Farthing Watch – 1.10

‘Between Two Evils’

Last Time: A quick pit stop in a quarry introduced us to Whistler, the heron with the bullet wound. He quickly proved his worth by rescuing Toad from a carp, and was initiated into the gang (along with Vixen, who had apparently hitherto just been Fox’s piece). They all set off in high spirits, only to walk straight into a pheasant massacre. The pheasant killers were an equal opportunities bunch of blighters, though, and shot one of the baby rabbits. Ice cold.

After last week’s surprise burst of murder, the title this week suggests that things are going to go from bad to worse. Let’s watch!

Fox and Vixen are being soppy again. Bleh. Waxing lyrical about getting to White Deer Park before winter, just in time to leave footprints in the snow while they hunt. Pass the sick bag. Fox notes that their cubs will be safe in the spring – getting ahead of yourself there aren’t you, Fox? Wait…aren’t you?! Suddenly wondering how much goes on between episodes…

The voles and hedgehogs are bitching at the back, feeling that the bigger animals are moving too fast. Well, you can always stay where you are…but there will probably be ghastly consequences if you do!

Adder is also finding it a bit tough, and Owl is not sympathetic. ‘If you’re so slow, how slow is a slow worm?’ she asks. ‘Huh!’ replies Adder, ‘They’re jussst lizardsss without legsss!’. Owl tells her she is as proud as Toad. Well, proud he may be, but a competent leader he is not. Kestrel zooms in to warn them of a road ahead, a big one. Toad does recall some epic roadworks last time he was in the area – they’ve only gone and built a bloody motorway! Cheers Toad, great job.

‘All that walking…for nothing…’ says one of the shrews. There is no way round and White Deer Park is on the other side (well, Toad SAYS it’s on the other side – so it is entirely possible that it is in a different county). Are they really going to have to go back? The way back looks safe, but somewhere in the distance the dogs are baying. ‘The hunt!’ says Fox, ‘We can’t go back’. How long do hunts last?! Weasel points out that, actually, the rest of the animals could go back. A fair few of the treacherous little beasts agree, but Badger gives them a good telling off, reminding them of all Fox has done for them. ‘We animals stick together’ he finishes. ‘Hoorayyyyy!’ shouts Moley.

Kestrel tells them the hunters have their scent. That settles it – ‘to the road!’ cries Badger. Vole wants to vote on it, but the group are already moving. ‘I’ll second Vole’ says Hedgehog, running with the rest of them, ‘If I get the chance!’. Ohhhh…is that the chilly tingle of FOOOORESHADOWIIIING I feel?

Adder encourages one of the little rabbits with a wide-mouthed hiss. ‘What’sss the russsh?’ she laughs as it hares off. ‘Lucky I’m thick ssssskinned, isssn’t it?’

The hunt is getting nearer – ‘we’ll be caught between two evils!’ says Vixen, who clearly read the Radio Times this week. Whistler drops down to tell them that he has flown over the road before (NOW he tells us!) but never seen the hunt on the other side. This makes Vixen feel better for some reason. Surely the other evil was the road itself? Surely whether they have hunters to dodge on the other side is academic if they can’t get through six lanes of fast-moving traffic?

Suddenly, the hunt turns back. ‘I thought they might’ says Fox. Liar. ‘Don’t want the hounds near the road, eh Fox?’ suggests Badger. ‘That’s about it’ replies Fox. Oh my god such a liar! The animals go up to take a look at the motorway. Mrs Hedgehog balls up in fright at the mere sight of it. ‘Don’t do that, dear, please’ says Hedgehog. This is not going to end well, is it?

Moley asks if they could tunnel under it, but Badger tells him it would take years. Would it take years? I don’t know, I’m not a tunnelling expert. It doesn’t seem like THAT stupid of a suggestion. The smaller animals start complaining about the larger animals again. ‘Nobody said this journey to White Deer Park would be easy,’ says Fox, ‘But we’ve come through it together so far’. Well, not ALL of you. Speaking of which… ‘Yeah, we’ve done alright’ says Rabbit. Whose child died a few hours ago! Do rabbits have memories that short? I’m not a rabbit expert…He also has a very sore paw which is starting to look like it might have gone septic.

‘Could we wait till it gets dark?’ suggests Rabbit, actually pretty sensibly. ‘Don’t be silly,’ says Hare, ‘You know what you’re like with car headlights!’. Touché. Whistler notes that this is not a country road, and thus never quiet. The animals decide to get to the central reservation, as the closer lane is barely moving. ‘One step at a time’ says Fox. ‘Some of us have bigger steps than others!’ says Mrs Field Mouse. ‘And sssome of usss have no ssstepsss at all!’ rejoins Adder.

The motorway seems to be trapped in some sort of time loop (or there are a large number of similar-looking coaches). Undeterred by the temporal anomaly, the animals start across. Weasel is pratting around and having a grand old time, while the squirrels go over the bonnets as it’s safer up there. One mouse gets its tail caught but fortunately the driver reverses slightly, setting it free.

The hedgehogs are, of course, making slow progress. ‘Come on you thorn bushes on legs, you can do it!’ shouts Weasel. Bit soon to be making thorn bush jokes, Weasel. It’s a close thing, but they make it to the middle. It isn’t pleasant there – they are choking on the fumes and the grass tastes funny, like the smell in the air. To make matters worse, a window winds down and a child shouts ‘Mum! Dad! There’s a lot of funny animals beside us!’. The weird Mum chucks a can at the ‘vermin’ squirrels (really, the squirrels are the ones that bother her the most?) and Weasel, in a fit of road rage, lobs it back in through the window, inviting a hail of random projectiles onto herself.

Fox suggests that Kestrel and Owl could carry some of the smaller animals over. FINALLY. ‘Yes, but they’re natural enemies’ says Vixen, ‘Wouldn’t they be frightened?’. God Vixen, you literally did the oath yesterday! Also, Kestrel is a trustworthy and decent bird, a truly wonderful creature, and loyal and true. Don’t you dare go suggesting that she might break the oath and eat a mouse. Just who do you think you are?! Sorry, I digress…Whistler offers his services, and Fox notes that as a pescetarian he’s the safer bet. Toad is the first one to go – he trusts Whistler because he saved his life back in the quarry. For the second time in as many days, Toad has a little journey in another animal’s mouth, and makes it safely to the other side.

Whistler apologises to the hedgehogs – they are too spiky for him to carry (they understand), before heroically saving a concussed Weasel as she gambols around in the middle of the road. Mrs Hedgehog wonders what White Deer Park might look like. Mr Hedgehog, not exactly a poet, does his best to imagine it. ‘Sounds nice’ she says. ‘Hope we make it’ he answers. Oh no.

‘Hooray, we’re all going to make it mateys, heeyyy!’ shouts Toad. OH NO. ‘We’re safe!’ cries Moley. OH DEAR GOD NO. If these two are saying it’s going well you just know death is coming for someone.

The dramatic music starts playing and it is Mr Hedgehog who freezes first, staring into space and whispering ‘don’t curl up!’. ‘Please!’ calls Mrs Hedgehog, but he can’t hear her. ‘Whatever you do, dearest, don’t curl up’ he says. She goes to him, and looks in terror as a vehicle bears down upon them. They both ball up and get run over. The tyre fades into Fox and Vixen staring helplessly from the safety of the grass. Vixen sheds a tear: ‘she wouldn’t leave him’. I’m not crying, YOU’RE crying.

Adder is still on the wrong side of the road, but isn’t willing to accept help from Owl. She has also seen what happened to the hedgehogs and has so wish to commit ssssuicide. The other animals note that she is too proud. Owl tries to talk her into going over, but Adder isn’t biting. Their relationship reaches breaking point here, with Adder rather marvellously calling Owl a ‘pompous bundle of feathers’. Ha! Boom! Owl has had that coming for weeks now. Just as Adder claims that nobody can make her do something she doesn’t want it, Whistler dives in and carries her across. Her pride is bruised but at least she’s safe. ‘Which is more than can be said for the hedgehogs!’ says Owl. Thanks Owl, we hadn’t noticed.

Fox is blaming himself, as per usual, but Vixen and Badger tell him how wonderful he is. Badger notes that they are all behind him, and even the treacherous tiny animals nod their assent. Now, apparently, it’s all plain sailing to White Deer Park! Unfortunately, it is Toad who tells us that, so there is probably some sort of horrific deathtrap awaiting them just over the brow of the next hill.

Onwards, mateys, and see you next week!


Wild Wisdom of the Week – ‘He who risks the lives of many on the word of one will soon learn that words cost little and accomplish nothing’ – Owl. What? What does that even MEAN?!

‘The traffic flows like two rivers, flowing in opposite directions’ – Kestrel. Not wise, just a nice observation.

‘When there is now way forward, the only way is back’ – Owl.

‘Sometimes fear of one evil overcomes the fear of another’ – Owl.

‘They worked at destroying the land day and night, without stopping, until they had exhausted it’ – Whistler (on the humans at his quarry)

‘Better to lose one’s dignity than to lose one’s life’ – Owl.

Deaths – The hedgehogs, squashed by a lorry. Squashed hedgehogs used to be such a common sight, which made this all the more painful.

Other musings – The hedgehogs’ deaths were another one of those images which was burned into the minds of an entire generation of young children. It’s another brilliantly directed scene, with the powerful music and subtle acting coming together to make the whole thing genuinely affecting. Best death since Pheasant. *sniff*