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From bikes to badgers.

By MICHAEL BLACKBURN.

SOUTHERN ENGLAND IS full up. All you need do to realise this is travel on any major roads in the south (especially the M25) or leading to and from the south, ie, the A1 and the M1. More often than not you’ll be subjected to roadworks, 40, 50 and 60 mph restrictions, and congestion of the stop-start, bumper-to bumper kind. Driving in Britain these days is one of the most depressing and angst-inducing experiences known to modern man. Too many cars, too many wagons — too many people. I suppose I shouldn’t complain since it is a sign of a healthy economy but I’m glad I no longer live anywhere near it.

I don’t know what the answer to the problem is. Building more roads or widening existing ones alleviates the problem for a while, before making it worse. The railways in the south east are overloaded so there’s little that can be done there. Buses are not the answer. Neither are bicycles. Politicians love to come up with single solutions to such problems, and they’re always wrong. Mind you, since the problem is too many people perhaps they could stop importing lots more until they’ve got enough homes, schools, hospitals and roads to cope with the ones already here. Immigration is never mentioned in public discussions about housing or transport, which is odd, given that it accounts for most of the five million extra people in the UK since 2000.

A lot of green types would like the bicycle to be a solution, but having just spent four days in Amsterdam I can vouch for the fact that walking around a city where cyclists of all ages and sizes coming at you from every direction (and often at speed) is unnerving and downright dangerous. I realise, of course, that riding a bike is the most sensible, efficient and cost-effective way of getting about, and that if I lived in Amsterdam I’d be doing the same (with great trepidation), but I just find the whole thing very annoying. Add to that the moped drivers, trams and cars and you have a recipe for a version of hell. At least with the trams you know where they they are going because their lines are fixed; all the others seem to go where they want.

And those cyclists and moped riders don’t wear helmets. I don’t know how they get away with that. It’s not compulsory (yet) in nanny-state Britain but there’s always a huge pressure to don headgear before putting your foot on the pedals. I would have thought the green and socially conscious Dutch would have made this a requirement years ago.

Before I left for my brief jaunt to the Continent (post-Brexit we can now revive old terms) I saw that various other greenies were complaining about grouse shooting. Led by TV presenter, Chris Packham, they were demanding the banning of the sport and the boycotting of the few supermarkets that sold grouse. His main reason was that grouse were “toxic” because they were shot using lead ammunition. Not exactly news and not a reason to refrain from buying them. Having eaten plenty of pheasants — also despatched with lead shot — I would not be worried in the slightest by the possibility of being poisoned. It’s always surprised me how little shot you come across in them. The only bad effect I know of is when my wife split a tooth on one.

This pretence that game birds are toxic strikes me as a ploy by Packham & Co to frighten people who have no idea about country matters.

This pretence that game birds are toxic strikes me as a ploy by Packham & Co to frighten people who have no idea about country matters. They’re only partly concerned about wildlife welfare in this case. What they’re really about is class warfare. They hate the idea of wealthy people shooting for fun, and landscape being managed to make it possible.

The Packhamites are also enamoured of birds of prey. This not necessarily a bad thing. It’s great to see harriers and kites returning to the skies they’ve been absent from for decades or centuries. But the class warriors forget that these are predators. Increase their population and you decrease the populations of small birds and mammals. It’s the same with badgers. Everyone loves old Mr Brock. What they don’t know is that he’s a predator as well as a scavenger and has a taste for other favourite beasties such as the hedgehog. Badger numbers have increased greatly over the last few years, which is bad news for Mr Tiggywinkle. Everything lives by the death of something else. That’s nature for you.


suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet, writer and lecturer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire . From 2005–2008 he was the Royal Literary Fund fellow at the University of Lincoln where he now teaches English Literature and Creative Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent collection is Spyglass Over The Lagoon. A selection of his Fortnightly Currente Calamo columns, Sucks To Your Revolution: Annoying The Politically Correct (US), is available as a Kindle ebook.

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