day.
The kitchen table proved to be the only surface big enough for his huge, sinuous body. But that was fine, as it meant that as he was up high, so I could keep an eye on the cats down below. I wasn't sure whether he'd go for the cats, but he didn't show any interest in them at all, even though Hobbes, our big ginger boy, was foolishly curious about him.
He lay there for days, happily curled up enjoying the warmth of the stove while I tended to his scales and his eyes. His scales had been in a sorry state when I first got him home, half of them missing altogether, and he looked blind, I don't think he could see at all. But it didn't take too long to rectify those problems, and the following day the TalentuiGoddess came by and dropped off some lovely shells that she thought he might like.
I got rather fond of Cecil. He had a sort of bashful air about him, more like a dog who's hoping to be noticed than a snake, I thought. But it was not to be - our house wasn't his Forever Home.
On Monday the order came from on high, and Cecil moved on to greater things.
The In-Charge and I carefully loaded him into the car - we couldn't risk damaging any of his new scales - and I drove him into Sligo. The TalentuiGoddess has organised that Cecil will live in the windows of the Sligo Tourist Office for the whole of March, by way of saying 'Happy St Patrick's Day'.
I suppose St Patrick must have missed Cecil when he got rid of all the other snakes in Ireland.
I'm quite glad really, as he's very beautiful, and extremely placid.
But I do worry about him.
Will they look after him in the Tourist Office? Will they talk to him?
Will they remember to feed him? He was looking nice and plump when we delivered him, but that won't last for a month.
He's not hard to please, he eats almost anything.
Speaking of which, where is Hobbes? I haven't seen him for days...
|Val Robus's wonderful picture of Cecil in pride of place|
|The children and Nancy making Cecil's scales|
|They made hundreds!|
|Cecil - you're surely not thinking of eating the Upcycler Extraordinaire!|
|Cecil turned out to be a bashful boy. He liked hiding under his tail|
|More anaconda than adder - he took up the whole sofa, but we didn't mind|