Bold and Brave

When Red Kites were first becoming more common around these parts you could guarantee that if you neared one perched, typically, in a tree, it would fly off. No matter how high the tree and lofty its perch, just a human coming along would make it put in what often looks like a lot of effort and lift off. The first thing they learned was that cars weren’t a problem – they wouldn’t fly off for a car going by, but they still would for a pedestrian or cyclist. They are continuing to learn: today one landed in a tree as I approached, not far out of Caversham, and it just ignored me cycling along – it wasn’t even high up in a tall tree.

I don’t know if you can apply concepts such as bold or brave to animals; I rather suspect not. They’re just becoming familiar with people. Quite naturally, familiarity breeds if not contempt then certainly some awareness that the typical human is no threat. Dolled-up in lycra and balanced on a bike, they may be an eyesore – but not a threat.

Just a few yards after being ignored by the Kite, two girls came hurtling along down the lane – the first in something like a new-ish open top little Renault, the second in what looked like a fairly tatty Ford Fiesta. I might be wrong. They were racing each other – I could see the one in front was paying more attention to her rear view mirror than to the road ahead. It wasn’t a close shave for me or anything faintly resembling it, but if I’d been even a mid-sized van like a Transit, things would have been a bit fraught all round.

I’m know I’m old enough to suspect anyone under about the age of 30 is in fact barely 12, policemen included, but these two weren’t ‘women’ in the sense that that word means mature female – they were girls. If they were over 20 I’ll be surprised.

I doubt you can call the actions of youth bold or brave either. We’ve all been there – there’s a feeling of invulnerability that’s so common in the young. You can’t be bold or brave without the alternatives crossing your mind – without considering the timid option, without feeling fear. I suspect the fact that they might be risking a bad car crash for the fun of a chase down a lane simply never crossed their minds.

I don’t know how you can legislate for that; the best you can do is attempt to educate – to show the fragility of it all.

And if it had gone horribly wrong for them and they’d ended up crashing, thrown from their cars, dead in a ditch, I don’t know what the right response would have been. It would have been just nature really – you get old if you can survive the follies of youth. That’s true for pretty well all animals.

We wouldn’t have been able shrug it off though, even if we should. There would have been an outcry of some sort about dangerous roads, some public hand-wringing about kid drivers, and some media fool standing outside where one or other of them lived and talking to camera about the shock it’s been to ‘the local community’. No-one would say it’s just nature.

And if the first to the ditch had been that Red Kite, viewing a corpse for the carrion it is, there would have been an outcry about that as well – even though that’s just nature too. A cull for birds of prey would probably be just around the corner.