Dead Pheasants
- by Malc Seaman -
...more True Stories...

As one of the last holidays that we enjoyed as a family (before the children began to fly the nest) we spent a week in Northumberland. Unfortunately it was closed. Northumberland. All of it. Shut.
It struck us as odd given it was August, that everything was closed in Northumberland. I seem to recall from my childhood days that August was the height of summer and the busiest part of the holiday season, but I could be wrong.

But no matter where we went - no matter what we attempted to do - it was shut.
We stumbled upon what seemed to be a nature reserve. We pulled into the completely empty car park (that should have triggered a little concern, but we were optimistically hoping that we were just the first ones in that day and soon the car park would start filling up with other holiday makers.) But it didn't.

A chap looking rather like a security officer of some sort, who had obviously seen us arrive, walked over to us. How friendly, we thought. He's coming to greet us into the park.
Wrong. He was coming to tell us that the park was not open.
"Not open?" I retorted increduously "It's August, the sun is shining and the park is closed?"
"The problem we have in this part of the world" said the security man, "Is that we don't seem to be able to find anyone prepared to run a place like this. The place has been looking for tenants for months and nobody has come foreward. It's fairly typical for the area."
How true THAT turned out to be.

We left the closed park and decided to head for the Model Village we had seen advertised on a leaflet in the cottage we had rented for the week. We always enjoyed a Model Village. When we arrived at the location on the leaflet we slowly drove around the village looking for little brown signs that would point the way to the Model Village.

After touring around for ten minutes or so, we decided that the best thing would be to ask for directions in the little village store/post office we found (and which amazingly, was actually open.) When we asked for directions the face of the lady behind the counter grew increasingly redder and somewhat embarrassed, explained that there was no 'Model Village' but this little place we had stopped in was advertising itself as 'A Model Village' - a village of distinction - a very nice village.
Model, in fact.

Apart from the sheer vanity of that idea - how misleading! We were looking for miniature houses, tiny shops and a little train chugging around a picturesque miniature village.

We were not (by a long way) the first to have been led (or rather, mis-led) to this village and the poor sub-post mistress it seemed, bore the duty of having to explain to every tourist that visited that there was no scaled-down windmill or any other miniature buildings to admire. Just a village.
I won't mention the name of the village - I am sure if you live there you will know which village I refer to.

We were disappointed, but, ah well, let's go and buy an ice cream.
"I saw a sign outside a little shop down the road as we drove in." I said.
We drive back to the sign. The kids jumped out of the car with me and we marched up to the door of the shop.....but it was closed. We kinda guessed it would be.

Toward the end of the week, because we had not actually found anything at all to do, we decided that from Craster, where we were staying, that it would only be a relatively short trip to hop over the 'border' into Scotland. We'd go to Edinburgh!

So off we set on our journey. The route we decided from Craster to Edinburgh took us along roads through some beautiful countryside. The sun was shining (remember? It was August) so we just cruised along and in no particular hurry.
As we moved through a fairly dense area of woodlands up ahead, I could see two rather large birds of some sort in the road. Well, birds in the road have an amazing ability to fly off and out of danger just at the last moment.
They would fly off as I got nearer.
They are going to take off any second now....
But no. These two were apparently oblivious to the fact that we were on the same road as them, somewhat bigger and now approaching them at around 35 miles an hour.
Fly they did not.
Die they did.

I remember thinking - there is no way I am going to swerve around them and risk ending up in a ditch. It all happened in a second and at the last moment I could almost see the expression on the face of one of the birds as he looked up at me probably thinking "I really should have moved."
The birds hit the front of the car and as I checked my rear view mirror one of them appeared in the road having been thrown under the car and finished in a crumpled heap.

Naturally, I stopped the car. I went around the front looking for the second bird but it was nowhere to be seen. I did notice that the plastic front grill was smashed, so I lifted up the bonnet - and there was the second bird - nestled in the engine compartment. Thankfully he (or she) did not go through the radiator - but it was close!
Just as we were considering the damage and how we would remove a dead pheasant from the engine compartment - and indeed what we would do with said, expired game bird, a car pulled up behind us and out jumped a man, obviously a local, who had all the answers. "What were you doing? Racing along the road?" He helpfully suggested. "No, we were not." I replied. I have no doubt he did not believe me when I said we were only travelling at around 35 miles an hour. (No matter - God knows.)
What he was sure of, was that as I had killed the birds the law did not allow me to take them away - but he could!
Well the idea of keeping a dead bird in the back of the car for the rest of the day did not appeal to us anyway. And even if we had done so what were we going to do with it when we arrived back at the cottage? "You take them." I said to the man, rather generously. And he did.

So off we set again - with this chap not too far behind us.
Well, as we drove on we seemed to find nothing but dead pheasants in the road - one, two, three - oh, there's another! In the next 5 minutes we must have passed half a dozen dead birds in or beside the road.
And then it occured to us - the man in the car behind us was going to think we had done it again... and again. He was going to assume we had killed all these birds as we drove on - confirming his suspicion that we were racing along the road!

We dared not stop - we just kept on going and finally arrived in Edinburgh having put the bird incident to the back of our minds, although I did have to stop at a garage on the way up to buy some electrician's tape with which I managed to tape together enough bits of the smashed plastic grill to afford some protection against stones that could fly up and damage the radiator. (I should have left the dead pheasant there. He had broken my grille - he could have protected my radiator!)

Edinburgh proved to be an attractive enough city - but it looked a little like a mini London with a one-way system and the locals flying around at breakneck speed so we turned the car around and headed back down south to our cottage.

Not the most enjoyable day - but certainly the most eventful!

...but at least Scotland was open!