HOW intriguing to read last week’s Herald Magazine article on deer, and a news item in the paper about conservationists and villagers being at odds over feeding the beasties.

The magazine piece, you’ll recall, featured photographer Neil McIntyre, author of Chasing the Deer, making an impassioned case for respecting the controversial (though they’re unaware of this) creatures and worrying about the mania for killing them indiscriminately to preserve the environment (because they eat saplings and spoil reforestation).

Neil comes from a deer-stalking family and knows whereof he speaks, so rural supremacists can’t call him an ignorant townie.

Residents of Kinlochleven, meanwhile, have been hand-feeding deer, which became semi-domesticated, fetching sticks and giving folk paws. However, conservationists complained the deer lacked road sense and could become aggressive because, deep down, they were still wild and a bit nutty.

Like most decent ratepayers, I distrust conservationists, or anyone with a beard really, because they always act so superior: “Look at us, we’re right realistic, ken? Not like you Disneyfied urban plebs. I came into this business because I love animals. It’s just that, now, I want them all killed.”

Meanwhile, I see a fence approaching, so I’ll just park both buttocks on it, if I may. That is to say, I’ve no informed opinion about deer culls. My guess is that, if beasts are a problem then, fine, take them out, as long as it’s done humanely and expertly, not by handing firearms to stockbrokers clad in brand-new Barbour jaickits from John Lewis.

At any rate, I’m with the conservationists in highlighting the danger of ticks on deer. These can cause debilitating Lyme Disease. As someone who’s found half a dozen of these burrowing into his skin over the past two years, you can understand my concern.

To prevent the problem at least in part, and stop my saplings being eaten, I put up 75 yards of anti-deer fencing (during which I got a tick) around my demesne. It’s wonky in places but I was boasting to a neighbour last week about how it had done the job when, next day, I found two deer in the garden. Big beasties tae. They ran off at first until struck by the realisation that comes to all wildlife I encounter: “Ach, it’s just Rab.” Then they ambled away at their leisure and jumped oot, I think over a lower fence at the front of the hoose.

I knew about deer and ticks, but was discomfited to have it confirmed that robins and blackbirds carry them too. I’m besties with these birdies. The robin comes down every morning to laugh at me doing my Chinese exercises. No kidding, he sits a few feet away on a branch, fluffs himself up with pleasure and watches the show. I’m his Netflix.

He knows he’ll get a suet pellet when I’m done, but only on condition that he doesn’t tell anyone what he’s witnessed. At the feeder, he comes within inches of my red nose, which I think he sees as a rival for the territory. I must say I’ve often noticed him scratching at something on his body.

It’s all a right guddle. I blame Jehovah the Merciless. He created the whole dog-eat-deer thing, and ticks and midges, all nuisances great and small. We must just do the best we can, sometimes shooting things for their own good, sometimes greetin’ aboot the cruelty of it all, sometimes thinking it’ll be better when we all move to another planet. Until we feel a bite on our leg.

Blowing off

TO much amusement and spluttering, council employees in Dorset have been filmed using leaf blowers – in a wood. Folk said it was “pointless” and “pure insanity”.

My heart went out to a woman who’d gone for a quiet walk to escape a neighbour’s leaf-blowing racket, only to discover it going on in the woods too. I’d a blower briefly myself – for getting leaves off a gravel path (difficult to sweep or pick up) – but didn’t know about the racket, and swiftly got rid off it.

Though I resort to machines occasionally, I’m a passionate advocate of quiet gardening and, indeed, drew up a campaigning letter to all MSPs, asking them to pass legislation limiting horticultural din. I never sent it as I don’t like to get involved in anything, but I might try and persuade someone else to do it.

I find sweeping leaves meditative now but used to hate it as it was my job eight hours a day on an urban estate known as Lord Somebody’s Feuars. Literally feudal. Unbelievable. I was even more of a wimp as a teenager than now, but had to manually haul a huge cart of gathered leaves over cobbled streets.

I walked out the day temperatures fell to a new record. There was no heating in the hut. I found a squirrel chittering there. I was so cold when I got home I couldn’t turn the key in the Yale lock.

Happy days. At least it was quiet work. I didn’t have to wear ear-defenders, nor have my body strapped with horticultural weaponry like someone going into battle in the jungles of ’Nam.


Good riddance to rotten reality

Good news: reality (over-rated) could disappear. That’s what leading computer engineer Louis Rosenberg fears if the metaverse – virtual spaces for gaming, working and communicating – takes hold. It’s why Facebook is now called Meta. But you can’t have meta-reality without reality. Besides, the metaverse will be performing a service if it keeps folk off the streets.

Out of ordure

The National Trust of Inglind has told visitors to Ludshot Common to take their dog poo home with them. Overflowing bins led hound exercisers to do that weird thing of bagging the poop then decoratively hanging it from a tree. Possibly, when they get home, they could hang it from the mantelpiece.

Old labour

Work never ends. The number of over-70s still working has increased to half a million, a rise of 6 per cent. Some still work from choice, some to feel a part of things, and some because they need to eat. Among those not working, many said they prefer sitting at home staring at a wall.

Bug deal

In another coup for Brexit, the EU has added locusts to its approved foods list encouraging eco-friendly eating. The controversial grasshoppers, normally avoided like the plague, will be marketed as snacks or food ingredients. In June, mealworm beetle larvae were also approved for the list, adding to pressure for Nigel Farage to be knighted.

Granny flatus

Young Daniel Radcliffe was left “traumatised” by Miriam Margolyes’ farting while filming Harry Potter. Radcliffe warned Alan Cumming about it before the Scots star embarked on Channel 4 show Miriam and Alan: Lost in Scotland. Having got wind of the problem, Cumming persuaded Margolyes, 80, to issue pre-trump warnings. Miriam eats a raw onion daily.