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Exit poll – Norfolk style

Exit poll – Norfolk style


Would the country be better run by hedgehogs, wonders Richard Barr. Some would say things could hardly get any worse

The polling stations had just closed. Despite the temptation, there was not a spoiled ballot among us. The Monster Raving Loony Party did not field a candidate so we had to vote sensibly.

However, the exit polls suggested the results were not what was expected. We opened the hatch. Jeremy popped out first, turned sharp left, and strode resolutely through the long grass. He was followed by Tim, who wandered off to the right of Jeremy (or was it the left?) and scurried away. But Theresa took no action: she just remained curled up in a ball.

Life in this Norfolk outpost continues as normal since the election. Each year we have at least one crop of ducklings. But this yearly event divides the family. My view is that we should not encourage them. Do them no harm but make it clear they have not been invited; they are here on sufferance. Fluffy and cuddly they may be when hatched, but when, in a few weeks, they have turned into unruly teenagers crapping on the patio and knocking on the door for food, they are distinctly not charming. But my wife is of a softer, kinder disposition and anguishes over the suffering of all living creatures.

The crisis came one Sunday lunchtime. We looked out the kitchen window to see, standing there, a handsome fox, well-groomed and in good condition. We might have continued to admire him had he not held a ducking in his mouth.

Mr Fox took one look at us, turned on his bushy tail, and ran. We struggled to release the dogs who were not sure why, but scrambling anyway to get through the door, believing there might be a rat to catch. Our rehomed guide dogs are not suited to the chase. Nia was first out and tore after the fox. She was followed by Daisy, carrying a dog toy in her mouth – which, oh the irony, happened to be a duck. Despite their enthusiastic response, the dogs returned empty pawed.

Overnight two more ducklings disappeared. By Monday my wife’s full compassion circuit was switched on. She ordered a fence be erected across the garden to provide a safe duckling haven. I demurred, reminding her they had the pond for refuge and foxes do not generally go swimming. In turn, she pointed out that baby ducklings cannot last for long if kept in water.

I countered by offering to build them a raft. That suggestion was treated with disdain, but I was not about to be deterred. I found a small pallet. It needed some buoyancy, so I retrieved some used milk cartons lids and attached the milk cartons underneath the pallet by cable ties. Soon it was ready for its maiden voyage. I dashed inside to demand a bottle of champagne (well, Prosecco, anyway) to break over the bow of HMS Quack. My request was refused, it being also pointed out that the baby duckies would fall through the slats and, anyway, they would never get on board. Besides, a bottle might well splinter the vessel.

A quick refit (involving an off-cut piece of carpet) dealt with the slats and the duck raft was ready for launch. It did not take long for mother and ducklings to climb on deck, confounding the sceptics.

Yet despite my efforts, the story does not have a happy ending. The ducklings were now attacked from above. Circling crows swooped to take more. Soon we were down to just one – and it had a gash on its head. An SOS was sent to the local wildlife and bird rescue centre. A duckling rescue team (in the form of a kind man called David) soon arrived with a net, captured the duckling, accepted a generous donation, and drove it away to a new life free from the perils of the Barr garden.

And that circuitous route brings us back to election night. The wildlife rescue centre caters for all manner of struggling creatures. In passing, David mentioned that he had some hedgehogs in need of a new home. The prickly creatures arrived on election day and were immediately named after the three leaders of the main parties. Later, Theresa disappeared completely. The question is – by the time this article comes out, will wildlife have imitated political life? Will we need to bring in more hedgehogs to represent new leaders? Indeed, would the country be better run by hedgehogs? Some would say things could hardly be worse.

Post script: To those who were concerned that there might have been a breach of the Hunting Act 2004 or were despairing that there was not one mention of the law in this article, let me say just this: The activities of Nia and Daisy amounted to exempt hunting under the first schedule to the Act as their aim was to prevent or reduce serious damage to wild birds. No hedgehogs were harmed in the writing of this article.

Richard Barr is a consultant with Scott-Moncrieff & Associates


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