Rural rambles (may contain sex and violence)

'Copulate, procreate,copulate, procreate, that's how nature works. The numbers game'
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The Independent Online

Children are very ignorant about the countryside these days, so today I bring you a rather special rural ramble with the ever-knowledgeable Uncle Geoff, and his two willing little assistants Robert and Susie.

Children are very ignorant about the countryside these days, so today I bring you a rather special rural ramble with the ever-knowledgeable Uncle Geoff, and his two willing little assistants Robert and Susie.

"Look, children," said Uncle Geoff. "The telegraph wires are bare in the field! What do you think that means?"

"Well, actually," said young Robert, as the three of them strolled along the meadow near the river, "that's a slight exaggeration. The telegraph wires aren't actually bare, not literally. You see, they're coated with a thin outer layer of insulating material..."

"Yes, yes" said Uncle Geoff, interrupting before Robert could show off too much. God knows where children got these facts from. University Challenge, perhaps. "What I meant was, have you noticed that the swallows have vanished? Last week they were clustered on the wires, and now they've gone! Where do you think they have gone?"

"Egypt, Sudan, that sort of area," said Robert.

"Via Italy," said Susan.

"Where most of them will be shot at by Italian sportsmen," said Robert, "thus doing nothing for the reputation of Italians as people who won't take on someone their own size."

"That's right, to Egypt," said Uncle Geoff, ignoring this last bit. "South to the sun and warmth and food! Who else does that in winter?"

"You do," said Robert. "You're off on another cruise, aren't you?"

"Might be, might not," said Uncle Geoff. "But you can't help being impressed by the endurance of the swallows in flying all that way, especially as some of them are babies born in Britain this summer!"

"Will the swallows have another clutch of babies in Egypt, Uncle Geoff?" said Susan, in that innocent tone of voice she used when she suspected that Uncle Geoff didn't know the answer.

"Er, well, I'm not sure," he said. "I would think that the mummy swallow would like a rest from having families! Wouldn't you?"

"No, I wouldn't," said Robert. "That's not the way nature works, Uncle Geoff. Copulate, procreate, copulate, procreate, that's the way nature works. The numbers game, Uncle Geoff."

"Maybe that's why some animals hibernate!" said Uncle Geoff, trying to make light of Robert's filth. "To get a rest from sex!"

"Hardly," said Susan. "After all, female bats have sex before hibernation to make sure that they don't need fertilisation afterwards."

"Are they pregnant throughout hibernation?" said Uncle Geoff , shocked.

"Oh, no," said Susan. "They keep the sperm in suspension all through hibernation, then impregnate themselves with it when they wake up, even though their mate may be long dead by then."

"Good heavens," said Uncle Geoff. This was one thing they certainly hadn't picked up on University Challenge. "Where did you learn that?"

"In sex-education class," said Robert.

"Good heavens," said Uncle Geoff again. "Why do they teach you the sexual habits of bats? Do they think you might go out on a date with a bat?"

"Very funny, Uncle Geoff," said Robert. "No, it's something to do with comparative religion. It's become fashionable to teach other religions beside Christianity so we get things in perspective. Perhaps they think comparative sex should be introduced as well."

"All very odd," said Uncle Geoff. "When I was a lad, we didn't have all this sort of stuff. We were just taught about the birds and the bees!"

"Gosh, Uncle Geoff!" said Susan. "Tell us how bees have sex!"

Uncle Geoff couldn't for the life of him remember. He wasn't too sure about birds either, come to think of it.

But just then Susan gave a little shriek and said, "Oh, look, what's that? Is it a dead body?"

And it was. There in the grass before them lay the lifeless body of the owner of the field, Old Farmer Bosanquet.

"My God," said Uncle Geoff. "What on earth has happened here?"

"I would have thought it was perfectly obvious," said Robert. "There have been enough clues in the field to tell us the answer as we walked along."

Tomorrow: Robert turns detective to uncover Farmer Bosanquet's murderer!

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