Thursday, August 30

Shoddy Stoddy

To the Honourable Chair of Natural Albion:

Dear Dave,

How dismayed I was to wander down to your Stoddy Grove reedbed, to find a team of claimed 'volunteers' working under their own instruction and initiative to clear large swathes of the reedbed.

Though trying to disguise themselves, if I had to swear upon the good book of Collins I would say I recognised several of the ruffians. Local ne'er-do-wells young 'Chid' Chiddington, young Heathcliff H. Heathcliff, young Woodlandhedgerow Wilson and old Juan Chauntecleer were amongst them. They claimed their desecration was being carried out under agreement to provide scenic vistas for their own viewing pleasure. I saw through this and shoo'ed them away!

Now I know that as leader of an august body of some political standing you simply cannot be seen to take direction from such great unwashed as these, but if the masses now start to revolt perhaps is it time for joined up thinking to benefit Natural Albion?

For an example. Have not many marvellous missives now been published on management techniques for the Boomer Botaurus stellaris stellaris? Could not these be employed just in the areas these watchers require? True, they seek not the Boomer but actually the Tiddly-Boomer Ixobrychus minutus minutus and the New World Boomer Botaurus lentiginosus, and care not for the list fodder you hope to see flourish in a large bed, but with your guidance these field players could be put to good cheap industrious use with just some simple direction?

I know it will stick in the gullet, but why not even take some direction from our foreign neighbours just over the Channel? The 'Jeannie Oiseauxs' have realised that the 'fauvette aqueux' (a most satisfying scrabble score, translating literally as 'watery warbler', that which we know as Acrocephalus paludicola) undertakes migratory leaps by landing in dense reedbeds overnight, but then by day moving out to the shallow sedged edges to feed and show itself. These dashed foreigners now record ten times more of these most desired warblers in season than we can ever hope for, and yet, with a little prudent cutting at right time, our mighty British beds might be crawling with these top notch trophies.

I know it hurts to act on clearance requests from the plebian hordes. But if you turn your thinking around you can claim to have ignored these riff-raff, whilst at the same time conning them to slavish toil and quietening their incessant annual whining. This would be best done before one of them discovers the search powers of engines like vicarpedia and looks for 'expenses', 'director', 'Natural' and 'Albion'. They will ignore your worldwide webpage proclamations to have made 'back office' savings of thirty per cent which have all been ploughed into 'front-line delivery' and would instead start to demand you cut back on important items such as sherry allowances to spend on manual labour instead! What then would we drink at the next Masons' meeting??

This empowering of these lower classes may be some time off, as for sure they could not at present arrange themselves for a regular wildfowl count in a duck decoy, but you should be planning for that rarest of species, the intelligent watcher!

Your humble and grovelling servant,

Sunday, August 19

British Birdwatching Fete, day the three

My very dearest reader,

Time to go home!

Unlike Miss Michael Jackson of Homle, my own cart was laden to the brim with purchases. I shall try to list some of them, as an example of what you might obtain should you decide to visit in future years:

Signed and framed photograph taken on the day by the famous continental chimpeur Monsieur Renoir Pop, entitled 'UK400 on the rise'
Signed painting by the famous artist Warren Michael: 'Wiggly birds on wiggly reeds in wiggly water eating wiggly wiggly worms' 

State of the art listing system: a new blank notebook and pencil.

New books: by Mister Collins, "Jottings and sketches of all the birds of the Western World.", by Rev'd Morris "British Fowle in nine volumes" and lecture hall celebrity 'Charlie Darwin's birdmap of Britain'

A telephonic application, or 'app', from Fowleguides (yet another copy of Collins, but on a chain to be kept in the pantry by my handset). You simply dial the operator, ask for young Stephen Mersey, name your species and he will shout out the page number to save you using the index.
Magazine subscription: 'The Strand Magazine', for all coastal sightings and tideline corpses.

New clothing: camouflage cassock and surplice. A detachable dog collar allows you to dash out during any overly long hymn to have a scout in the bushes.

Outdoor cases for everything: for opera glasses, notebooks, i.d. books, camera and, of course, gun.

Birdwatching Fete collectables including t-shirt, communion chalice, badge, cart sticker and sackcloth bag.

New birdfeeder: a sarf London lass who will stand on your lawn continually singing 'feed the birds, tuppence a bag' until you threaten to set the hound on her.

And finally, my favourite: freshly mounted Osprey in glass cabinet.

The birding life of the village will seem most slow after this for a while- certainly at least until the next rarity, long overdue- we have not had a new village bird for over a week now.

Saturday, August 18

British Birdwatching Fete, day the two.

Dearest reader, another most full day!

One of the more interesting sideshows was 'The work of the rarity committee of The Albion Rare Sightings Official Logistical Survey'. I say sideshow, it was more a pressgang, as the members made their way from tent to tent, seeking out fraudsters and charlatans and taking them outside for what I believe the correct term to be 'a jolly good kicking'. After the good-natured blood-letting the subject of their ire would always be taken to the osier weaving display area, to be fitted with his own wicker man. What japes!

Promenading past the bird clamping display I found myself wondering just what rare birds I might have caught should I have not quit the habit. I am sure I would have supplied Bristow with many examples, but, never mind, instead I loitered awhile with the eyeglass sales people. My plan was to once more only spy on the rares. It is amazing just how many good birds whizz by as you stroll the countryside, and to capture a vision through glass is dashed easier than fiddling with either net or chimpers' lenses.

Ignoring the scandal sheets such as the Daily Hail from earlier in this week in where they accused them of using slave labour in the sixties, I found myself purchasing a pair of Sawrubski Opera glasses. Oh the clarity of the eyepieces, put down to be due to being polished longingly and lovingly on the soft inner thighs of unmarried teenaged Catholic girls found close by their home town plant in Schwiz, Austria. My own pair have a card in their box which reads 'rubbed up by Fraulein Eva Schiklgruber and finished off by Fraulein Barbie Barbie'. They also come with a guarantee that if anything premature were to occur, I could return my pair for a seeing to.

Well done Sawrubski! I hope this bad publicity does not affect your sales in any way. We should remember they were just Catholic schoolgirls after all.

Friday, August 17

British Birdwatching Fete, day the one

Dear Parish newsletter reader,

Should you ever consider visiting the British Birdwatching Fete in years to come, I hope the following notations might help with any forward planning.

I am afraid to report upon arrival there had already been several accidents in the cart park, as many of the day trippers, for reasons unknown, felt the need to camoflage themselves as if they were heading into the wild itself. Why the need to take on the appearance of the Green Man I cannot fathom, but for some this became the Green, blood red, black and blue Man.

I was lucky enough to arrive in time for some of the morning events, of which I particularly enjoyed the BTO (British Taxidermist's Organisation) 'speed stuffing display'. One member was able to stuff, mount and finish off his bird in under a minute- impressive stuff.

The other demonstration which gave me pleasure was 'Moth mounting live', where experts had to grapple and bring down their quarry before efficiently impaling them onto a display card. I am considering investing in a killing jar, a killing bottle, a killing display and a killing guidebooklet to start myself.

You will be spoilt for choice for overseas travel. All elements of the Empire and I will now start an Empire List in addition to my British List. I had to find a reputable company for booking my next trip, so I have gone with a company of the Royal Engineers, courtesy of Army Ornithological Society and have provisionally booked for a tour to both Rourke's Drift Lodge and Khartoum Bird Observatory.

There are many Societies you can support. Today, under advisement from young Bristow 'ere I left, I have signed up as a member of Mounted BirdLife International. Thanks to their newsletter I will know just how endangered the species are that George offers me now. I did not enjoy The Plumage League's Legacies stand. They try to weasel-word a last will and testament from each visitor to inherit their monies. That, I am afraid to have to remind you, is the work of the Church.

Finally for today I should mention a brace of the illustrated lectures I attended. The three o'clock lecture by  the Slum Tenement and Unkempt Hovel birder, on the "joys of inner city birdlife" was followed immediately at three o' five by a lecture on the Spoon-footed Sandpiper, a near extinct fully palmated wading bird, now being bred in captivity. Bristow assures me one will turn up in Listershire soon.

I shall write more anon.

Tuesday, August 14

To the Venerable Dean Cliff, on the origin of subspecies

"I must enquire as to whether it is through his grandmother or his grandfather that young Tom Huxley considers himself descended from a monkey?"

So has the Bishop of Oxfud, Samuel C.P.B. Willbyforce, latter of Listershire Community Housing for the Differently Tempered become famous in these past few weeks; and I was lucky enough to have been there to witness the birth of his notoriety!
The instigator of the dispute, young Chas Darwin, was away, studying ancient tortoises at Mrs Miggins' Tea and Sandwich shoppe for elderly and befuddled ornithologists. His main supporter, young Alf Arbuthnot Wallace, was also on expedition, trying to make contact with the suppressed tribes of the East Saxon islands. (I hear he has discovered a new isle near Fowleness, which is to be named after him). This left young Tom Huxley to defend these new and radical views in the heat of the debating chamber.

John Stevens Henslow-Sparrer, chairing the debate had called upon Huxley to state his views at greater length, which brought up the Bishop. Having heard the argument that a camera obscura owner was a subspecies commonly known as a chimper (if you have not heard this, use your worldwidewebnet to search the term 'chimping' on vicarpedia), the Bishop was keen to know if a chimper was descended from a monkey, and asked whether he had a preference for the descent being on the father's side or the mother's side?

This of course gave Huxley the opportunity of bashing the Bishop in front of the entire assembly. He stated as a chimper he would sooner claim kindred with an ape than a man like the Bishop, who made so ill a use of his wondrous speaking powers to try and burke, by display of authority, a free discussion on what was, or was not, a matter of truth, and reminded him that on questions of ornithological science 'authority' had always been bowled out by investigation.

The Hall was in uproar, and many other indignant chimpers also joined in bashing the Bishop in unison. A terrifying sight! Young Huxley had defended Darwin's theory so well, that, whilst the Bishop might still try to claim chimping as being almost Divine, the subspecies Homo sapiens longlensa is now indeed accepted to be just one step up from the primates, as many of us have suspected for some time now. It certainly explains their primal urges for perfect bird images! We really should pray for them.

I look forward to your company on the journey north to the British Birdwatching Fete later in this week.

Your servant,

Saturday, August 11

Forgive us our syndromes

Doctor Asperger,

Thank you for your lengthy report on my condition. Obviously my recent bout of listeria has been beneficial for one thing, that it allowed full investigative tests upon my health, but, whilst now feeling well in myself I am somewhat taken aback to hear you suggest I should take part in your novel study, because of my 'ongoing condition'.

You claim I have some form of as yet undescribed disorder, or syndrome as you put it, one that you hope to prove through studying people such as myself? Well, I for one have no wish to be some charlatan's experiment. You sir have misdiagnosed me, like some common quack.

What is this 'Doctor Asperger's syndrome'?

You say that the pursuit of a narrow and specific interest is a sign of your syndrome?
- The study of the birds of my parish is not a narrow interest, it is three miles by four, and why I have already recorded over 500 species here- is that not wide enough?

You say that someone with acute knowledge of the dates of rare species, but without an accompanying desire to understand the broader topic of birds, is most certainly affected?
- I have not heard such tosh since Mr Weasel claimed the Blue-cheeked Bee-Eater to be European, on July 26th, eleven years hence, the second of its four day stay- t'was a Sunday.

You say encompassing my entire house in the one subject is a sign?
- Ignoring the books and the mounted specimens , if you had looked carefully you would have seen the shelves in the pantry have a collection of dinky little horses in carriage displayed. And I have every gramophone recording of popular folk songs of Listershire in the study. Is that not different enough?

You say I lack non-verbal communication skills?
- I am not moved by this suggestion. Not a muscle.

You say I lack empathy?
- I do not feel moved by this suggestion either.

You say my clumsiness is another evidence of the condition?
- Well, God moves in mysterious ways, and so do I.

You say I have restrictive and repetitive interests and behaviour?
- Well, God moves in mysterious ways, and so do I.

You say I use words too literally?
- No, I am in accordance with giving the word the primary meaning. It is as it should be. After all, in the beginning was the word!

You also say I take words too literally?
- No, just literally. As they should be. How can they be 'too' literal?

You say I use the wrong intonations? That I fail on my prosody?
- I only have to look at how my parishioners strain at my every word in service to know this to be wrong.

You say I have marked one-sided verbosity? That I am happy to talk about my matters, but not listen to others?
- I refuse to hear such nonsense. No-one has ever stopped me to complain about my tales of the birds of the parish, no-one has ever felt the need to interrupt me. No-one has ever tried to interrupt me. I am sure all are fascinated by the movements of our avian friends. So, do not bore me with your own strange thoughts sir. 'What' and 'ever'.

You say I fail to interpret others correctly?
Well certainly I interpret others' poorly documented avian claims well enough. I am known as 'Judge, jury, Executioner and Priest for a last confession'.

You say I have impaired visual contact and facial responses?
- In your surgery certainly I am disinterested and I twitch to get free. But if you were to see me in the field, you would know this to be untrue. I am the model of interested study, just disinterested towards human companions. I simply must not miss the bird, for certain.

You say I fail to register if the listener is engaging with me? That the listener may have no interest in my subject? That the listener may in fact wish to depart, yet I keep them there engaged in a subject of which they have no interest.
- My parishioners never leave a sermon early. (They cannot, the door is locked.)

You say I may offer monologues of no interest to the listener, with no due cause?
My favourite sighting was a Wallcreeper. I watched it for over six hours. It was a Thursday.

You say I have auditory perception deficits?
No, I simply choose not to hear what you say.

You say I have selective mutism? Happy to engage with some, and not others?
Well I shall certainly talk to you no more. From now on I shall only seek the opinion of your partner in practice, Dr Thuckwitt.

I fail to see any value in your study. Your claim that this syndrome somehow benefitted hunters of old seems a little strained, but if you say hunters are retarded, then I am happy to be known as hunter. I will hunt out the fowle with such purpose that all men will know me as the greatest hunter of the birds, before any knowledge of me as a cleric, teacher, family man. And that is as it should be.

 That is all. Goodbye.