Sunday, 12 July 2009

Enter the Dragon - And the Police

Peering into the far darkness of the night waiting for the flashing blue lights and headlamps of the cops car. The immediate surrounds of Mellerstain were now bathed in bright white lights from all the floodlights triggered by the alarm system.

A few minutes had gone by and then the fast-moving headlamps came snaking through the pitch darkness from the west gates along the driveway leading to the main house.

Scrambling down the well-trodden stone spiral stairs in my slippers and dressing gown I opened the front door of the Stone Hall. A sergeant and a constable entered. Two minutes later another car arrived with two more officers.

If there were any intruders they would soon be sorted out.

"Which area caused the alarm?" asked the sergeant. "The east basement area." I replied.

We all trooped down to this area, unlocking a series of doors on the way. This basement corridor is a lengthy one. Running from the old east wing, through the newer Robert Adam main building and ending at the home of the Haddingtons in the west wing. Probably about 300 feet or more long, with various rooms on the south side and stairways on the north side leading up to the ground floor.

Everything was securely locked still. All doors and windows intact down here; better just check the ground floor though. It took about twenty minutes before we were confident that it was sweet F.A. - or a not so welcome False Alarm.

What caused it? Who could say. These things happen the sergeant said. That may be so I thought but it's not something I relished.

We were retracing our steps through the basement corridor, locking doors on the way, when something flashed by our heads. Then another!

"Bats!" yelled a policeman. "You've got bats in the basement!"

Well I never! I'd heard of bats in the belfry, but bats in the basement? Yoiks!

"That's probably your problem." said sergeant policeman. "They can be a bit of a menace when it comes to these sensitive movement sensors. You need to get the Chubb security engineer to see if he can do something about it."

Next day I rang the security company and the engineer arrived that afternoon. He said that this had happened now and again. "We've adjusted the sensitivity as much as we dare. We cannot decrease it further I'm afraid."

Not a happy outcome as far as I was concerned. Bats are a protected species in the UK and must not be removed or disturbed, even if you found where they were hiding. It seemed that I'd just have to live with the problem, but I wasn't too keen on that.

The security engineer explained that a bat flying close to the sensor could set the alarm off, as we'd just experienced. He then came up with a possible solution: fit a second sensor, close to the original one, programmed in such a way as to only set off the alarm if both sensors were activated simultaneously.

This would not guarantee a solution but it would certainly go a long way to curing the problem of false alarms in this area. A bat passing close to one of the sensors would not start the alarm; it would need two bats to simultaneously trigger each sensor and this was pretty unlikely. However, if a person was in the area then this would definitely trigger both sensors immediately.

After discussing this with the factor it was agreed that additional sensors would be worthwhile. This made me a lot happier! No doubt it would also make the police a lot happier. So it was quickly carried out and hopefully my sleep would not be disturbed too much in future.

A few days later, as I was locking up in the basement area, I noticed something like a large leaf on the floor. On closer inspection, as I went to pick it up, I saw it was, yes, a bat. It wasn't moving; I thought it must be dead. Bats don't usually go to sleep on the floor, do they?

I went upstairs and put on a pair of gardening gloves. Down to the basement and the bat was still lying there. Gently pick it up. It moved slightly. Took it into the east courtyard carefully placed it on the side of an old stone wall. It didn't fall off; it just seemed to cling there. I left it to its fate. No doubt there were other bats in the vicinity and hopefully it would survive.

I wondered what further discoveries would come my way in this lovely old place.


Pauline said...

From cliff hanger to hanging bats - quite a story! What is it you were hired to do at Mellerstein?

PhilipH said...

Hi Pauline. Security/caretaker was the official title bestowed upon yours truly. During the period October thru to May there was very little to do. The visitor season lasted 5 months during which time I would act as a guide. A pleasant and easy job. Phil.

Argent said...

I liked the engineer's solution to the bat triggering the alarm - genius! Oh well, you got to meet the local bobbies early on anyway.

Anonymous said...

So, did this make you Batman?

PhilipH said...

Hi Argent; yes, he certainly came up with the goods. Worked a treat.

Dave: Batman! I like it. Or just plain batty? Certainly not Robin though.

meggie said...

Bats are protected here in Oz too. A local woman takes in wounded bats, & can often be seen 'wearing' them on her clothing usually under her jacket. Very admirable, but they are a bit whiffy!

PhilipH said...

Meggie, funny you should mention the "bat hat" lady. Some years ago my youngest daughter wanted to go to a fancy dress party; she was 6. We dressed her up in some black clothes and I made her a large hat out of a cut-down trilby and made a large BAT out of black plastic stuck on the top. She was tickled pink (or black!) when she won first prize!

DUTA said...

"All's well that ends well", as the saying goes. And you gave the bat you found on the floor a fair treatment.

the walking man said...

How rude of the bats! It is a good that a solution occurred, too many wake up calls like that could drive one batty.

PhilipH said...

Too true Mark.

Barbara's Spot on the Blog said...

What an adventure. I'm very glad to read you're tolerant of the bats and that you found a solution to the sensor problem.

PhilipH said...

Thanks Barbara, or may I call you Honey? Only kidding.

Land of shimp said...

It's funny, my mother is from Scotland, and still lives there half the year, but I don't think I've ever had occasion to discuss the Scottish approach to bats with her.

I'd expect bats in an attic, but in a basement they might startle the life out of me.

These stories are really quite wonderful, thank you for sharing them.