“Aah, Friday night, best night of the week.” I’d been home for less than what seemed to be a swish of a donkey’s tail when the scorching voice of Mrs Cooper was heard through our kitchen window bellowing at the top of her voice, “I know you’re in there, I saw you get out of your landrover. That invalidity buggy is rubbish, absolute rubbish it looks awful and it goes too fast and all the paint is scratched. It really won’t do it won’t do at all.”
“Calm down Mrs Cooper, let me explain. Your other car couldn’t negotiate the rough ground at the end of the track.”
“Only because you ploughed it all up,” she snarled.
“You know the reasons for that as well as I do. Mozart’s Magic Flute won’t stay magic for very long once every Tom, Dick and Harry get to know where the badger sett is.”
“Quite right,” she agreed calming down somewhat. I continued with my reasoning, explaining that the buggy is more robust with the bigger wheels, slightly wider wheel base for stability, a far superior machine. As I talked it was becoming clear she was really warming to the buggy and the clincher was yet to be delivered. “It will carry Mr Cooper as well as yourself with ease over all the terrain between here and the sett.” What Mrs Cooper didn’t know was that I had a painting design team in mind to repaint the vehicle in the late Sir Peter Scott’s Gun Boat colours, which he designed for the Royal Navy in World War II, a murky grey and green mix. Along with their green jacket attire Mr and Mrs Cooper would barely be noticed trundling back and forth from the badger sett. The painting team was to be Sophie, Sam and Jackie, the only problem was that I hadn’t told them yet, but never mind, I will cross that bridge when I come to it. I looked at Mrs Cooper inquisitively as to ask the reason for her call because quite apart from her disgruntlement to do with the machine, I could tell that there was something else bothering her. “Michael’s bedroom window is sticking and in this hot weather, I like to air the room.”
“Ok, I’ll come over and do it tomorrow.”
“I’d sooner you did it tonight.”
“Ok, let’s get at it. Are you riding with me or are you walking?” I asked.
“With you obviously, I’ve had enough exercise for one evening.” I helped her up into the landrover and off we both went. In a few minutes we were at the front gate of her cottage. I helped her out and then we both found Mr Cooper with an oil can in his hand oiling the wheels of the new buggy. I turned to Mrs Cooper and said, “Well, Mr Cooper looks quite happy with it.”
“Mmm” was her reply.
“Evening Mr Cooper, how goes it?”
“Hot son, very hot. Can I get you a glass of ginger beer?”
“Love one”. As he went off to get the refreshments, I started to point out the attributes of the buggy to Mrs Cooper, and now, in her excitement, she was giving the technical data back to me.
“Extra wide wheel base, we’ll never turn that over,” she said, “It’s as strong as a small tank,” grabbing and shaking the steering column. Just then Mr Cooper came out of the house with the tray of drinks and we sat under the parasol in their cottage garden. Mr Cooper started to tell us with glee in his voice about the government’s defeat on the first ever badger cull debate. 147 votes against, to 28 votes for. “I doff my cap to the 147 MPs, a great day, a great day for the badger,” they both toasted raising their glasses.
“I’m sorry to prick your balloon, but it is only a debate, I fear, it won’t be enough to stop next summer's proposed badger cull, DEFRA is still hell bent on seeing it through. They seem to have put too much stock in this way of going about things.”
“Right, let’s get to this window.” Mr and Mrs Cooper didn’t like what they had just heard.
On entering the cottage, we went up the stairs to Michael’s bedroom. Mr Cooper opened the door and saluted the uniformed manikin. The SAS military uniform of their late son. Mrs Cooper walked up to it and kissed it lightly on the chest, just above his band of medals. I saluted it also and said “Alright Major?” This brought a smile to both their faces. As I planed the rebate of the window, easing it to enable the casement to open and shut easily I looked into the corner of the bedroom which was pretty much the same how Michael had left it. His bookcase full of books, an old kite in the corner, the one we called the Eagle kite that I can so vividly remember flying with him and on the pillow of his bed, a big old bristly badger cuddly toy, about the size of two footballs that apparently he had for his fifth birthday. Mr and Mrs Cooper had left me alone to do my work and when I finished the window, I patted Michael’s manikined uniform on the back, “See you soon pal,” and left the bedroom closing the door behind me. On getting back out into the garden I filled in Mr and Mrs Cooper on the next part of our badger protection scheme. I told them that I was going to visit the local blacksmith and get a steel crate made large enough to hold the eight badgers and how Mr and Mrs Cooper were going to spend the rest of their summer nights baiting the cage and trapping them and releasing them over and over again so it became second nature. The badgers will associate the steel cage with a lovely evening treat. As I told them about the RAF Falcons that we had great pleasure getting to know a week or so ago, it was like speaking to children that the arrival of Father Christmas was imminent. Their faces were full of excitement, their eyes were wide open as I told them about the possible evacuation plan if things were to go Owen Patterson’s way. I left them on an excited note and said that the camouflage team would be down sometime over the weekend to make their car less conspicuous.
Ginger Beer, still a very much favoured country summer drink.