We’ve been driving back and forth between the in-laws and the new house this week. On the long country road that leads to our village there is much wildlife and greenery, but that means alas that there’s a fair bit of roadkill. I’ve managed to avoid hitting anything myself (I had to stop for a baby fox that stood stunned in the headlights the first night I stayed at the house at the end of my last tour), but other drivers are less fortunate or cautious.
I noticed the fresh corpse of a large badger on verge about a week ago. It could have been asleep (this is what I tell my daughter if she comes across a dead insect) and showed no sign of injury. But the fact that it was lying very still and not running away when a car approached confirmed that it was no longer with us and I assume it had bounced off a vehicle. I was sad.
But rather like that crow that haunted my run when we lived in Harpenden five years ago, the badger has stayed there all week. I would hope that if I was run over and left on the side of the road that someone might at least kick some dirt over me, but no one has the time or willingness to spare the indignity for this poor badger (including me, it has to be said). It’s just a little odd to see such a big animal left to rot (though I am also mildly fascinated and queasy about the idea of what might happen to it). Its coat has dulled a little, but a week in and it still looks like a badger. Will it finally explode? Or just slowly melt into the earth? Or will someone finally crack and bury it?
A badger must be about the biggest creature that you would leave to let nature take its course. If a dog had been run over someone would have tried to trace the owner and people would feel outrage if it was left where it was. Similarly a sheep or farm animal would be taken by someone - if only to be turned into chops. Anything smaller and a scavenger would have made away with it (indeed a pheasant that had been run over further up the road has now disappeared). Even other animals don’t want to eat a badger. I feel a bit sorrier for him every day. Not so sorry that I am going to stop the car, get out and end this indignity. Partly for fear that I might be run over in a sort of car accident version of the old woman he swallowed a fly. And perhaps the badger is only there because he stopped to bury a rabbit who stopped to bury a rat, who stopped to bury a mouse and so on. I wouldn’t mind about my own death, but I have to think of the cow that would stop to bury me and the horse that would stop to bury her and the elephant that would eventually get caught up in all this. And once the blue whale waded in then the road would be blocked and everyone in my village would starve to death (unless they remembered there were three other roads out of town).
Anyway, the badger is still there and still recognisably a badger and I don’t feel it’s my place to do anything about it and nor does anyone else. It’s an odd marker on our journey to the new house as well as on the larger journey of life and reminds us that that journey can end at any time and any place. And that there’s no guarantee for any of us of dignity in death (especially if, as seems likely, a lot of us go together).
Tonight though the family slept in our new house for the first time (or at least the room above the garage which is the only one unaffected by the prolonged work on the house). I slept there once before- on the day that I failed to kill that baby fox), but it was nice to be sort of finally moving in. We even cooked a pizza in the oven in our new kitchen, though had to eat it off tin foil cos all our plates are in boxes.
Our village smells of pig shit this week (maybe they had a big extractor fan on when we were looking round before and it’s always like this), but that, as I understand it, is the countryside. But apart from that things are looking OK.
We finally get our dog tomorrow and we’re maybe three or four weeks away from another (probably) less hairy delivery.