Having just finished my usual weekly catch up of the news in the UK (these days almost exclusively through the medium of comedy panel shows and quizzes), I was particularly struck by the story of the newish UK ambassador to Austria and his encounter in the forest with a wild boar. I am working on the assumption that the fact that he scraped his knee a bit while walking in a forest was not particularly newsworthy, particularly when one considers that what the Austrians probably call Trumpenputinbrexitheitsangst is still a thing.
So, this leads me to believe that the aspect that made it news in Blighty was the involvement of the pig. This in turn reminded me that the sort of wildlife that in the UK of my childhood was present almost exclusively in school textbooks is, to the apparent surprise of even such presumably well-travelled worthies as Ambassador Turner, romping about all over the place in much of the rest of Europe. One exception to this seems to be bears. I was promised bears.
Obviously, the higher up a mountain or the deeper into the forest you go, such encounters as these are more and more common. What might surprise my friends in the UK is that in Poland, you can easily bump into these beasts a very few kilometres from the centre of the capital. Some of them may remember a few years ago, I might have mentioned the almost complete destruction of the front end of my Vito caused by an 80km/h (50mph) collision with a boar which was fatally uneducated in the finer points of the Green Cross Code.
What I may not have mentioned at the time, was that this collision was about 12 miles south of the centre of Warsaw. To put this into perspective, in London that would be Purley which is, by most definitions, still very much London. For my UK friends who may be reading this in my “Unpoles” blog, this may seem to be some strange freak accident, but I have seen boar and an assortment of other critters a lot closer to the centre than that – I just didn’t hit them with a car.
For my Polish friends reading this on the be-art.pl page, I should answer the question which inevitably comes up at this point, namely “Did you eat the pig?”. I’ll be honest, I would have, except that it had just destroyed the only vehicle I could have taken it home in. Funnily enough, I am reminded by this of an English law which prohibits you from taking and consuming roadkill that you have hit with your own vehicle. I can only assume that this was to stop spectacularly dangerous driving by people short of meat during wartime and postwar rationing.
To return to the point, in Poland, if you see a sign warning you about deer on the road, you ignore it at your peril. When I started speaking a little Polish to my early audiences over here, in between bursts of the music of the descendants of reluctant immigrants, I would occasionally muse on these road signs. I would wonder aloud “How do the deer know? Does Bambi get road safety lessons?”. Once, a man in his 60s came up to me after the concert who told me that I had made a very valid and important point. Perhaps if the animals could somehow be trained, there would be fewer deaths on the roads. He would mention it to the Minister. I stopped talking about it after that.
In the UK, we drive about in the highlands of Scotland, and pretend to ourselves that we are in nature. In fact much of the surface of the landscape is created by sheep, and the forests of pine are not native and farmed as a cash crop. Frankly, in Poland there are similar stories, but the big difference is that the population density is much lower, and it’s not an island. The wildlife has somewhere to run, and somewhere to run to.
Perhaps Mrs May should think about this before reintroducing the practice of hunting wildlife with packs of dogs. That way, perhaps one day in the misty future, a visiting ambassador the UK might make a little bit of news by being surprised by a unicorn while popping in to an all-night shop in Clapham.
Tekst i zdjecia: Mark Shepherd
Latest posts by Mark Shepherd (see all)
- Mark Shepherd – #5 – A Little Less Elbow, Please - 29 września 2017
- Mark Shepherd – #3 –Are You Boared, Your Excellency? - 21 maja 2017
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