Is it a Kind of Dream?
I might miss how easy it is to score a cultural fix in the city, and the silky smooth tarmac beneath my feet, but at this time of year the countryside wins hands down. The local wildlife seems intent on being spotted by even the most distracted observer. On my recent walks and on my dusk and dawn commutes to and from work, I’m forever seeing foxes, badgers, mice, shrews, buzzards, red kites, weasels, grass snakes (shudder), and rabbits.
The swallows and martens are back nesting in our roof and the pond is throbbing with frogs and newts, warming their backs in the sunshine while damselflies dance about above them. The only shadow crossing this joyous idyll is cast by my cat, Marcel, who does everything in his power to wipe out all signs of life with his teeth and claws. Only the other week hearing unearthly screams from the kitchen I discovered a baby rabbit trapped in his grip. I caught the rabbit which fortunately, was still unharmed – although very likely in need of counselling – and released it back out into the field behind our house.
Feeling that little warm body, its wild heart beating so fast, its fur so soft, with its big round eyes and little twitching nose, I felt privileged to get so close albeit on a rescue mission from my predator pet. It made me want to envisage the world as a rabbit might see it, and so it was that I dug out a copy of Richard Adams’ Watership Down.
I remember weeping inconsolably while watching the film as a child, so I was pleasantly surprised at how charming and comparatively gentle the book was. Believing that some truth may lay in Fiver’s terrible sense of foreboding, a little band of rabbits led by Hazel leave their warren to find a safe place to make their new home. Like all great quest stories, the rabbits encounter challenges and face dangers from terrain, humans, predators and other rabbits before they reach their final destination. As well as traversing the land, each rabbit also faces his own personal challenge. I was enthralled by the descriptions of the landscape and loved the pure escapism of the tale.
To top it all, there was a map at the front of the book so I could keep flipping back to check the progress of the little adventurers – which is always a bonus, in my book. Now I’ve read the book, I’m going to have to revisit the film, even though I know that’s far more harrowing, and I could hardly post about Watership Down without including the iconic theme tune, so here it is. Enjoy!