Magazine article The Spectator

Woolly Monsters

Magazine article The Spectator

Woolly Monsters

Article excerpt

There are 300 wild boar roaming Kent. They were tame before they escaped from farms but now they've discovered freedom we must assume they are pretending to be wild. How the authorities know there are exactly 300 and not, say, 305, I don't know but when I heard this figure mentioned on Farming Today on Monday I found it, like the programme itself, rather reassuring. I like the idea of what the presenter Richard Sanders called `these woolly monsters' rooting for truffles around Ashford, and watching Eurostar thundering past and possibly wondering how they could hitch a lift to Brussels where they could spread swine fever.

I make it an absolute rule never to believe any statistics issued by pressure groups or government departments about anything at all. They're usually bogus, aimed at catching publicity for a particular hobby-horse or designed to attract more public money for a pet project. When I hear there's a tit crisis, I know perfectly well there isn't. The birds, that is. When told recently I should be worried there were millions fewer of these birds, I merely looked out of the window only to see battalions of them darting from hedge to branch.

I also gleaned from Farming Today that there's a body called the Apple and Pear Research Council whose head, a professor, might have to resign because of anti-sleaze legislation. What's going on down there in the orchards? I thought. Scandal among the Cox's Orange Pippins and Conferences? No, it seems that the Nolan inquiry has decided that all quango heads can serve only two terms of office, so the fruit boffin currently in charge of apples and pears will have to step down quite unnecessarily. Either that, or he will have to be shot - or was that the boar they were talking about? I suppose I should have recorded the programme because I'm not normally very alert between 6 and 6.30 in the morning.

I was only listening in the first place because of reports that Farming Today might have to give way to an earlier start for Today and more financial news for yuppies guiding their Porsches and Ferraris across London to City dealing-rooms. As part of the new Radio Four Controller's review of the network, the programme might be dropped. Today, it is said, needs to compete with Radio Five Live's 6 a.m. The Breakfast Programme which is attracting listeners. I can't see that exciting overnight news of coffee futures will have them flocking back to Today but perhaps the Controller James Boyle has something else in mind. …

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