Friday, 11 September 2015

Promoting Thought But Not Spiders

The TV Wildlife presenter Chris Packham has annoyed the Countryside Alliance. He penned an article recently for his monthly column in the BBC Wildlife Magazine in which he criticised various Wildlife & Conservation bodies (the Wildlife Trust, National Trust and the RSPB) for sitting on the fence over issues such as the Badger Cull, Fox Hunting and the plight of Hen Harriers. The Wildlife Trust, RSPB and National Trust have replied, saying that they do act over these issues, while the boss of the CA has called on the BBC to sack him if he doesn't cease using his BBC platform to broadcast his own political views.


George Monbiot has written a piece about it on his blog on the Guardian website. For those of you who don't know George Monbiot, he is an environmental journalist who, rather like Packham, isn't afraid to air strong views over human activity in the natural environment. The main thrust of Monbiot's argument is that BBC reporting of The Countryside is anodyne, saccharine and promotes a bucolic view of The Land that is utterly at odds with reality, and that Chris Packham is one of a handful of journalists prepared to speak out and tell it like it is, and for that reason losing him from broadcasting would be a disaster.

I find people like these two men interesting because they provoke thought, which is a Good Thing by and large. I also find them unsettling because they can come across as militant, strident and confrontational and, like the first line in the poem Desiderata  I try to go placidly amid the noise and haste these days (I get lots of practice at this, thanks largely to the presence in my house of three teenagers and two dogs). I confess I put Messieurs Packham and Monbiot in the same pot as I do Morris Dancing and the Shipping News: I'm not an avid follower of either, but I would be sad to see them go.

I was reflecting on this as the dogs and I walked through the dewy but sun-dappled ancient wood and over the fields this morning (well, I walked very slowly to avoid unwanted  decoration of the spider web variety and definitely unwanted spiders themselves, they scampered). I was also rehearsing my first session with the new first years, for the benefit of the somewhat bemused trees. I thought the birds were probably paying attention though. Especially the Robin, who sat in the tree nearest me with his head cocked to one side as if he were listening very intently indeed in order to remember every single word as I leant over the gate and declaimed to the fields a la Cicero. Robins are always attentive listeners I find. Probably so they can have a Good Old Laugh about it later with their friends. This was about my tenth practice this week. Can you over-rehearse, d'you think? Or is real spontaneity only achieved by thorough-word-perfectness?

I ran my lesson plan past J last night (after she had opened the Wisdom Tin and fallen in love with it- phew) and she said 'brilliant!' but that could have been because she's totally wired up to uni right now and not paying attention to much else. I told L I had ideas for writing an 'inspirational quote of the week' up on the board and he rolled his eyes and said 'yeah, we have that crap at school too.' Which was helpful in a way only a fourteen year old boy can be. My husband finished off the 'no one pays much attention to you' general feel of the day by asking me to remind him when I was getting my hair cut? This morning, I said, at which point we both roared with laughter.

It's been sunny here all week: warm by day, cold by night. Washing has been dried outside. The kitchen floor has been washed after months of screaming 'look at me! I'm filthy dirty! Do something about it for heaven's sake!' but only because Ted got caught short last night and did a huge great poo on it. The faint perfume of dettol lingers throughout the entire house...
My lack of house-work-skills was innocently confirmed by my dear Ma earlier this week before she shot off to Greece when she said with a sigh: 'I wish I didn't care about house work like you.'

There has been Increased Spider Activity here. You know the sort- bigger than they should be and clomping round the house in their great big hobnailed boots at night waving at you. I am NOT HAPPY about this. I have developed a nervous tic from continually twitching my head round to look for the damn things crawling up the sofa or across the carpet while I'm watching Bake Off, and now I have to run through a pre-bed check list that easily takes half an hour and consists of 1) checking under the bed, 2) beneath pillows, 3) the duvet 4) all the walls, 5) the curtains, and 6) in my PJs. Honestly, I have to go up at least half an hour earlier to get it all done. Even L was driven from his bedroom last night by one that hid so well under his bed we couldn't find it. 

Worse than that was J (who is even more of a spider-worrier than me) who had a GINORMOUS one loose in her car (how rude is that? Honestly. Her CAR), which plopped down from the ceiling (luckily not when she was driving) and got wedged between her eye and her glasses! Surely that's material for a Horror Film right there. I actually screamed when she told me, then hid behind my hands as she went on to describe how she could still feel its legs wobbling on her eyelid. Her brother removed it, but not before he'd wondered out loud whether it had had time to lay any eggs. 

I had a similar nightmare on Wednesday night out on a Bat Walk when we were asked to sit inside a dark hide by a lake and tune our detectors into the hundreds of Pips that were wooshing about above the water. Believe me, there were more spiders in that sodding hide than there were bloody bats outside it. Needless to say I waited outside and the Pips bombed over my head looking for midges instead. It didn't stop me imagining every prickle on my body was a spider though. And in the pitch black you can't see to check, so that was my other nervous tic- a continual brushing down of myself, which must have looked very peculiar to the rest of the group once they'd emerged. I kept away from them all anyway just in case they were accidentally carrying any spider passengers. It wasn't an entire disaster - I heard my first Noctule (20 htz and a big bat). It flew right over my head which quite drove all thoughts of eight-legged spidery folk away (for a short time) :o)

No other news from here, so I'll leave you with some garden produce we ate last night (the raspberries are from my in laws. They have Mountains)...




And here what we once called the MarshWillow tit who has made a Welcome Return to the garden after an absence all summer long (as is their wont here)...



He's a Marsh Tit. I know this because he's been sneezing away in the tree and Willows don't sneeze. The difference in call is the only really reliable way to distinguish Marsh Tits from Willow. They are both Red Status birds and reasonably rare so it is always a joy to see/ hear him :o)

Hope all are well. The weekend is Nearly Here- hope you all have a lovely one.

CT x

24 comments:

  1. I'm a big fan of George Monbiot and follow his thoughts and ideas via the Guardian newspaper. I only know Chris Packham through Springwatch and The Really Wild Show (obv) and like his honesty and the fact that he's not afraid to ruffle feathers. He is also a contemporary of mine and I always enjoy his cultural references from his teenage years, it would appear we shared a similar taste in music. But CT I do not understand this fear of spiders. We have lots here, not to mention their cobwebs, and mostly I ignore them. This reminds me of when my son was in reception class and during circle time the children had to say what frightened them. When it got to T's turn his teacher told me that she could tell he'd been thinking hard but all he said was "I'm not afraid of anything". I believe the same holds true today.

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    1. Unfortunately, the nature of phobias is to be irrational :o)

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    2. Oh CT, I just had to share this. Our office alarm was set off in the middle of the night - probably by a spider. My husband studied Experimental Pyschology at university and we've been having an interesting chat, as we check for other intruders, about phobias, irrational or otherwise, and he agrees with you!!! We're going for a walk and a picnic now to blow the cobwebs away!

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    3. The Spiders are everywhere! I am cross about spiders worrying me because, as you know, I love all wildlife and it isn't their fault, it's mine. I am heaps better than I once was, so I hold on to that during the hell on earth for arachnophobes that is September :o)

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  2. You'll be pleased to know that my latest post has a hidden spider pic that you have to click on to view it! We hadn't seen a Marsh Tit here for years but one has appeared which is eating sunflower seeds. I've only managed one rubbish photo of it so far as it doesn't linger. I know there are differences in the bib size but I remember that the Marsh Tit is the one which is less likely to be seen by marshes, that's the Willow Tit, and Marshies visit garden feeders. So it's the opposite to what we think it should be! :-) xx

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    1. Oh good- I shan't click it. Yes, someone got the naming all wrong- Willows are also rarer xx

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  3. How beautifully you write about things. We like Chris Packham on Springwatch too, and I shall now go and have a look at George Monbiot's blog. Should be doing something else, but, you know... I feel the same about morris dancing and the shipping forecast. Nice to know they're there isn't it, particularly the shipping forecast. I like to listen every so often and imagine people in boats leaning close to their radios while the wind howls and the rain lashes against the window. I've tried to interest the other half in taking up morris dancing before now. No luck yet, but you've reminded me to have another go. Very envious of the raspberries, there's been barely a berry here this year, and they're my absolute favourite. There's a huge spider on the loose here somewhere. He was partway up the stairs the other night. Vast he was. Where do they live for the rest of the year??? I hope J has recovered from the trauma by now, although I fear the experience may live on in her memory very vividly. Wishing you and yours an excellent weekend. CJ xx

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    1. You guys Learning Morris would merit a post all of its own. I believe the large spiders come in to houses in Sept searching for mates. I am off conker hunting today- they have a chemical in them that spiders don't like. We've had so many here this week it's definitely time to drop more than a hint :o) XX

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  4. Oh my lord I am snorting with laughter, time to lay eggs? imagine the horror if the spider had started to weave a web! Evil cackling, as long as spiders keep away from my body I'm quite happy but I do scoop the enormous ones in a glass & throw them outside. I recall the moment Mike first saw my bedroom many many moons ago, we had only been together a matter of weeks & I went to bed that evening & there were two of the biggest spiders ever on the wall having a duel. I swear they were trying to eat each other. My frantic phone call led to him driving over to my house to rescue me & he moved in a couple of weeks later after putting his house up for sale. I still leave the bigger spiders for him! I like Chris Packham up to a point & I always appreciate a person who is willing to state its case apart from Isis of course but that's a different matter not heard of the other chap but I rather agree to his views on Country file even though I adore the programme. Glad the tin went down well, it really was a lovely idea x

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    1. I love your Mike and spider tale, some good comes of them at least eh? I'm the same about CP, don't agree with all he says but very glad he stands up and says it. xx

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  5. Love watching Bake Off, but have to wait till winter for the new season to be on in U.S.! Now to spiders! Our son was bit by a poisonous recluse and ended up in hospital and even had surgery....I hate having spiders in the house, especially recluse! Glad your daughter loved the tin 😍

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    1. Oh my Lord! That is a Spider Nightmare indeed. That must have been very frightening for you all. Luckily ours aren't poisonous.

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  6. Your post today has really made me laugh. Sorry about the spiders though (and about the large poo, although perhaps he was doing you a favour (or rather the kitchen floor!)

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    1. It's coming to something when the dogs need to poo in the house in order for it to be cleaned :o) (and sadly not far from the truth!) x

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  7. honestly, i would've wet myself if spider dropped down between my face and my sunglasses. and i'm not even exaggerating.

    there's an epidemic of Unreasonably Large spiders around here just now -- i really, really wanted to harvest some mint for drying but there's a sodding great spider living in my herb garden so i just can't go there. and now the mint is flowering so i feel like i've missed my window. i guess i'll be buying mint tea all winter.....

    i totally feel you on the compulsive checking/swiping/swatting/brushing. if your description were accompanied by a low-pitched whine/whinge/moan, then that would be exactly me in any sort of Potential Spider Situation.

    i attended a small person's birthday party once, wherein The Reptile Man was the entertainment. imagine my horror when he pulled out a great fecking tarantula. last time i checked, spiders were NOT reptiles. i don't mind telling you that i did indeed shriek audibly and scuttle from the room.

    see? twinsies! ;) xo

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    1. I would have run out of the room had a tarantula appeared. Yikes! How annoying about the mint- could your OH not help out? There is some comfort in knowing I am not alone in my spider-patheticness (not that you're pathetic! You know what I mean...) :o) xx

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  8. I'm still waiting for those large spiders here, we usually get at least 6 enormous ones about this time of year. Like you, I check Everywhere before going to bed. Sometimes I can surprise them by turning the light on (they don't think of that one haha) and haven't time to disappear before they are met with a very unfashionable shoe!

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  9. I share your dislike of spiders, better not come to Australia then they're HUGE here. If there's a giant one I get Hubby on the case. If hubby isn't here, all the kids and a chicken are roped in as we try and get the chicken to eat it. Its a riot! The chooks love them.

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    1. Oh Lordy, I couldn't cope with your spiders! I am smiling at the chicken solution thought- marvellous :o)

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  10. I really admire Chris Packham and the way he stands up for wildlife and actively campaigns. I would be really annoyed if the BBC did get rid of him for this reason. Met him a couple of times years ago when my son and daughter were little and got his autograph at a couple of events/talks he was at - he came across as a really nice person.

    I think I am one of the few commenting that actually like spiders! Sadly, no-one else in the house does and many a time I've had to move son's bed and remove a spider that has run under there!

    So glad your daughter liked her Wisdom Tin - I thought it was such a lovely idea :)

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    1. I am pretty outraged that people think they can call for him to be fired for airing views that many ecologists and conservationists share. I don't think it will happen- have you signed the petition to keep him in?

      I'm glad there are some spider fans out there. I wish I felt differently about the poor little things :o)

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  11. As many have stated, the thought that Chris Packham's view that killing things for fun is wrong is controversial, is hilarious

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x