Warning: slow down, buddleia crossing

'For some reason we don't understand, nature has been literally running riot since about the springtime'
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The Independent Online

It was the recent buddleia scare that first alerted the civilised world to a new and little-recognised environmental danger - the rampant, promiscuous and often illegal proliferation of nature. Announcing this summer's excuses for late trains, a rail company spokesman pointed out that, as well as having been affected by the wrong kind of weather, trains had been delayed by the buddleia bushes that were growing in shameless profusion along the railway tracks.

It was the recent buddleia scare that first alerted the civilised world to a new and little-recognised environmental danger - the rampant, promiscuous and often illegal proliferation of nature. Announcing this summer's excuses for late trains, a rail company spokesman pointed out that, as well as having been affected by the wrong kind of weather, trains had been delayed by the buddleia bushes that were growing in shameless profusion along the railway tracks.

To put the crisis into some kind of context, I rang the leading anti-green activist Mr Hy Rise-Flat, of the Society for the Protection of Urban England, and asked him why this particular plant had become a problem.

"Why's it a problem? Because it's there. A month or so ago, we were aware that something alarming was going on with buddleias, but since then it has taken us all completely by surprise by growing at an unprecedented rate. Then, just as we were coming to terms with the whole growth thing, it suddenly started flowering aggressively without any warning at all."

"That's a problem?"

"Sure, it's a problem. Train-drivers are human. They get distracted by bright colours. They might slow down to look at it, maybe try to catch a whiff of it through the window. They might discuss with their co-drivers whether white or purple buddleia is the more attractive. Then, of course, the plants famously attract those insects with big, flapping, colourful wings."

"Butterflies?"

"You call them butterflies; we call them flying environmental health hazards. If you knew your chaos theory, you would understand that the flap of a butterfly wing in, say, the Royal Oaks sidings can cause an outbreak of the wrong kind of weather in Crewe Junction. No wonder the trains are late."

"You see these problems with wildlife as part of a broader pattern?"

"I don't want to be portrayed as some kind of scare-mongering conspiracy-theorist, but you just have to look at the facts. As fast as we build things in an orderly, controlled fashion, nature is there, squeezing between the paving-stones, popping up between the bricks of the wall, sprouting and spreading and flying about in a way that makes a mockery of modern town-planning regulations. The problem with wildlife is that it's wild."

"So where is the problem of ruralisation most acute?"

"Where isn't it? For some reason that we don't fully understand, nature has literally been running riot since about the springtime. For example, there are suddenly these crazy, screaming birds with scimitar wings flying about with total disregard for speed limits."

"Swifts?"

"If you say so. All I know is that you can get a perfectly nice wine bar with terrasse facilities, with clients sipping chardonnay in the sun, and suddenly these black brutes swoop down and everyone's thinking their mobile phone's ringing."

"Does the Society for the Protection of Rural England have any specific short-term policies?"

"Well, trees are toast, for a start. Today the buddleia gets it. Tomorrow we'll be waging war on the green menace which is literally undermining the fabric of our civilisation. In our view, the problem of subsidence is scandalously under-reported in the press. We've had reports of a house in the suburbs that was actually pushed into a neighbouring borough by a tree in its front garden. And even so-called innocent little plants can be poisonous - like that yellow stuff."

"Ragwort?"

"Search me. All I know is that one leaf, consumed accidentally, and you're a goner."

"Only if you're a horse."

"And what is it that helps to police our urban football games? How would you feel if, at the very moment when the mounted police were about to give a bunch of Millwall fans a good chasing, their horses started keeling over in the centre circle because they had been poisoned on the way to the match?"

"So, to summarise your message..."

"Enough is enough. Let's draw a line in the concrete and tell wildlife to get back where it belongs."

terblacker@aol.com

Miles Kington is on holiday

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