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.