The badgers are coming. There goes the neighborhood.

There are badgers on the streets near our street. This didn’t used to happen inside the South Circular, so maybe it’s a homage to Sadiq Khan’s environmental zones. They can occasionally be seen waddling along the sidewalk after hours at night, probably enlivened by the cheap cider and worms offerings at the local Wetherspoons. I wonder if they’re looking for Brian May’s house.

Some people have suggested coming down the railroad tracks, although I’ve never noticed any on South Western trains. On the other hand, they may be wearing face masks. Also, there’s been a lot of disruption lately – signal failures, rail strikes and intruders on the line – so they’ve probably had to make alternative arrangements. Badgers are notoriously uncomfortable with replacement buses.

A more sinister possibility is that they are being brought in by ruthless weasel smugglers, although if that were true we would certainly have seen Nigel Farage out on Putney High Street trying to raise public awareness. However, I’m surprised not to have seen a dingbat GB News pundit cite their arrival as evidence of a major surrogate conspiracy aimed at flooding traditional communities with striped, awakened mammals.

At this point I should acknowledge a concern. As a member of a people historically subjected to industrial levels of dehumanization, I worry that I appear, even in a whim, to offer a parable between immigrants and animals. There are people who might get the wrong idea, and the world already has a Katie Hopkins surplus. Ironically, however, we tend to be far less tolerant of animal cruelty.

If these migrants were human, the Home Office would come up with crazy schemes to halve the flow. You know those things that divert the tide or vicious deterrents like sending them to Rwanda or offering them a job in the finance ministry’s press office. (Actually, I’m not sure the Rwanda thing would be a deterrent, since badgers are very bad at geography, so we might have to try Berkshire instead.) But perhaps the lack of excitement is because it’s still is about British badgers.

Anyway, this is a case where the badgers go where they are wanted. While those in the countryside treat them as vermin, city dwellers like me are dangerously soft on badgers. So far, our only interaction with them has been watching night camera footage narrated by a whispering naturalist, or spending the days reading The wind in the willowsfrom which we’ve learned badgers are salt-of-the-earth types who do things like wipe their honest brows and rid mansions of squatting martens.

We lack the more authentic landscape experience of hating them, so we inevitably react with excitement at the sight of one, and perhaps skip a bit of dog food or some fruit. We look forward to your presence. We sympathize with them too, as we also have an innate distrust of country guys, apart from those in parts of the country within easy reach of London, with good bistros and a Jack Wills.

Our WhatsApp group naturally discussed how to make the badgers productive members of the community. Given the labor shortage, an accelerated program for qualified Badgers or those willing to fill key positions is an option. This was not entirely successful, although there was a great deal of interest in fruit picking from the badgers.

However, I worry that, like foxes, there will be limits to the urban greeting. While a badger is a rare delight, once you get used to them, you’ll start noticing the downsides. Also, they’re not particularly neighborly. Neither of them turned up for the platinum anniversary street party, although we suspect they rocked it later to see if any leftovers were left out.

It’s a bit like someone opening a crystal shop on your main street. The first adds character, but you don’t want so many that you can’t move around for people looking for ley lines.

For now, we welcome our new neighbors. The township (see what I made there) opens its arms, hearts, and recycling bins to the striped invaders.

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Adam Bradshaw

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