(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
“I don’t know what you two are plotting but it had better stop now because I’m not interested. My life is stressful enough with a university department and a handful of children to look after without you wanting me to negotiate Brexit as well. So, I’ll be seeing you.” I rose to leave the room.
Simon grabbed my hand, “Sit down, babes, listen to what he has to say.”
“Why should I? Henry I love you to bits as a pa in law and you’re brilliant with the girls, but you have stranger ideas about my capabilities than he does,” I nodded at Simon. “I am therefore leaving.”
“Before you go, what do you think about otters and badgers?”
“The former appear to be thriving the latter are awaiting extermination by ill informed and ill mannered farmers, doubtless the former will too by fishermen, if they’re not already.”
“What if you could help to prevent the mayhem on mustelids?”
“It’s too far up the food chain for any scientific advice to be taken, the government are extending the cull even though the results will be negative, but then they’ll bury those somewhere in the archives of Deffra.”
“You campaigned against the badger cull.”
“It was based on bad science, it still is.”
“So tell them.”
“Lots of better qualified biologists told them, it was political, a sop to the NFU who help fund the Tory party. They won’t eliminate bovine TB until they learn to clean up their acts and their farms, especially the latter.”
“Tell it to the minister.”
“It would be wasting my breath. If he listened it would be out of politeness or because his mortgage is with the bank. Then it would be equally politely forgotten because this bunch of morons in power have already made the decisions, they won’t review it because the two functioning brain cells they have between them are busy with Brexit.
“I suggest you spend your time trying to minimise the destruction it will visit upon the bank while I go and repossess my children.” I pulled my hand free.
“They’re looking for a new chief scientific officer—they want a biologist.”
“Good luck to whoever gets the job, they’ll need it, a real poison chalice.”
“They want you.” Henry stood up as he spoke adding emphasis but almost threateningly so.
“Tough, I already have a job—I might not be very good at it, but it is mine.”
“You are very good at it, Cathy. But just think how much good you could do, protecting otters and badgers as well as your precious dormice.”
“So could plenty of other possibly better qualified scientists, especially with mustelidae.”
“Otters are becoming a big problem eating prize carp, some which are worth thousands.”
“Only because stupid men want to play Tarzan and catch the stupid fish—the bigger the better—it hides their inadequacies elsewhere.”
“Carp are difficult fish to catch.”
“Except for otters, apparently.”
“They do have some advantages over us poor inadequate anglers.”
“Yes but then they’re fishing to eat, you’re doing it for pleasure.”
“It’s worth a couple of billion pounds a year to the economy, a big carp can be worth thirty or forty thousand pounds.”
“Not to an otter.”
“Quite—so what’s to stop the commercial fisheries shooting said otter?”
“A five grand fine plus up to ten years in prison.”
“Like that’s going to happen.”
I shrugged. It was a moot point that the recovery in otters in the UK was of concern to the commercial fisheries and nothing had been done to head off the protests by the fisheries and the anglers as the head of steam builds. Natural England claims their isn’t a problem because no one is complaining to them and they have no data which says there’s a problem—no because any otter which causes one is likely to be killed, despite it being one of the most protected animals in the country. But then, so was the badger, which it’s enemies claim is why it’s causing all this TB now, the lack of proof is irrelevant, we aren’t in the real world, this is realpolitik, the ultimate in pragmatism, no wonder Henry is involved.
“I can’t help you.”
“You won’t, you mean?”
“I’m not an expert on otters.”
“You’d look as good with one of those in your arms as you did with the dormouse, they’re both very photogenic.”
I nearly exploded. “Henry, are you stupid or just playing the part. Otters are ruthless predators, handle one of those and you’re likely to lose some fingers. This image of cuddly toy stuff, so beloved of leading wildlife charities is ridiculous. They are every bit as ruthless as the other mustelids, including the much maligned mink. They don’t come to let you pat them on the head unless they fancy eating your hand.”
“She’s good, isn’t she?” said Henry to his idiot son.
“Especially when she’s roused,” was the idiot son’s reply.
“I am leaving, please don’t waste any more of your breath and my time.” I strode to the door and as my hand was on the handle, Henry said something.
“You’d have been really good at that UN job, you know.”
“I turned that down too, if you remember.”
“Oh I do, it was a mistake then and this is one now.”
“I hope you don’t look after my investments,” I threw back at him.
“Only in the most general of terms, why?”
“Because if you know so little about them as you seem to about me, I’d be looking to bank elsewhere.” I opened the door and walked through it. I was bristling, Henry and his stupid scheming—you’d think he’d have learned by now. If he’d offered me a chance for Trish to have one to one tuition from Stephen Hawking for his precious jobs, I’d have turned him down. I can hardly cope with what I do now, so putting me in an arena that requires diplomatic skills and political nous would be a total mismatch—to start with, I can’t keep my mouth shut when I hear or see something that I disagree with.
“We’re having a great time,” said Trish, “did you have fun with Grampa Henry?”
“Oh yes, real fun. Are you ready to come home now?”
“I s’pose so, shall I round up the others?”
“If you would, darling.” I searched my bag for the car keys and found them, then sent Simon a text to say I was leaving in ten minutes, if he wanted to come, he’d better be there too. Needless to say he wasn’t.
“Are we going without Daddy?” asked a concerned Hannah.
“Yes he’s talking business with Grampa Henry. Did you thank Nanny Monica for looking after you?”
“Duh—of course we did,” sighed Einstein.
Monica came along as we were leaving. “You look irritated,” she said to me.
“That’s putting it politely.”
“Another of his silly schemes, no doubt.”
“Exactly so—I love him to bits but I can see where Simon inherited his occasional wild ideas from.”
She gave me a knowing smile, so had obviously been there herself. “Henry is a lovely chap,” she said, adding, “if only his ideas were half as lovely, he’d be perfect.”
It wasn’t a conclusion I wanted to disagree with because it summed him up quite succinctly. “It wasn’t the UN job again, was it?”
“No, thank goodness.”
“Because that’s up again—apparently it could be based at Cambridge.”
“Not my idea of fun, c’mon girls, say bye bye to Nanny Monica.”
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