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The Vacuum Issue 8 spacer Issue 8
Dangers In The Countryside
by Kevin McAleer
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Statistics show that living in the countryside is no more dangerous than being killed crossing the road. In fact the main threat is not to human beings, but to animals and birds, who are hunted for their meat, wool, eggs, skin, bones and feathers respectively.
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These days it's all factory farms and abattoirs and battery chickens, but in the old days farming was much more personal and friendly. For example my father did all his own killing, and it was something that the whole family could get involved in. You got to know each animal individually and built up a personal relationship with it. You would never attack a pig with a mallet without being on first-name terms with it, whereas nowadays it's just a number in an abattoir queue.
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For human beings, the main rural dangers come from electricity poles and from other human beings. Pylons are clearly marked with a 'danger' sign, but no such warning is given in the case of humans, who can strike without warning and can grow up to seven feet tall in certain parts of Antrim and Fermanagh. Electric fences can also be a hazard for cattle; in the old days a single thin strand would suffice to hold back a herd of one hundred, but today's cows aren't so easily shocked.
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Many dangers are actually to be found within the home, caused for example by burglars who enter through windows and doors. Country people used to hide their life savings under the mattress, but nowadays it is more likely to be the other way round.
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A much more sinister threat however comes from surveillance and bugging devices. Last week I discovered that the entire house had been bugged by the electricity board; I found the wires hidden in the walls. Of course when I began ripping them out, they gave me the old electric shock treatment, thinking they could frighten me off like some naïve bullock from the Fifties. I persevered however until every last wire was gone, feeling none the worse for the shocks, and my hair is beginning to grow back already.
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I also discovered the water is tapped; there's an elaborate system of pipes under the sink running outside and under the ground for miles, a conspiracy that goes all the way to the reservoir. I wouldn't have seen it with my own eyes if I hadn't believed it. Water doesn't get in the reservoirs by accident, it's put there by showers of rain with the full backing of the government.
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Worst of all are the postmen - they know where you live, and they're all working for the government. You could be married to a postman and not even know it, because they get up so early in the morning. They don't fool me in their red vans and their long white beards and their false ho ho ho laughs, coming down your chimney at Christmas with sackfuls of letters. I just burn all the letters unopened in my special hotmail account.
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In the end I realized the only logical way to counteract the postmen and the electricity and water-board spies was to knock the house down. It was worth it just to see the puzzled expression on the postman's face when he tried to deliver the letters - I laughed so much I nearly fell out of the tree.
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Dangers In The Countryside
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