Today, as if there wasn’t enough sadness in the world, the Guardian gives us more to shake our heads about. Has the dignity of the dead hedgehog fallen foul of efficiency accountants? Apparently, the taking-away-roadkill department didn’t turn up in time, so the road painters painted on according to schedule. Even penguins (who I haven’t mentioned nearly recently enough) go round a static object, rather than over it. A spokesman for Hartlepool borough council said, clearly with a degree of satisfaction and relief: ‘This is obviously an unfortunate incident, but it was the only one reported during the massive project.’ But all may not be what it seems.
In July the BBC reported something similar: slightly better, slightly worse, depending on how you look at it, though, of course, it’s of no concern to the dead creatures involved. Questions avalanche. Does the painting around rather than over show more respect for nature? Or a greater respect for badgers than hedgehogs? Or are these two incidents not a statistically weird coincidence at all? Are both the work of guerilla anti-health-and-safety activists out to shame a world where road painters are not allowed to move roadkill except by special training and licence? The fact that the Guardian report is also in the Mail suggests that this may well be the answer.
But perhaps we are witnessing a new real-world meme: something along the lines of the crop circle artists but with road traffic accidents as their canvas – this does not bode well if taken too far. Or it might tell us that painting long lines (double yellow or single white) over miles of roads is so boring and the quest for fame so great that people have taken to bringing dead hedgehogs and badgers to work with them to liven things up a bit and get the papers round. This, too, if taken further and into other boring areas of life, may not be pleasant.