Monday, 17 September 2012


I like birds. I like looking at them as they go about their business. I often imagine myself as an eagle, soaring over fields and rivers, resting on mountain-tops. I never imagine myself as a wren. I admire them tremendously, but their tiny lives are fraught with danger.

Time for an educational musical interlude - hurrah! We'll have Steeleye Span singing Hunt the Wren. Gosh, I got distracted on YouTube and instead we have the Clancy Brothers (and the Furey brothers, apparently. What good value.) in a fine example of singing without breathing whilst wearing heavy sweaters. Here they are.

I once went to a zoo in France. I confess to a liking for zoos, even though it's cruel to cage animals etc. I was born and brought up in Bristol, home to a very fine zoo and, of course, the BBC natural history department, so I developed a sense of ownership in the world of looking at wildlife, in that way that is so comforting to a child. The French zoo was run-down and terrifying. There was a large enclosure containing all manner of avian life, which was open to humans. I noticed the vultures about half-way through. Part of me knew that vultures eat dead things, not live tourists, but the part of me that goes round screaming "we're all going to die!" wrestled the sensible part to the ground and propelled me, stiff-legged, to the exit. Toute suite. The zoo also had a scary bear, that rocked back and forwards, measuring the jumping distance out of his sunken home. Put me right off zoos for a long time.

Some birds are huge. Here is a picture of a jabiru:

It's massive. Adult males can be 5ft tall and can have a wingspan of 9ft. Don't panic, you are unlikely to meet one unless you live in South America. If you do live in South America, steer clear, especially if you are on the small side. Or are made of straw.

Thank you for meandering with me today. We may return to birds as there is much more to say - I haven't mentioned Sepulchrave, Earl of Groan, for instance. Well, I have now.


  1. You watched the last QI didn't you?

    At least the guitarist gets a chance to breathe whilst the lengthy instrumental is playing. I tried to catch the others at it, but without success. Maybe the voice coach will do better.

    I won't comment here on the aptness of wren v eagle....

  2. Oh yes, well spotted. Perhaps that's why birds were in my mind, although I didn't get there immediately...

  3. Zoos... difficult - I know many do amazing work preserving wildlife which otherwise wouldn't have a chance (look at the pandas - surely ought to be extinct by now: imagine picking as your only source of food something which provides so little nutrition that only by eating non-stop for all your waking hours can you get sufficient to stay alive), but still something slightly balks inside at the very idea of a zoo. Vultures - terrifying, so I'm completely with you there!
    Alison x