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Loose tigers, hippos in the garage — Oh, and tips for avoiding vampires!

Tiger and hippo toy models with palm background

I learned from my news feed this week of a tiger at large in Houston, Texas — roaming the streets like a quarter-tonne tabby cat, it was. I am regularly amazed by people's choice of exotic pets. I mean, where do they buy them? Surely there can't be any pet store with a tiger in the window, nestled between the dwarf rabbits and the Gerbils, with a '£500 (Or Nearest Offer)' sign round its neck.
Or a giraffe or wildebeest, for that matter. Perhaps such stores do exist, and I just don't know about them. After all, I have never been on the market for a large quadruped; a Yorkshire Terrier was my limit, so how would I know? Let's say, however, that you could stroll out of Sainsbury's, after your month-end food shop, into a next-door pet store intent on buying a small hippopotamus. Would I be expected to sign a disclaimer? ('I am over 18 years of age, and I realise that keeping a hippopotamus in my garage may hike the insurance on my Skoda Scala unless I agree to an excess of £6,000.')
I recall, some years back, a crocodile infestation in New York City's sewers. Obviously, some people must have thought it a jolly enough jape to buy a cute itsy-bitsy crocodile. But they stopped laughing and flushed them down the loo when the little critters threatened to grow into the prehistoric, predatory, psychopathic killers we all know from the National Geographic Channel.
Far be it from me to sit here on my throne dishing out advice to my readers. But as a general rule, never keep as a pet any animal that you would typically see in a David Attenborough documentary or at a zoo in a cage with bars as thick as drainpipes.
Today, such is life that scaly reptiles from the dawn of time aren't the only thing the man in the chip-shop queue has to worry about. We live in an age of one-click online buying. Convenient? Indeed. But dangerous too, especially for compulsive buyers. Or 4-year-olds determined to grab a piece of the online shopping bonanza that has accelerated across the globe during Covid-19.
The lad in question (bless him) managed to order £2,000 worth of SpongeBob SquarePants ice-cream lollies using his mother's Amazon account. So, be careful. You don't want to return from work to discover a full-scale Ferris Wheel in your front garden. Or crates of nerf guns strewn across your pre-teen's bedroom floor. To avoid this, I suggest you disable one-click buying. Before one or more of your well-meaning offspring depletes the contents of your bank account to the point where you're having to mount out-of-hours raids on supermarket skips for out-of-code burgers. 
If you cannot yet get an appointment for your Covid-19 jab, here’s some good news. There’s a castle in Romania that many claim inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula. In a bid to generate footfall, post-Covid, the site's curators are currently offering visitors a free Covid test. 
Hmmm ... I'm not sure about this. It's all very well breathing a sigh of relief because you are COVID-19 free. Still, the promotion offers little comfort to the casual visitor who may have their jugular vein punctured without their consent  by one of the undead whilst visiting the loo in the coffee shop.
So, while I sit here waiting for nature to run her course, here's a vampire protection tip to be going on with. Every primary school child knows that vampires don't like garlic. But vampirologists (is that even a word?) Claim these denizens of the night don't like any strong smells. So if garlic offends your nostrils, just chose something else with a very strong pong — Estee Larder's 'Essence of boiled cabbage, eau de toilette (discontinued),' for example. 
A blast of this behind your ears, and you can rest assured that no vampire worthy of the name will come near you. Neither will your husband, your children, your friends or any other living thing within a two-mile radius.
Until next time,

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