Tuesday 20 August 2019

Fiona O'Connell: 'Thoughtless act that spoiled my long weekend'

Lay of the Land

Fiona O'Connell

Some folk are still feeling the benefits from the bank holiday which kicked off this month. Whereas mine ended before it started yet lasted too long, thanks to a thoughtless act of my own making.

I was returning from Dublin after a longer than usual visit, delighted to be heading home that Friday, the first day of a much anticipated mini-break. Even the cannon-grey clouds that threatened rain couldn't get me down. Indeed, there was enough of a glimmer that I had to wear sunglasses. As proved sadly significant in hindsight, it was another in a series of humid and heavy days.

I even started singing as I took my exit, which strangely brought to mind that ad where a man is remembering the great day he's had, with plenty of drinks thrown into the mix, tapping the beat to music on the steering wheel as he speeds along on his way to causing a fatal collision.

Not that I had been drinking, nor was I driving too fast. But actually, I was driving too fast. Not legally but definitely where the poor creatures that are forced to share our roads are concerned.

Because as I was approaching the last village before this country town, a pale coloured, big bird hopped right out in front of my car. I expected him to fly off as I drew nearer. But he didn't. Nor did I, in a stupid state of disbelief, slow down. To my horror, I heard and felt a sickening racket from under my car. Feathers fluttered up like ashes in my rear-view mirror.

I performed an abrupt U-turn, my heart sinking as I reached the mound of fresh massacre. Another car sped past as I parked by what minutes before was a bird busily gathering food, maybe to feed its chicks.

Seeing that beautiful creature that I had reduced to an ugly mess, its pristine feathers mangled with guts and blood, made me realise how casually we disconnect from these little corpses. No wonder, with roadkill everywhere having the unfortunate effect of making it seem normal. Instead of the most unnatural and unnecessary waste of life caused by our too-fast cars.

I crouched by the dead bird and said sorry, then silently drove home.

My mood recovered but the buoyancy of the bank holiday was gone. A cloud hung over me, like the grey ones that had accompanied me on the motorway.

For animals are affected by the weather - some locals remarked that the humidity was making them sluggish, birds slow to move and flying only a few feet before landing again. Heat also makes them dehydrated.

Which is why we need to remember that our cars can turn us into killers of these creatures who have no choice but to broach our roads.

So local councils need to consider local wildlife when setting speed limits. And put up signs, reminding drivers that we are passing through what is their permanent habitat. And to tread carefully so we all get to make it home for the weekend.

Sunday Independent

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