The 'intruder': runner-up in the 'Tell us a home swap story' competition
"Our exchange to New Zealand began in spring. The large house, huge garden, orchard, pool and spa were hidden behind fifteen feet high hedges.
September was sunny and warm. We dug the vegetable patch and planted lettuce, beans, peas, beetroot, carrots and tomatoes. Then winter returned with heavy snow and bitter winds. It was the coldest October on record. The poor vegetables didn't stand a chance. We inhabited only two rooms of the house-the one with the log burner and the bedroom. Each night we moaned and groaned in the cold and the timber framed house creaked and groaned in the wind.
We lay in bed listening to the strange sounds with the occasional 'what was that?' whispered into the darkness. In time the noises became louder and more frequent. Had the cats brought in their prey? Were they knocking things over in the chase? Was someone in the house?
Daylight showed nothing untoward, no feathers or bones. There was nothing.
However in the pitch-black night our imaginations ran riot! There was something! Then, one night, heavy footsteps right over our heads. Could it be an elephant? My husband found a brush handle and hammered on the ceiling. All went quiet for a while until... dancing footsteps this time. Definitely an elephant having a party! Hearts racing, we hammered with the brush again and all was quiet.
The following night when the party started, husband, armed with torch and big stick, climbed onto a chair, opened the loft hatch and stared straight into the huge eyes of... a possum! They stared at each other for an eternity before it turned and ran. Which was the most frightened, man or beast? Possums are not cute. They have sharp teeth and claws and can be very aggressive when cornered.
Next day, my husband ventured onto the roof and patched the possum hole. For several nights we heard scratching as it tried, unsuccessfully, to regain entry.
As the weather improved and spring developed into a beautiful summer we appreciated the beautiful house and gardens. We grew more vegetables, swam in the pool (unheated) and lazed in the spa-glass of wine to hand. When our family joined us for Christmas it was a wonderful space to have our barbeque, relax, have fun and enjoy.
Hopefully, moving to New Zealand permanently, we shall not be sharing our home with possums!
Pat Tetlow, near Kendal, Cumbria, UK
Click here to view Pat's home exchange offer...