As children we were dragged around the New Forest every Sunday for a bracing walk before sitting down to the weekly roast. And, without fail, our mum would spot a deer. Or two, or three, and sometimes a whole herd. “Look, look, over there!” was her cry, as we peered in the general direction of her waving hand to see… absolutely nothing.
It happened so frequently that, of course, it became ingrained in family legend. The vaguely, nay, highly batty mother of five (who had an equally barmy university lecturer for a husband), seeing deer around every tree, prancing through every glade, bathed in sunlight, dappled Bambis all.
At what point, I wonder, did the second sight (of deer) get passed down a generation?
It didn’t come as much of a surprise when I realised I had started to sound like my mother, especially after I had my own children. After all, she was in the frame for the first 18 years of my life, something was bound to rub off on me. I hear it in the way I speak to my children – I have the same tone of voice. Then there are the phrases (“cough it up, might be a gold watch” “sun’s over the yardarm”) – crikey, at times I thought I was becoming Beryl the Second.
But seeing deer? I think this might have started happening even before she conga’d her way to the Great Pantomime in the Sky, but it is certainly the case now. On the very day my mother left us, I was driving down the lane when three deer leapt from the hedge and trotted calmly across the road in front of me. Since then, I regularly see them, usually in the distance but sometimes breaking cover right under my nose. Every time I feel really thrilled that I’ve seen deer.
It’s only natural that my four brothers guffaw merrily when I mention any occasion of seeing deer. My teenage children really aren’t that interested, they never see the deer (though let’s see what happens when my daughter has children of her own, will she take on the deer mantle?).
I’m not sure why I love to see deer more than many other animals. It’s no secret that I’m a bit of a softy when it comes to animals in general, but there’s something about deer, their shy way of life and their grace when they leap.
Whatever it is, there’s something quite comforting in being the deer spotter in the family. There’s something quite comforting in realising that it’s perfectly okay to be batty, too.