My postbag continues to amuse and instruct. There are three spectacularly groovy things in the latest batch: The first being a copy of an interesting paper by Richard Corlett about the feasiblity and morality of reintroducing Hong Kong's lost vertebrate fauna. As he wrote in another seminal article:
In Hong Kong’s climate, forest is the natural vegetation everywhere. It can be suppressed by regular cutting or burning, but the harvesting of biomass for fuel ended decades ago and fires, although still common, are less often started and more rapidly controlled near urban areas than next to rural villages. An increase in the area of forest is therefore an inevitable, if paradoxical, consequence of the increasing urbanisation of the New Territories. Hong Kong Island, where the last grassland is disappearing under a tidal wave of shrubs and trees, illustrates the future for the whole territory. Within fifty years, forest will cover most of Hong Kong.
Good news for native biodiversity, surely? Well…yes… partly. It is true that many of our most diverse inland sites are in forest, but these are areas that have had continuous tree cover for centuries, as a result of inaccessibility or the protection of feng shui. The much larger areas of young secondary forest are a lot less diverse. Even at the best sites, the diversity is in the plants and invertebrates – organisms that can persist in the tiniest of forest patches. Vertebrates do not survive in such situations so Hong Kong has lost most species that require forest. The new forests are therefore empty in comparison with the larger, older forest areas in Guangdong, and even more so if compared with what must have been here a thousand years ago. There are no reliable records for Hong Kong from before the nineteenth century, when the vertebrate fauna was already impoverished. To get an idea of what has been lost, we must therefore extrapolate from recent and historical records for the South China region. These records suggest the local extinction, by the nineteenth century, of at least the following families of forest vertebrates: monkeys, gibbons, elephants, rhinoceroses, squirrels, flying squirrels, bamboo rats, pheasants, woodpeckers and trogons (Corlett, 2002). A species list would be much longer, since several major vertebrate groups, such as the babblers, cats, mustelids and rodents, are represented by just a few survivors of the original diversity.
The 2002 paper ,which was sent to me by Richard Muirhead this morning, gives much food for thought. Thanks mate.
The other major bit from my postbag was a set of DVDs from Dr Karl Shuker. Was it a scientific symposium of some kind, or possibly some cerebral exploration of scientific minutiae, sent by one leading cryptozoologist to another? Nope. It was the complete series of The Double Deckers. "What the heck is that?" I hear anyone born after 1961 ask. Well, according to Wikipedia:
Here Come the Double Deckers was a seventeen-part British children's TV series from 1970/1971 revolving around the adventures of seven children whose den was an old red double-decker London bus in an unused works (junk) yard. A co-production between British independent film company Century Films and American TV company 20th Century Fox, it was a comedy adventure sitcom similar in look and feel to other late 1960s / early 1970s sitcoms such as The Monkees, The Partridge Family and the Banana Splits. The shows (without ads) were about 21 minutes long.
The programme made its debut on September 12, 1970 at 10:30 am ET in the US on ABC, and at 4:55 pm on January 1, 1971 in Britain on BBC One. In the US, the series was rerun on Sunday mornings during the 1971-1972 TV season on ABC from September 12, 1971 to September 3, 1972, in the same time slot. Each week saw the gang in a separate adventure including episodes based around a runaway home-made hovercraft, a chocolate factory and invading 'Martians' with guns that shot out chocolate candy, a disastrous camping holiday, collecting tin foil for a guide dog/seeing-eye dog, becoming pop moguls with their protege 'The Cool Cavalier' and a haunted stately home.
The cast were unknowns apart from Melvyn Hayes who appeared as Albert the Street Cleaner. Of the younger stars, Peter Firth has gone on to a prominent acting career, appearing in Equus, The Hunt for Red October, Tess, Pearl Harbor and Spooks. Co-star Brinsley Forde later became the lead singer in Aswad. The series was original scheduled for 26 episodes, followed by a further series, but production ceased after the 17th due to financial difficulties and alleged irregularities.
Cheers, Karl. I am very grateful.
Now all I need is someone to find me the two-part play School for Clowns featuring (and I believe scripted by) Ken Campbell, which was shown on (I think) Dramarama on ITV in 1981, and I will be very happy.
Oh, BTW, I have had a stream of emails (well, two actually) asking what the headlines in my ongoing postbag series mean. I hope this video (after you plough through the Fab Four being rude to the worryingly unfunny Mike and Bernie Winters in 1963, explains it all.