THE badgers were out again last night. Not content with taking three pockets from the billiard table. Old Brock had made off with all the billiard balls as well, as I discovered when proposing a game with a fellow nature diarist this morning. What can your average badger want with billiard balls? Will this sagacious beast barter them for more useful objects with owl or weasel?
Musing on this, we wandered out across the garden in the golden September sunshine, and into the village giving a “good morning” now to Old Jim the Poacher, sweating in his heavy multi-pocketed poacher’s greatcoat, now to Old Miss Briggs, the former dame school economics teacher, now to a foursome of commercial travellers setting off for a solo whist session in Bragg’s Wood.
Passing the lopsided thatched cottage of Old Seth Gummer the Waspkeeper, last of his kind, we knew by the unusually loud buzzing from his garden croft that he was busy with the ancient custom of “telling the wasps”, so different from that equally ancient custom “telling the bees”. A grizzled figure dressed in waspkeeper’s sacking, with a perforated tin pail over his head, he was telling his vespine charges about all the happenings in the neighbourhood this summer that he thought would interest them.
Sure enough, their eager buzzing grew frenzied as he described, in lurid detail, adulterous affairs, divorces, rapes, lesbian elopements, cases of drug addiction, paedophilia, muggings and other assaults, and, most exciting of all, the formation of a retro-techno-sado-rap group in the village.
Pausing only to say a hurried “good morning” to Old Seth, who was fumbling vaguely with his antique Edison Bell recording apparatus, we walked on, accompanied by a few enterprising wasps, pondering on the strange mixture of old and new, of immemorial tradition and brash modernity in our part of the countryside.