Thursday, June 28

The only way is ethics

My Dear Weasel,

I have the subject matter for this week's sermon, and once more it is thanks to my friends on the Northern Marshes.

It seems they still fail to understand love and charity, and have not learnt how to treat their neighbours as they would wish to be treated themselves.

Their Holy Eminence Coathbert of St Martins has issued an edict to the affect that it is deemed unethical to take another man's sightings for publication without first seeking their blessing and to pledge an appropriate acknowledgement in print.

A moral stand following a request for tolerance from a non-submitter. But it seems he is wasting his seed on his rough and unwashed flock. They hide behind the legal technicalities of the observance of the Manuscript Protection Act, and cry that public domain is 'fair game'. What do they know of 'fair game', when most have never shot?

Being of a charitable body can they not appreciate they should be encouraging all non-submitters to join with them, rather than driving away? If you submit to them, your reward will be your name recorded in the good annual books kept at the Pearly Gates of St. Peter's (Thannit). If you do not submit, then your records may be lost to eternity, but if you deny non-submitters the right of free will you will certainly not win their support.

I think, therefore, that the title of my sermon must be
"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbours' common bird sightings".
I will pray for them.


Monday, June 25

God's garden

My dear Weasel,

You might recall in my letter of March 31st I mentioned the new avifauna? Most fullest and completest notes on all the birds of all of Kent (1600 to forever and ever Amen)" (Drood and Podge).?

The plan was that this tome would not be published until every species on the county list had been observed in each and every furlong. Well, dear Weasel, I understand things have finally begun to move apace. I have received news that the first has now been completed, and that the honour belongs to the furlong encompassing Barredgate graveyard.

The editors must be well pleased, as this moves them closer to proving their county to be the finest garden in all of England!

Barredgate should be held up for all to recognise that both in and over his graveyards God provides a regular miracle of many marvellous migrants moving in most mysterious ways.

It still has a way to go to beat my own garden of rest which, of course, has recorded more species than are accepted onto the Listershire official scrolls. But we must not dwell on that today in case it brings on another attack of my recent ailment. I just hope this news makes my own regular judges, jurors and executioners see sense and reconsider last week's Labrador Duck.

I have been to Barredgate. It is close by to the Western Wood Pet Hospice and Crematorium, where many of the exotic birds found suffering icy chills on passing steam packets sailing up Channel are sent by the Customs men. I believe Bristow knows it as well? Whilst training for the clergy I used to be called upon for a sort of Avian last rites to comfort owners overcome with grief (For this sham I received a farthing a bird, a ha'penny a cat, a penny a dog and thruppence a street urchin, which although I am not proud of, did kept me in sherry at a time of relative poverty).

From my lodgings I would walk through Barredgate when the airs were pleasant. I even have a photographic image taken from the very spot where many of my more interesting sightings were made whilst there, including both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, and an albino Eagle Owl, which will interest you, I am certain. I am sure you will be able to make out all three in this picture.

Your friend,

Saturday, June 23


My dear Weasel,
Thank you for your recent most kind gift of a mounted Wallcreeper from Bristow’s stock, this has cheered me no end during my recovery from this bout of listeria.
It is such a strange malaise. By the time it had overcome me I could no longer function as a normal person, but instead ranted and raged at my jottings of birds seen seen in foreign climes spread over my bureau; it took all of my three scullery maids Clara, Jessie and Ermintrude to placate me until the good Dr Bell could arrive.
It is not easy to spot the onset of listeria. One moment you are happily completing a contemplation of the species seen in Sylvania, when you are then distracted by a telephonic interruption from the Pomeranian Strange Sightings Collectif. I had earlier discharged my duties of them by telephoning through via the ‘Fowleline’ belonging to these heathen peasants all of the benefits of my travels in the form of detailed sightings, yet they had the temerity to return my contact and make clipped ‘nyets’ against several of my records. From what I could understand, their benign leader, Iosif Vissariononvich Starling, was making it very plain that I was.... mistaken. When I demanded to speak to the man himself, he went even further. He had the temerity to call this honest man of the cloth.... wrong.
No sooner had my trembling hands put down the telephone receiver (and poured a large tumbler of sherry) than a second rebuff arrived, by way of the interwebnet. Doctor Victor von Doom of the Latverian Bird Spotters’ Brigade imperiously pronounced more of my sightings to be mere fancy. I was by now quite beside myself, and then set to explode as Ambassador Trentino of Sylvania sent me an immediate reply saying he was removing more than several of my records, just on the private word of Starling and von Doom! He wrote that I was now marked as a “стрингер” throughout their states and would not be expected to bother them with further correspondence.
My blood boiled! Yet what I discovered next plunged me into the full fever of listeria.
These small, insignificant little enclaves, no bigger than a small county in God’s green and pleasant land, had neither rhyme nor reason to their decisions!
Take the Nutcrackers. Lesser Nutcracker, Mealy Nutcracker, Arctic Nutcracker. Pomerania requires descriptions for a claim for any of the three. Latveria, for Mealy Nutcracker and Arctic Nutcracker. Sylvania requires no descriptions.
Pomerania rejects my Lesser, my Mealy and my Arctic. Latveria tells me I am mistaken on my Mealy and Arctic, but accepts my Lesser. Sylvania said they would have been more than happy to accept the word of a man of the cloth but now reserve the right to ask for camera obscura evidence for what they themselves feel are common birds. And Trentino admits this is because of ‘information received’ from Dr v D! How very dare they! And the cherry on the fruitcake? Sylvania appeared to have not noticed I saw a Coue’s Nutcracker and they have let that stand!

Imagine what it would be like here if our counties had different policies for Lessers, Mealys and Arctics! My I would certainly look forward to seeing the anomalies between those neighbours in their annual broadsheets. I would not envy the authors one iota.

Then I looked further. One country would accept my Titwillows, two would not, without evidence. Two would allow my Citrine Dishwasher, one would reject without any description, and so on, and so on. My lists of my travels were in tatters. As was I.

Your gift spurs me on. I shall make enquiries of Bristow to see if it is possible to acquire a trio of mounted specimens of each questioned species, so that I may send to Starling, von Doom and Trentino to see if they themselves know what they pass judgement on. To think all the species they dismissed I see in England every year(!) These heathen do not deserve our pearls of wisdom.

And I do take solace that Narnia accepted all of my notes. Count Von Dull of the Narnian Ornithological Society (and Bird Tours) Limited could confirm he has seen every species I claimed there himself. At least twice. And will happily show me everything else if I revisit, for a small fee.

I am much recovered now, and hope to walk the fields soon. I have heard fanciful tales of Rollers and Little Swifts in the north of recent time, and feel sure if this be true that there might be many of their kind preferring our more genteel southern climes.
Your humble servant,