Cel­e­brat­ing 30 years – and 2 mil­lion words

Sale & Altrincham Advertiser - - THE LAUGHING BADGER - Sean.wood @talk21.com

AF­TER 30 years of writ­ing this col­umn, since the High Peak Echo days, I thought it might be a good idea to look through the past ar­ti­cles and pick the best. How­ever that was un­til I re­alised that there have been ap­prox­i­mately 1,560, which equates to around 2 mil­lion words.

Maybe I should pick my favourite, or per­haps your favourite, be­cause let’s face it, your let­ters, calls and, th­ese days, emails, have been the life-blood of the col­umn.

So I’m stuck re­ally and it’s back to the use of a pin, or per­haps even a don­key’s tail, just like when my erst­while trav­el­ling com­pan­ion, Oaf, and I used to de­cide on where in Europe to travel to next: “Get the map out Woody,” he would shout. Right, I’ve de­cided, my favourite Oaf-Quote, fol­lowed by my one-in-a-mil­lion trip last year to pho­to­graph and fall in love with the Euro­pean Bi­son.

When I was 62, I treated a num­ber of friends to a hol­i­day in Raven­stonedale in the Up­per Eden Val­ley in Cum­bria. We stayed at the re­mark­able An­gel Barn. Any­way, I said to Oaf, “It’s my treat, you bring the food and make sure we eat like a king. I want veni­son, oysters, cham­pagne and swan.” Oaf replied: “I didn’t know you could still get swan, Woody.”

My priceless mate. Bi­son could have been on my favoured menu, as it surely was for lords and peas­ants alike in days gone by, but I con­fess when I had the chance, af­ter hav­ing en­coun­tered them in the vast forests of north eastern Poland and Be­larus, I couldn’t bring my­self to try it.

The alarm pinged in my ear at 5.30am, and it was still pitch black out­side the wooden lodge.

Within a few hun­dred me­tres of the vil­lage, there was a wild wood, and my hope was to catch the bi­son be­fore they re­turned to the anonymity of the for­est soon af­ter day­break.

And so it hap­pened and I wanted to shout out, af­ter spot­ting the shape of a bi­son through the mist; def­i­nitely a large bull from half a mile, and I won’t for­get the mo­ment for a long time.

Back at the lodge I met a lo­cal guide Ma­teuz Sy­mura and when I told him how I would like to ob­tain a pic­ture of my­self and the bi­son in the back­ground, he said: “If you are quick I think this may be pos­si­ble.” There then fol­lowed a fast­mov­ing adventure, in­volv­ing red squirrels, red deer, frozen rivers and icy roads.

Af­ter an­other five min­utes in the car, we skid­ded to a halt. Ma­teuz said: “Fol­low me quickly, we may be in luck.’’

In a re­peat of my ear­lier sight­ing, there they were, say, 700 yards dis­tant, but this time only two and they were feed­ing on hay.

It was my good for­tune that my Pol­ish friend knew his way around a cam­era, and as you can see, we got pretty close. Not that I was con­cerned you un­der­stand, but th­ese beasts can turn in a nifty 35mph off a stand­ing start.

Re­mark­ably, and def­i­nitely a rea­son to sam­ple the hip-flask of vodka, I had all the pic­tures on my wish list by 10 on the first morn­ing and when I sent them through to Rag­ing Bull, I was told: “Job done Sean, job done.”

More vodka came the cry.

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