As writers we have to be tenacious, and I had always thought of myself as that. For months on end I research and learn and file, and research and learn and file. Then I sit at my keyboard and slog away at the manuscript, for many more months. After that I edit and re-edit and edit again, until it all becomes a blur. Then I market and promote and re-market and further promote.
The whole process can, and in my case does, take years, with no guarantee of success or income at the end of it, and such a labour requires a fair degree of tenacity.
I had it in spades, or so I thought, but then, a couple of years ago, I met the real deal.
He was a surly character, taciturn and uncommunicative. He arrived unannounced one night, and proceeded to dig a hole underneath my newly erected and hugely expensive garden fencing.
With that single act of mindless vandalism he began a battle of wits and attrition that continued for the next six months.
We weren’t on speaking terms at the time, and so I never did discover his name. I simply referred to him as ‘that F*****g animal’ and then, much later, when my newly-turfed lawn was littered with a criss-cross of tracks and scrapes and holes, I simply called him ‘The Badger’.
His means of ingress I never discovered, but his means of egress was patently clear. . . It was that newly-dug hole under my brand-new fencing.
‘Right,’ I thought, ‘two can play at that game’.
And so I took a spade and set about the mound of earth that was now suffocating my newly-planted herbaceous border. I carefully and painstakingly uncovered the plants, brushed off the leaves, and then refilled the hole. With repair thus made, I selected a few stones and slates, scattered them over the repair, and retired for a well-earned glass of wine.
The next morning both hole and mound of earth were back, if anything slightly larger, and battle was joined.
For the next three months I filled that hole with earth, I filled that hole with pebbles, I filled that hole with rocks, and I filled that hole with slate. The result was the same in every case: Badger 1, MPC 0.
‘There’s only one way to get rid of a badger.’ They said. ‘You take a bucket, fill it with urine, and place it by the hole. . . he won’t come back.’
‘Neither would I.’
I warily studied them, not sure if they were joking at my expense (you will undoubtedly have used your own expression). It seemed they weren’t.
So that was it. I could either turn my fragrant English country garden into something akin to an inner-city public lavatory, or capitulate to a dumb omnivore. There had to be another way.
For the next two months I persevered with the rocks and stones, and for the next two months that damned animal thwarted my every effort. . . but then a brainwave.
‘Cement! I’ll fill it with cement’.
And so off I went to the DIY store; returning with a large bag of cement and a large bag of sand, which I then mixed into concrete before filling the hole. The result was proudly shown to my unconvinced wife, as I smiled a smile of knowing superiority and said. . . ‘Let’s see him dig through that.’
He didn’t. In fact, the lump of cement is still there now. I can’t get it out.
Unfortunately, so is the hole that he then dug, three yards farther away, behind one of my prize conifers. The same hole that my wife took tremendous delight in pointing out to me a few days later.
You may wonder if winter, and hibernation, brought some respite. . . it didn’t, and he doesn’t.
Today the badger and I are still not on speaking terms, although we have come to a mutually acceptable arrangement. . . He goes wherever he wishes, and does whatever he pleases, and I try not to notice.
Perhaps, when it comes to persistence and tenacity, that’s why people use the term ‘to badger’ rather than ‘ to author’.
Have a good one.