Sunday, 27 April 2014

Invisible Badgers

Last Wednesday evening I arrived home from work to see the Coopers’ disability buggy parked up in the parking space outside my house, normally reserved for my Land Rover.  I parked up behind it and walked around to the kitchen door to find in the kitchen, the Coopers and my wife, Jackie sat around the kitchen table with a cup of tea in hand in deep discussion.  “What’s wrong now?” was the thought crossing my mind as I went inside.  After the briefest of Hellos, the Coopers were straight in to the reason of them being there. 
“The Foxtons have no Badger cubs and they are of the same opinion as us.  That wall you built and all those blackthorn and hawthorn saplings you planted have upset the Badgers and have put them off their business of having young.  What have you got to say about that?” quizzed Mrs. Cooper.  She then went onto say.
“The walling and planting was done solely on your advice of protecting the Badger sett and making it more impregnable against Badger baiters and anyone else who wished them harm.  It seems to the Foxtons and us that all you have managed to do is frighten them all away.”
“There were only three Badgers in the whole of that parcel of woodland and I very much doubt that our works on their protection programme has had any bearing on this particular situation whatsoever.”
Mrs Cooper explained how Antonio and her two children along with Lord and Lady Foxton have been left bitterly disappointed and their nightly visits with a handful of peanuts have been an entire waste of time and so very disheartening. 
Mr. and Mrs. Cooper and Jackie were all looking at me with very inquisitive facial expressions and I knew what was coming.  Mrs. Cooper then asked,
“Can we bring them along and show them Daddy Cool’s family?”
“No!” I snapped.  “Daddy Cool and his family does not exist to anyone outside of this kitchen.  Mozart’s Magic Flute, the protection programme that was brought in almost a year ago has to remain top secret, the less people that know of their whereabouts, the safer they will remain.”
The Coopers were not happy.  There was now silence and an atmosphere.  The Coopers then raised themselves off the kitchen chairs.
“Best be on our way,” they said. “There’s no talking to him when he is in these moods,” they said to Jackie as they pushed their chairs tidily under the table.   As they were leaving through the kitchen door, I shouted back to the Coopers.  “Over and around the Foxton’s Badger sett it is ancient Beech woodland, which is only just starting to come into leaf.  The Foxton’s Badgers could well be waiting for leaf cover before bringing their cubs out and showing them off to the woodland inhabitants.” The Coopers nodded their heads unconvinced and then they were gone.  Jackie had gone so very quiet and I was now on the phone to Nimrod, Foxton’s Game Keeper. 
“Nimrod,” I asked, “How’s it all going?”
“Not too well to be honest with you Allan. The Foxtons aren’t pleased, they reckon you’ve upset their Badger sett with all that wall building.”
“Mmm, I’ve just heard the same from the Coopers” was my reply. “I will be up at the sett for the next few nights to see for myself.  Are any members of the Foxton family due to come down to the sett have you heard?”
Nimrod’s reply was slow and intentional.  “There is nothing for them to see, there are no cubs.”
“Right, I’ll be over this evening about 11pm, so keep away from the sett for the next few nights and I will see you on Saturday.”
“Ok,” replied Nimrod.”
That night I drove along to the Foxton’s Badger sett, parked the Land Rover up nicely hidden and walked the 500 yards towards the Badger sett.  The rain was now falling steadily and the stone wall that I had built around the bottom boundary of the woodland, the planting of the blackthorn and hawthorn all now in leaf, was looking a joy to behold.  It looked to me as if the work I had done in the winter had always been there.  As I walked up the bank on the opposite side to gain view over the wall I could see that the Badger sett was no longer in use.  The Badgers had left it.  My heart sank.  As I sat there pondering three Roe deer pushed their way through the newly planted blackthorn and hawthorn.  “You won’t be doing that in five years’ time,” I thought, “once it has grown thick and impossible to penetrate.”  I sat there until 2am and then decided to go home.
 As I walked back towards the Land Rover I saw 400 yards from the old Badger sett down towards the base of the wall a Badger.  I stopped stock still.  He hadn’t seen me, he was far too busy foraging about for worms and slugs which this wet weather was bringing out.  He scurried back up the side of the hedge towards the new wall and then he just seemed to disappear.  I walked back slowly, the rain still falling steadily with no wind, not even a stir of a breeze.  “That’s why the Badger did not pick me up,” my scent was staying within 20 meters of me.  I crawled on my hands and knees the last 40 to 50 yards to where I thought the Badger had disappeared and then I found it. There was a large hole at the base of the wall. I stood up slowly and peered over the top of the wall and there they were.  A mother Badger with two cubs.  Fat round, barrelled like.  She had done well.  This sett was one hundred meters from where their old sett was and it was right in the bottom of the new wall.  I left them feeling most pleased returning to the Land Rover and headed for home.  I told Jackie the news first thing Thursday morning, she in turn told the Coopers who then relayed it to the Foxtons.
 Friday evening, as I got in from work there was a black Range Rover occupying the space for my Land Rover.  I walked around to the kitchen door and this time in the kitchen was Lord and Lady Foxton with Antonio and her two children, all of them smiling and laughing with Jackie and the situation could not be more different than the previous Wednesday evening. 

As I opened the kitchen door, the Foxtons were full of congratulations to me on the success of the Badger protection programme.  “All’s well that ends well,” I thought.

Please watch my short film on Mother Badger and her four Badger cubs,

Daddy Cool's four playful cubs.

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