Yesterday was an election day in Scotland. As Churchill said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried. That being the case, I always vote if I possibly can, even in the dreariest local council elections, since it seems to me important to exercise your democratic right to pretend that you have some influence occasionally. A hundred years ago, after all, women starved themselves for this right.
So I spent all day remembering that I must just pop out and vote, only to be stalled by other commitments. In the morning, an elderly relative dropped by for coffee and a chat about various family matters. In the afternoon we had some Belgian visitors to tea: they come to us twice a year for stalking (that’s hunting deer, although my husband likes his little joke about my Belgian stalkers) and we usually manage to get together at some point for lunch or tea. They are perfectly charming visitors, always more smartly dressed than us scruffy Brits, and with beautiful old-fashioned manners. The sort of visitors, in other words, whom we feel we must receive in the castle’s formal drawing room, rather than in the family den amongst the guddle of Lego, dogs, plastic swords, toy cars and old newspapers. What with freshening up the drawing room, baking a cake, laying tea, collecting son from school, enjoying the company of our visitors and all the rest, it was my son’s bedtime before I realised that I still hadn’t managed to vote.
Luckily, the polling stations stay open until late in the evening. Our extraordinary three-week spell of warm dry weather has broken at last: it had been raining all day. The evening light levels were noticeably low under the mist and rain. In our rural polling station I was the only voter: a quick hello and goodbye to the ladies in charge and I was on my way back home along our drive. The trees were dripping and dank, the woods filled with blackbirds’ liquid song.
Rabbits scudded away from the car. A bedraggled pheasant or two picked his way across the wet grass.
Just as I was about to turn the final corner for home, I spotted another sort of movement. A little brown body making slow, purposeful progress.
A hedgehog! I do like these busy, solitary, undaunted little creatures, and I haven’t had a good sight of one for a while. Perhaps the wet weather suits them, bringing worms to the surface of the soil. I jumped out of the car to go and investigate. Hedgehogs are one of the very few wild animals which one can easily approach. They do shift quite fast when they want to,
but they are generally quite unfazed by attention, as long as you are quiet.
I looked at hedgehog: hedgehog peered at me, nose twitching. My camera doesn’t like low light, so I decided to try one picture with flash. The hedgehog didn’t react at all. (While their sense of smell is obviously good, their eyesight seems very poor.)
But at last the hedgehog decided the interview was over. I got the message.
Off it trotted in search of supper, and home I went in search of mine, feeling ridiculously cheered by this chance encounter at the end of a day of other pleasant encounters. Whatever the outcome of the elections, I am glad that I found time to vote this evening.
For more about the wildlife here, including hedgehogs, see Our neighbours are just wild!