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There we were, watching Grub and Moth open their stockings, when they both unwrapped a little package containing three of these:

Owl pellets from Santa

‘And what, exactly, are they?’ asked my sister, warily, sitting down next to us on the sofa-bed with a fresh cup of coffee.

‘Guess!’ I shrieked, bouncing up and down. Then, before she could get a word in, ‘Owl pellets! Isn’t Santa clever, boys?’ Grub nodded, barely glancing up from his next stocking filler. Moth couldn’t speak; his mouth was full of Haribos.

‘And what, exactly, is an owl pellet?’ asked Martha.

‘It’s the little ball of stuff that comes out after the owl’s eaten its dinner,’ said Grub.

‘Owl poo?’ asked Martha, pausing mid-coffee-sip.

‘No, silly! It comes out of the owl’s mouth,’ said Grub.

‘Owl puke?’ said Martha, her tone a tad icy.

‘All the leftover bits like hair and fur and bones and stuff,’ said Grub.

‘Look -’ I pointed out a tiny bit of jawbone sticking out from one of the pellets. ‘Mouse. Vole. Shrew. Or something.’

Martha shrank back into the pillows. ‘Are you telling me,’ she said ‘That your children get dead animals in their stockings?’

This was turning into a seriously difficult PR job. She obviously wasn’t appreciating the sheer brilliance of this gift. I gave it another go: ‘We’re going to soak them in warm water, get some tweezers or toothpicks, pull them apart, pick out the tiny bones and try to work out what animal it was that the owl ate.’

Now, Martha is a gentle, tolerant soul. But I know a foot being put down when I see it. Martha sat up and drew breath.

‘They’ve been sterilized,’ I said, quickly. But it was no good.

‘Tamsin. I’ve just bought a new flat. You’re sitting on my brand new sofa. I’ve been woken up, way too early. There’s dead stuff all over the place. All I want is to drink my coffee and enjoy watching my nephews open their stockings in peace. There is no way – NO WAY – you are going to start poking about with owl puke and mouse corpses first thing on Christmas morning.’

Honestly. Some people.

PS
If there are any kindred spirits out there, the youth section of the RSPB’s website has got more on studying owl pellets right here. Not that I feel the need to pull in the heavyweights or anything.

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