Dame Edna may have popularised the greeting ‘Hello Possums’, but in my bed, no thank you.
I grew up in a wonderful family that embraced animals as members of the family and allowed our dogs and cats onto our beds at night. The coolness of a winter night was often measured in cats: a one-cat or two-cat night. Competition was high between the sisters and I can remember waiting until my little sister was asleep to creep in and lift a cat off her bed and into mine. We never rolled onto them, even the new-born kittens survived without being squashed.
A father I know recalls when kissing his young son goodnight, being asked to also kiss his son’s friend and discovering that each night a baby possum had been crawling under the covers and snuggling up to the small boy. I am amazed that a small possum would sleep next to a child without scratching but I guess it was a nice warm non-threatening environment as long as it din’t mind being squashed occasionally.
They are such voracious feeders and devour my flowering plants regularly. They are an absolute pest in our garden and I have pulled down the passionfruit vine in defeat and planted a jasmine across my railing in an attempt to deter the hungry mammals from carousing on my deck each night as they munch on their passionfruit cocktails.
In desperation, we have strung wires above the deck railing to deter them from using our handrail as their footpath. Our barrier would make a European border patrol proud but hasn’t acted as a deterrent. The possums regarded the high wire as an opportunity to practice their circus act and still manage to leave their horrible stinking trails along the railing.
Possums aren’t cuddly although they might look cute when curled up in my bird feeder with their large pink domed ears and matching pink nose. The smaller ring tail possum fights for dominance against the brushtailed possum on our verandah each evening. That is the only place I want to see or hear them.
Fortunately I am married to a man who tolerates our cat sleeping on my side of the bed only because Colin ‘chat bizarre’ has learnt that sleeping on your master’s chest leads to being catapulted violently across the room.
However I am becoming less tolerant because a hot husband snuggled up to my back and a warped cat snuggled up against my tummy raises the temperature in bed to intolerable levels on other than absolutely freezing nights, of which there are few in Brisbane. In fact last night was so warm I opened the windows and the door to the verandah to avoid suffering heat stroke or a night-long hot flush. I was absorbed in reading about beautiful gardens in Australia but slightly unnerved by the bronze snake fountains and decided to roll over and join my sleeping husband.
As I snuggled up against my dozing companion a movement of the bedroom curtains caught my eye and a tug at the blanket that had fallen off the end of the bed. ‘Come on puss’, I said reaching over the end of the bed and came eye to eye with a brushtailed possum climbing up the blanket. We both bounced off the bed with me tripping over the blanket whilst flapping my arms and shooing it out of the room. My intruder didn’t seem to very perturbed; it ambled slowly over to the doorway, turned and looked at me as to say, ‘I’ll be back,’ before it walked the length of the verandah and jumped off into the banana trees. Too late, Colin arrived at the scene, nose up, sniffing possum smells.
‘Possum, what a quaint endearment,’ said my husband cuddling up to me. ‘No you deaf fool, I was chasing a possum and much use you were in defending my honour as neither you nor the cat came to my rescue.’ Snores and purring were the only response.