Farthing Watch – 1.03

Last Week – The animals of Farthing Wood left their home and faced the first struggles of their journey. While they managed to find water, they saw that the outside world holds many dangers, from hungry cats to busy roads. So far they have all managed to stay alive, but that danger sign near to where they have stopped to sleep looked pretty ominous…

I should mention here that, although I am writing little recaps here for your benefit, we actually do have voiceovers at the start of each episode to bring people up to speed. In this one Badger talks about the animals ‘slaking their thirst’. Ah, isn’t slaking a lovely word? Let’s all try to use it more often. Also Badger totally downplays how much of a hero he is, talking about Fox rescuing Toad but not mentioning that he saved Adder. We should all try and be more like Badger.

Anyway, our animals have all had a good kip, but they are woken up by a series of explosions. ‘Do stop snoring, dear!’ says Mrs Hedgehog. The more nervous animals get shaken by this, and the rabbits have to be stopped from running back out into the road.

There are soldiers on manoeuvres in the field beside them. Kestrel’s commentary is great fun ‘Now he’s attacking a sack!’ she cries down, ‘Why? What’s it done to him?’ Rabbit asks Fox. Fox decides that it is a game and, fancying a play herself, Weasel stabs a wasp’s nest with a stick. ‘Stupid female!’ admonishes Badger. Oh dear…well, it was the 90s! Serendipitously, the wasps scare off the soldiers, leaving the field open for the animals to slake (yayyyyyy!) their thirst.

Night falls, and the animals once again slake their thirst (I’ll stop soon, I promise) at a marsh. The water is bitter but cool. Some of them have pushed themselves too hard. The discussion of travelling speeds brings up the idea of compromise which permeates this series. In the truest sense of democracy, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

We lose our first travelling companions here, as the newts decide to stay in the marsh. Even though Badger doesn’t like the idea, they carry on.

A squirrel picks up a bullet and Fox tells him to throw it away, accidentally blowing off a load of Mr Pheasant’s tail feathers. ‘This is dangerous country!’ Fox warns, heading back to fetch a tired Toad. Meanwhile, an awful human being drops a smouldering cigarette butt onto the dry grass. The drought has been referenced since the first episode, probably should have mentioned it before. Do you remember the long, hot summers we used to get in the 1990s? Hosepipe bans and dead flowers and ladybirds that started drinking human blood? (Seriously, this happened to me…)

‘Look! A red glow in the sky!’ says Hare (if only he had said ‘strange glow’, never mind), as the fire takes hold. The animals start to panic (nobody listens to Mrs Rabbit, seriously!). Fox can’t find Toad and Mole is off hunting for worms in the marshy mud. Fox becomes a proper hero here, overcoming his fear of fire and acting like saving his friend is the obvious thing to do, then racing out of the smoke with Toad on his tail as the theme music plays triumphantly.

Everything seems okay (the animals don’t know that Mole is safe but we do), until Toad explains that the flames were being blown back to the other side of the marsh. ‘The newts!’ exclaims Badger. Meanwhile, a kind firefighter finds Mole and pockets him. The fire seems to have spread round the marsh, so the animals head for a small island in the middle. Fox and Badger take the smaller animals on their backs to get them across the submerged causeway.

From the island they watch the humans subdue the fire. ‘At the moment the humans are our friends,’ muses Fox, ‘But…’ ‘Wait till they see us!’ finishes Owl.

Mole escapes from the coat pocket and Fox effects a rescue while the birds distract the humans. They don’t feel the need to claw the humans in the face this time, unlike Owl’s last rescue attempt. ‘Oh Badger, I did miss everyone, especially you’ says Mole. ‘Well Moley, me old pal, can’t say I’m sorry to have you back either’. Bless their cottons!

‘Once over the causeway, it’s straight on for the fence, maties, then we’re off army land and onto farm land!’ says Toad. ‘HOORAY!’ everyone cries. Are you mad, animals of Farthing Wood?! Do you know how dangerous farmland is? Have NONE of you ever seen Apaches?!

Then we get this hilarious exchange:

Badger: Just be glad we’re all together.

Mole: But we’re not! Where are the newts?

Badger: Don’t ask, there’s a good chap!

So we’re not talking about the boiled newts, then? Fox’s follow-up of ‘now we’re together, let’s stick together’, coming after Badger’s earlier unwillingness to let the newts leave the party, suggests that those poor amphibians were in some way being punished for not being team players. Remember, kids, ALWAYS follow the crowd or you will be poached. These were simpler times. Individuality was frowned upon. We didn’t know what snowboarding was. Ah, the 90s!


Wild Wisdom of the Week – ‘When perched between two evils, the best solution is to stay still’ (Owl)

‘Fear, Rabbit, is the greatest enemy. Conquer fear and you can conquer the world. For he who fears nothing, has nothing to fear’ (Owl – to which Adder replies ‘He ssssaid calm them down, not sssssend them to ssssleep!’)

‘Some weasels never learn’ (Fox)

‘He who lives by his greed, dies by his greed’ (Owl – to which Weasel replies ‘Oh, shut up!’)

‘He who can lose home and friends and still remain calm is beyond all grief’ (Owl – sort of summing up the depressing yet hopeful spirit of the series there)

‘Fox can run faster than fire itself’ (Mrs Rabbit)

Deaths – The newts. The whole family. We don’t see it but they were obviously boiled or buried under ash or choked by smoke. Something terrifyingly horrific. They might have been endangered Great Crested Newts. Why does nobody talk more about this tragedy?

Other musings – Badger says ‘we’ll give them 200 heartbeats’. Brilliant – how else would animals measure seconds?