Mad Carrie

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Mad Carrie

A Holly Blue male butterfly.

They called her Mad Carrie. When I came home from school I used to see her walking along the road talking to herself. Her grey hair fell over her shoulders, she always wore trousers with wellies and a green top and carried a rucksack and a pair of binoculars. I was bored on our estate, which isn't very interesting, because it's just lines of houses that all look the same. So one day I followed her. She walked along a path which opened into a couple of fields called Greenbank Farm, which was supposed to be a nature reserve. I didn't realise she knew I was there until she stopped, turned round and smiled at me.

'The blackberries are ripe. Try one.'

I saw a mass of blackberries in the hedge, picked one and it was very sweet. After that, I often walked with her and discovered the things she said weren't mad at all. She told me that owls nested in one of the big oaks and there were badgers in a hole under the hedge. In her rucksack she kept books about birds, flowers and insects. She told me the names of the butterflies we saw, like the peacock, the small copper and the common blue. I liked her because she could make the countryside seem magic.

I discovered trouble was brewing when my Dad shook his head as he read the local paper.

'They're going to put a bypass through Greenbank Farm.'

'They can't do that!' I said. 'It's got badgers and owls and big trees.'

'That won't stop them.'

The next day, after school, I ran to find Carrie and asked her about the bypass.

'We'll have to fight,' she cried.

'How?'

'Write letters, demonstrate, sit in front of the bulldozers. Anything.'

I suppose I'd thought Carrie lived in a world of her own, but she turned out to be an organiser. Before long there was a movement. We all sent letters and emails to local newspapers, the council and the road builders. Carrie called for a demonstration, so one Saturday I went to Greenbank Farm carrying a placard I'd made. It was a big piece of cardboard with ‘Save Greenbank Farm' in red letters. My Mum and Dad went too, together with some of my school friends and neighbours. A crowd of us assembled at the gate into the main field. Carrie was at the front, with a placard reading ‘Stop Trashing our Countryside.' Some of the local councillors joined us, along with reporters from the local newspaper, who spoke to us and took photos.
It didn't work. Some months later, we heard the proposal to build a bypass had been agreed. As soon as I could, I went to Greenbank Farm to see Carrie. I found her walking round with tears in her eyes. She didn't say much, just took photos and laid her hand on every big tree, as if she was saying good bye to old friends.

It was near the end of the school holidays that work was supposed to start. I was riding my bike on our estate when I saw lorries carrying big earthmoving machines trundling up the main road. I knew they were heading towards Greenbank Farm. My Mum stopped me from going to see what was happening, because she said it might be dangerous.

'Those big machines could easily crush you.'

Some time later, I heard a siren wailing as an ambulance raced along the main road. I had a feeling something awful had happened, so I got back on my bike and went after the ambulance. I didn't get as far as Greenbank Farm, because the police had blocked the road. All I could see were police and ambulance men, earthmoving machines and men in yellow jackets and hard hats.

A policewoman stopped me. 'You can't go any further.'

Suddenly I knew. 'It's Carrie, isn't it? She's gone and thrown herself under a digger.'

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