Thursday, 28 April 2011


In this part of the world, the danger of going away and leaving a nice property vacant for a few weeks is that it may well be taken over by a squatter. The same happens in towns and cities, where the new inhabitants may be human or something even more unpleasant, but in this case the owners came back to find....

....a not unfriendly pine marten living in their shed and watching them from amongst the planks of wood stored across the rafters.

Some further investigation revealed that the pine marten had built a bed in an old cardboard box on a shelf right next to the window so he (or she - it's difficult to sex a pine marten short of catching it and taking an intimate look) had a fine view out across the neighbouring countryside. In it was a plastic bag which he had probably used to go down to The Ferry Stores to collect his shopping - pine martens are quite frequent visitors to the shop, where they're known to like mince pies.

The new resident was a squatter in more than one sense of the word. He had laid out his scat neatly across an old worktop. It was almost as if the pine marten was proud of each job, and had numbered them for future reference, perhaps with time, date and what he had recently eaten.

There was no sign of any urine, for which he may have had a different use such as marking out his territory. Perhaps because of this, the room didn't small too bad - one pine marten expert describes their scat as 'sweet smelling, almost like parma violets'. In fact, the assemblage looked so artistic it seemed a shame to disurb it - until someone came up with the bright idea that the whole thing should be entered for next year's Turner Prize.

As The Diary departed, the owners of the shed were carefully sawing through the worktop, taking great care not to disturb a single scat.

Tracey Emin, Damien Hurst and the London and New York art worlds - watch out.

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