Monday, 11 June 2012

The Beauty in the Beast

The Beauty in the Beast by Hugh Warwick

Subtitled Britain's Favourite Creatures and the People Who Love Them.

This is a completely delightful book. I'm not a wildlife freak - prefer mountains and distant horizons to spiky, scaly, winged or stingy creatures - but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I bought it because one chapter is about my lovely friend Volewoman, read her section first, then started from the beginning again and read the lot. Each chapter covers a different animal, and a different nutter wildlife enthusiast championing it. They're not all rare or endangered - there's a chapter on robins, another on sparrows and another on foxes.

The author is into hedgehogs, and after having a hedgehog tattooed on his leg he decided he would get one other tattoo on the other leg, but what animal to depict? It was up to the animal ambassadors to sell him their species - whether it was the cutest (voles, obviously), the most endangered in Britain (probably otters), or the most interesting. He went out on field trips with each enthusiast, and managed to get some great sightings of most of the animals (except, oddly, moths).

The book is engagingly written, with the human characters just as fascinating as the animals. I'm still not likely to spend hours sitting in the cold, wet or dark hoping for a glimpse of a shy creature but I admire the people who do this, and after reading this book have an inkling of why they do it.

I probably like foxes best. I see one most weeks, just hanging out in my back garden, often in broad daylight. The usual visitor is a large male with a scrawny tail. He likes to sit on the lawn and drag himself along using his front paws, to give himself a good arse-scratch. Just like dogs do.

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