Friday, 31 August 2012

Essex Lion: a tweeting good tale

As August bank holiday fades into a distant memory and we all trudge back to work the Essex lion too seems to have disappeared, back into the undergrowth of silly season news stories from whence he came.  Being a natural sceptic I wasn’t at all surprised by his sudden shyness, or by the suspicious fuzziness of the photographs that appeared in several newspapers.  There are plenty of exotic animals moving into our country, particularly as climate change takes hold.  Sika, muntjac and Chinese water deer may all be found in parts of the UK, wild boar roam in the Forest of Dean, and any visitor to the London parks will notice the screeching parakeets that have made their homes there.  These are all seen regularly by tourists and residents.  Wild boar and exotic deer are occasional road casualties; as fellow Archers listeners will know, the Grundy family is currently eating its way through a large boar carcase.  But no big cat has ever been killed by a car on our roads, no bodies have been discovered, pecked by carrion crows, and no convincing photographs or films of these animals roaming our countryside have been produced.  Even in Ambridge, however, there is a yearning for some kind of beast to be lurking, unseen, in the woods.  Is it, perhaps, that we townies prefer to think of the countryside as a rather dangerous and exotic “other” place?  We certainly seem to have an ambivalent relationship with it: we want it to be pretty but we need it to produce food, clean water and other necessities of life.  Many of us would like to move there but we don’t want more houses built to clutter the landscape.  We want rural dwellers to be able to make a living, but we don’t want new roads or railways built that spoil the view.  Perhaps we would also prefer the countryside to retain the mystery of unseen big cats or other monstrous beasts that lurk, unseen, in fields and woodland.  They can be alluring, but not too threatening and, sometimes, like @EssexLion, they can even communicate with us via Twitter.

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