Zebra crossings are not very popular in Brittany and almost unheard of in small villages in Central Finistere however in the neighbouring commune of Collorec Madame le Maire made sure she had one of everything on offer from the street furniture catalogue when European grants were abundant. I’ve never actually seen anyone use the pink and white zebra crossing over the past ten years but when driving through last week my eye was drawn to the squashed hedgehog smack in the middle and it struck me as particularly sad. One can only admire the hedgehog for having been so observant in spotting a human being actually crossing at this point on that rare occasion when a car was obliged to stop. To have then recognised that this was indeed a safe place to cross it then seemed a total tragedy that he or she had such a misfortune of bad timing. From the hedgehog’s point of view it must seem somewhat unjust in that having gone to the trouble to use the designated crossing place that somebody should in the middle of the village choose not to stop. It just goes to illustrate that one should never blindly trust human beings or zebra crossings. Personally I never use them unless they happen to be placed just where I planned to cross and I’ve never pressed that button on a traffic light controlled crossing, more often than not by the time the lights change and the little green man starts flashing whoever pressed it has long since gone, while the infuriated driver sits cursing and revving his motor. I believe there is in France a law that requires drivers to remove wildlife killed to the side of the road so as not to cause a traffic hazard but perhaps hedgehogs don’t come under traffic hazard category. The poor old hedgehog had been flattened in full view of everyone for days and nobody had thought to do the descent thing. I suppose it would have required some sort of flat object to slip between spines and tarmac but there are several houses within yards that must have a spatula in the kitchen drawer.
In the Outer Hebrides Miss Tiggy Winkle has been seen as a likely cause of ground nesting birds loosing their eggs along with mink. A few years back we had an extra ordinarily heavy rain storm that brought torrents of water down off the moor overflowing the ditches within minutes, the road became a river and flooded the valley below my house. The following day I took a stroll along the beach and lost count of the number of drowned hedgehogs like little abandoned spiny hats entwined within the seaweed flotsam. Last year I found one struggling to keep afloat having fallen into the sump below the cattle grid and managing to fish it out using a plastic bag, I said not a word to a sole but none the less felt better than if I left it to die. Similarly I found myself unable to dispatch the tiny fluffy bunnies I dug from the vegetable garden but on seeing one return a few weeks later nearly fully grow I vowed never to make that mistake again. During mid summer when stacking the dried peats on a wooden pallet behind the house I spotted the same rabbit duck in underneath. Now was my opportunity and so grabbing the washing line pole I rammed it under the stack giving it a good waggle about. Nothing, so I proceeded to ram the stick in and out and the rabbit sprung forth a look of absolute terror on its face and ears pinned flat to its head as it flew past my own right ear. I must have put the fear of God into that flying rabbit as it never returned.
As I grab the chance to sow a few seeds during a rare rest bite from the April showers that seem to have decided to join forces and become constant rain I’m reminded that in my far flung gardens I often plant one for the mice, another for the slugs and what’s left after the neighbours help themselves will probably leave me with enough fresh seed for next year. This is known as the good life and similarly with my painting I do little more than keep framers in business and burn up the rest on diesel. I can see that there will soon come a time when I must make that choice as to where I dig my garden. Last year I left a little plot on Lewis packed with potatoes, onions, turnips and beetroot only to find that in France most had failed with potatoes the size of small marbles from lack of sun. This evening I turned to a different sort of sowing as I darned the holes in my hand knitted Harris wool socks and wondered if anyone out there still bothers to darn. Next will be two small worn areas on a pair of Harris tweed blankets but its the cleaning of my old Trangia camping stove that is guaranteed to turned my thoughts northward to the Highlands and Islands. Having completed the conversion work on the barn at New Tolsta I plan to open it as a seven bed bunkhouse this summer and with brochures being printed to distribute on my journey north I should hopefully receive a few visitors over the summer months.