Jen and I spent yesterday evening in a noisy pub in Mytholmroyd with some of her family. Five of us caught a taxi back to Hebden Bridge afterwards. With characteristic gallantry, I took one of the small pulldown child-seats at the back. Jen sat next to the driver, who took what I, until then, thought of as my secret shortcut down the one-way lane through the woods.
"Badger!" cried Jen, as we headed into the wood.
"Ooh, yes!" cried her mum and two brothers in unison.
Jen's niece and I, squashed up in the back, did not see the badger. This is an extremely sore point. I have never seen a live, wild badger in the UK. I have had several near-misses, including a practically identical episode in the back of my college mate Dave's dad's Alfa Romeo, driving through a wood in Cheshire in 1985. And our next door neighbour tells us she has seen them in her garden. And I more than half suspect that badgers have been clawing our sycamore tree. But, as yet, this 47-year old is still a British badger virgin.
I saw a badger in Ireland once. Jen and I were driving back from Dingle, through the gloaming, along the coast road towards our holiday cottage.
"I bet there are loads of badgers around here," I observed.
Ten seconds later, a badger ran across the road in front of us. I slammed on the brakes and pointed the car's headlights at the clump of bracken the badger had run into. To my delight, the badger stuck its head out to see what on earth was going on.
"I bet there are loads of naked ladies around here," I observed as I put the car back into gear. But my Irish luck did not hold.
Badgers are like sea turtles. I keep missing those too. Like the time we were on holiday in Tobago, and decided not to go for a romantic nighttime walk along the shore on the very night that, according to loads of the other guests at our hotel, a huge turtle decided to haul herself ashore to lay some eggs in the sand. Then there was the time in the semi-submersible boat off the Great Barrier Reef, back in 2000.
"Turtle!" cried Jen (and pretty much everyone else on board).
Not me: I was too busy trying to avoid being vomited on by the seasick woman on the seat behind me.
I might have blown my best chances of ever seeing a sea turtle, but surely it is only a matter of time before I see a badger!