Blogging about Roadkill

The blogosphere is a funny old world really. An article in today’s Guardian set off a train of thought about a long dead pal.
Nigel was his name if you must know, and he picked up road kill on a whim to feed his many cats.
There were at one point thirteen of the feline buggers living and shitting in his living space and the sheer cost of Felix must have strained his resources to the hilt.
Hence the feeding of rabbits, pheasants and the occasional flattened fox to his co-habitants.
He lived in a series of variously run-down country cottages of the type commonly available in those splendidly hippie days that were the 70’s, then the 80’s and perhaps the early 90’s. His last place was a well-used caravan over at Monymusk at the back of an old mill. The kind landowner had agreed on a peppercorn rent on the basis that the mill and its adjoining miller’s house would be his for a few decades, providing he agreed to renovate it to a habitable standard.
Well, Nigel was no easy tenant. And in truth, he probably never intended keeping his end of the bargain. A man of many truths, he signed what was probably only a handshake between laird and tenant before spending his last decade in penury and poverty in that ramble-shaken caravan up behind the laird’s tumble-down mill. Seemingly the mill building had been a lapidary mill at one time; but I personally doubt that since the lapidary mill on the Monymusk estate was much further down the valley and much nearer the old village centre.
Anyway, after a few years scraping a living selling enamelled badges and the like at markets and fairs, my friend got ill. But not before he had gotten into astrology and also a good few things to do with numerology, astral planes and the like. In fact, long after his death he came to my rescue when, in a period of extreme madness, I needed reassurance. I remember the words well but, I won’t repeat them here. Suffice it to say that he brought me back from a brink.
Nigel was never one to submit to norms and when he contracted an incurable condition, he suffered it gladly and without much medical intervention except at the end, when morphine became a friend. At his funeral, those who attended – and there were indeed a few – heard his last breath. Recorded by a lasting admirer it made for a strange wave-away.
But back to that roadkill.
Todays Guardian carries a piece by Gavin Haynes questioning the value of keeping roadkill in the family freezer. Nigel of course would never have countenanced the ownership of such a device. Nor could he have afforded one – although, some weeks before his death he accepted a gift of a newish caravan from an astrological admirer. But that is a different story indeed – suffice it to say that, if he could obtain roadkill he would stop to pick it up but he would never run over cat food intentionally.
Gavin Haynes’ article goes as far as suggesting that a ‘best before date’ might be useful in keeping track of falling fox numbers and implies that Chris Packham’s freezer is full of nocturnal animals. Foxes, he says are being squeezed out of the countryside as landowners “are shooting foxes much more commonly”.
He may indeed be right. But I don’t know really. In Nigel’s day Mr Brock was similarly persecuted but at least Nigel’s thirteen hungry cats got the first bite of the roadkill.
As for me? Two days of solid writing loom and then much more next week following chips at the weekend at Stonehaven. I have a deadline or maybe two to meet. Wish me well.

Duncan Harley is the author of The A-Z of Curious Aberdeenshire

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