Saturday, 8 November 2014

Remember for Hedgehogs!

My handiwork with whiteboard pens at work this week.
After yesterday's rather serious post, I woke up exorcised of my working-week-demons and felt splendid this morning. I do love Saturday mornings in bed listening to Classic FM and contemplating my two days of free time. It's the weekend! The WEEKEND!!! Let's have some fun!

This week London has been ablaze with firework displays throughout the city and the constant soundtrack of explosions has commenced each night since Monday as soon as the sun goes down each evening. Yep, it is Bonfire Night! Otherwise known as Guy Fawkes Night, the night that commemorates Mr Fawkes' failed attempt to blow up Parliament (and the King) in 1605. Sadly for Guy Fawkes, the endeavor did not go well for him and he ended up being caught, hung, drawn and quartered a year later (luckily this is not how we treat our criminals nowadays). Obviously most of this is glossed over when families take their kids to bonfire parties in local parks and we all gaze into the night's sky and ooh and aah over big firework displays organised by the various city councils. Tonight my husband and I will be attending the big Battersea Park fireworks display and I am very excited. I love fireworks. I just adore them. I go all wide-eyed, mouth hanging open and silent with wonder when viewing a display of rockets and catherine-wheels. I actually quite like fire (not in an illegal arsonist sort of way) and I love a big bonfire. I am always mesmerised by street performers that juggle with fire or blow fire outwards using those stick fire implements and gasoline. I actually knew someone once who set fire to his own face while doing one of those tricks and although I knew that I should not be impressed with such stupidity, I was ashamed to admit I was kind of in awe of him. I called him the 'Fire-eater' from then on, which I think he really liked.

Anyway, Bonfire Night actually takes place on 5th November (not today). But each year it has got more and more elaborate and the firework displays have got bigger and bigger and the celebration has lasted over days and then sometimes over a week or two (and extending from the fireworks popping in people's gardens over Halloween and Diwali the month before), which all means a time period of at least a month during which it sounds like suburban London is under attack. This does not bother me that much but it does bother my mother, who finds it all a bit tiresome after a week or two and then there are the millions of cats and dogs in London who don't understand the reason for fireworks and hate the sound of screeching and popping rockets. One of my husband's friends, who is partially sighted and owns a guide-dog (named Elvis), spends most of Bonfire Night awake as Elvis, a heavy dog (he is part Labrador, part Alsatian, which makes for an interesting guide-dog mix), sits on his head out of fear and stress from all the fireworks going off outside, while he is in bed during the night. This means little sleep for Elvis' owner. When I was a child, my pet cats used to creep about hunched close to the ground, mewing pitifully on Bonfire Night. If I picked one of them up, they would burying their head in my armpit in attempt to muffle the noise of the explosions. I did used to feel very sorry for them. No amount of reassurance, cuddling or petting ever made them feel better. It is not just pets that suffer at this time of year. I read in the news that wildlife charities were asking people to check their bonfires for hedgehogs, since they like to reside in dense wood and foliage.

Illustration by Sophie Corrigan
The British Hedgehog Preservation Society says:

Every year an unknown number of hedgehogs die or suffer horrific injuries because bonfire piles are not checked before being lit. To save hedgehogs and other wildlife from appalling suffering the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) urges that bonfires should not be built until the day they are to be lit. This will not only save wildlife from burning to death but will also stop the bonfire from getting soaked should it rain the night before! Fay Vass, Chief Executive of BHPS, said “Piles of bonfire material look like five star hotels to a hedgehog in search of a hibernation site. It is crucial to dismantle and move bonfire material that has been stored in advance on open ground. Move it to another spot just before lighting. Ensure it’s moved to clear ground - never on top of a pile of leaves as there could be a hedgehog underneath, and not too close to pampas grass which can ignite very easily and is another favourite spot for hedgehogs to hide under.”

So check your bonfires people! There is no need for local wildlife to suffer simply for our pleasure.

So other than enjoying the local firework displays, lately I have been up to the following:

  • Knitting! I am attempting to knit again. This time I am actually going to make something useful. I have started like all crappy knitters with the most simple thing I could find: a scarf! I am using a nice bright yellow chunky wool and 10mm needles and hopefully I will end with a nice scarf that I can wear with my new navy blue wool winter coat. I sort of need to get a move on though because the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting colder and I will need a woolly scarf very soon!
My yellow scarf in chunky wool
  • I successfully helped my husband buy a new winter coat. This might not seem like such an achievement, but trust me it is an event with massive implications for years to come. My husband hates shopping. He hates it like he hates going to the dentist to have his teeth cleaned or driving on the circular road that encircles Tunbridge Wells. Getting my husband to buy new clothing is probably one of the biggest trials I have ever experienced. It is up there in my list of unpleasant experiences with de-boning a week old rabbit carcass and squeezing the suet off a lamb's liver on Christmas eve to make a seasonal pie (biggest mistake ever). So when we managed to buy a coat that is not only stylish and warm but also looks fantastic on him in less than 30 minutes of shopping, I felt as if shop assistants should come out of the aisles of clothing with party poppers, a brass band and celebratory glass of champagne. Who would have thought it was possible! Best part of the whole experience? Watching my husband walk down the street in his new coat feeling good about himself and his appearance (which is hard for anyone in this day and age) with an extra spring in his step! 
  • I have fallen in Love with Sir David Attenborough all over again. Not that my love for this nature journalist has ever gone away, but it has been a while since he did a documentary series for the BBC and he is back! The new series that he narrates is called Life Story and follows some the unbelievable journeys that animals have to make through life lived in the wild.

It it s a great series full of amazing camera work and lots of interesting species I knew nothing about. There are some hair-raising moments such as the cliff jump made by Barnacle Goose goslings in Greenland:

You have to wonder if mother nature could not have made things a bit easier for this species! David Attenborough's voice is so perfect for wildlife documentary television that I wish he could do all documentaries on everything. In fact I wish he made tapes of him reading poetry so I could play them while falling asleep. He could even do the announcements on buses and London Underground. I seriously think everyone would be a lot less stressed if he did.
  • In the last month I have also started to listen to some new music. Lately I have been listening to a new band called London Grammar. My favourite song of theirs is called 'Strong.'

So the video is a tad weird. A father and daughter engage in some highly dangerous and flammable behaviour in what looks like an industrial estate for no apparent reason (something I would definitely would not recommend adding to your Bonfire Night festivities), but the song is really nice and relaxing and works a treat at keeping my blood pressure down on the Northern Line tube during rush hour. 

Anyway enough rambling! There is knitting to be done! Fireworks to view! Tea to be drunk! Have a good Saturday night everyone, wherever you are :)