Friday, April 09, 2010
UPDATE: I have just spoken to him (Saturday morning) and although he sounds a bit bruised and battered, and very tired, he seems in good spirits. I will be going to see him later today, and hopefully reporting positively upon his progress.
Strange Encounter – Two Puzzled Bicyclists In Sussex
FROM A CORRESPONDENT- It must have been something of a shock. One minute the two London cyclists had lain in their tent on the comrmon convinced that-their shining new machines were safely leaning against the tall Scots pines which an Earl of Sheffield had planted in the year of Waterloo. Next moment they heard movements behind the tangled mass of brambles and bracken which obscured their view of the cycles. Loud grunts sounded from the far side of an oak tree. They soon realized why. As the faint light sent the skylarks soaring above the silver birches, and tawny owls slipped by to their roosts in the pines, the desire to be away early to the coast prompted one of the travellers to wade through the dew on the grass and check the condition of his tyres. He was quickly back in the tent and shaking his companion out of sleep. Half clothed, the pair hastily crept between the avenues of gorse and crouched behind the birches. Their cycles, fortunately, were just as they had left them, leaning against the boles of the pines; but sniffing at the tyres were two strange animals. " You felt," one of the cyclists explained later, “that neither beast had ever seen a bicycle before."
Heads bent low, the two creatures peered closely at the network of spokes in the wheels, gazed cautiously at the pedals and sniffed again at the tyres, Then, turning to face the wind, they clumsily galloped across the common and into a wood.
THE POLICE INFORMED - The day was still young when the telephone bell rang beside our village constable's bed. “Neither the cyclists nor their machines”, explained a voice, “…had sustained any damage. But we thought it best to let you know in case the police are looking for the animals."
" How would you describe the creatures ? " inquired the constable. The Cockney voice was distressingly vague. Both animals were big " like some strange kind of polar bear." Their backs seemed grey and white streaks marked their long faces. They grunted. And they could run with surprising speed.' The cyclists sounded disappointed to learn that no zoo had reported the loss of any bears. The constable has lived in the country all his life. Perhaps that fact explains why, instead of putting through an emergency call to the county police headquarters, he merely slipped on to his bicycle and came round to see me. " As. you're a naturalist," he said, " I thought you'd like to hear about it."
There the incident really ends. But there is a sad postscript. A motorist driving through the night not far from the site where the cyclists pitched their tent recently collided with a powerful animal. Before breakfast our rector discovered the corpse and it was dumped in my garage. Twenty-nine inches long and with a tail of eight inches, the grey bear-like creature smashed our scales at 251b. Two days passed before we buried the animal. Yet such is the interest or the people in this village in our wild life that during that short period the corpse was inspected by the postman, the grocer, our newsagent, two musicians, a professor of medicine, the milkman, a nurse, and 25 schoolboys, not one of whom had ever seen a badger before, though half a dozen selts in the parish are occupied.
"It's a pity those two cyclists couldn't have seen it. too," said our policeman, as we buried the badger at the bottom of my garden.
Wednesday 5th May 8pm
The Horse Hospital (WC1N 1JD)
Police stalk lion abandoned on edge of moor
“A hungry and bedraggled lion was loose on the edge of Dartmoor last night after it spent the day being stalked by police officers and marksmen.
The big cat was spotted yesterday morning by a man who was driving along a country lane in the Wrangaton area of south Devon.He immediately alerted police who launched a search and warned people to stay indoors. A six-inch paw print was found and big cat experts confirmed it was a lion`s. By mid afternoon,two further sightings had been reported within a four mile radius and more than 20 officers were involved in the the search,including two marksmen and dog handlers. …Police have no idea how it reached the area or where it came from. Nearby wildlife parks and zoos said they had no missing lions. Sargeant Alan Mobbs, of Devon and Cornwall police, said: “We believe it has not eaten for two or three weeks and it is looking emaciated because lionesses tend to do all the hunting.”….The lion was spotted by Paul Gourley as he was driving home after dropping his children off at school. “ I saw something running towards me – I immediately saw that it was a lion with a mane,” he said.” The mane was bloodied and it looked in a pretty poor state.” …Robin Godbeer, a keeper from the Dartmoor Wildlife Park at Sparkwell, took a cast of the paw print and identified it. “If it is cold and hungary it is going to look for food,but for most of the big cats,humans are last on the list,” he said. The wildlife park`s owner, Ellis Daw, said it was unlikely to attack people . “ I feel sorry for it, because somebody, somewhere has slipped up and released it. “We know none of the zoos are missing a lion, so we can only assume it has escaped from a circus or is an illegal pet which has escaped or been abandoned.” (1)
Now follows a charming story of an adoption of an baby oryx by a lioness, one of my favourite Fortean zoological oddities:
Flaw of the jungle. Confused lioness adopts baby oryx
“ This lioness baffled wildlife experts in Kenya and confounded the law of the jungle by rearing a baby oryx.The lioness began looking after the oryx 16 days ago at Samburu park, northern Kenya; the lioness not only lay with the oryx, but groomed it, guarded and even allowed the calf`s mother back to suckle it. Local wildlife expert Vincent Kapeen said the lioness was probably confused by the oryx`s fawn coat, similar to that of a newborn lion. It might also have been lonely after it became separated from its pride. Nature was restored to its equilibrium when a more traditionally minded male attacked and ate the oryx, despite the lioness`s best efforts in warding it off. (2)
The BBC Wildlife article of October 2006 was about the folklore of white lions.
Folklore: A Holy Symbol. For centuries, stories of white lions have been passed down from one generation to the next Throughout the African continent.
The white lion is embedded in story-telling cultures from around the River Nile in Egypt to Zululand`s Valley of a Thousand Hills in South Africa. In tales from both the east of Africa in Somalia and the west in Senegal, they appear as characters with magical powers, fabulous creatures that are revered almost as gods.
It`s probably in Timbvati in South Africa that white lions have had most influence on indigenous folklore. During the reign of Queen Numbi around 400 years ago, white lions were, according to tradition, sighted here for the first time.
Their appearance was the fulfilment of an ancient prophecy. High priests and elders of the time believed these lions to be holy messengers – in feline form – sent down from the gods. From then on, lions with coats of pure white became an enduring symbol of goodness and enlightenment.
The stuff of myth, white lions were thought to appear only once every century when, as angelic white beasts of the bush, they were timely reminders of the intrinsic goodness to be found in the world. (3)
1. H.Carter Police stalk lion abandoned on edge of moor. The Guardian. November 20th 1998
2. J.Astill Flaw of the jungle. Confused lioness adopts baby oryx. The Guardian January 8th 2002
3. BBC Wildlife Magazine October 2006
Bob Marley Iron Lion Zion
I`m on the rock and then I check a stock
I have to run like a fugitive to save the life I live
I`m gonna be Iron like a Lion in Zion
Iron Lion Zion
I`m on the run but I ain`t got no gun
See they want to be the star
So they fighting tribal war
And they saying Iron like a Lion in Zion
Iron like a Lion in Zion
Iron Lion Zion
On this day in 1912 the Titanic left Southampton dock. Many myths have sprung up about the sinking of the Titanic; probably the most interesting one to Forteans is that the ship sank due to a mummy's curse. The story goes that the cursed mummy of Amen-Ra was being transported to America aboard the ship and the curse somehow was responsible for the Titanic’s sinking. Although a great tale to scare little kiddies with, it is complete poppycock as the mummy was in the British Museum at the time and was never linked to the Titanic in any way shape or form.
And now, the news:
RSPCA foxed by 'puppies'
Wind farms threat to geese examined
Although it’s just a test to make absolutely sure that windfarms won’t be a treat to birds, it won’t surprise me if this becomes misrepresented by those opposed to sourses of renewable energy, becoming more ‘geese’ for their mills.
UPDATE: He had a relatively comfortable night, and is now awaiting an ultrasound scan to see what exactly is wrong. He is - of course - in our thoughts and prayers
A few weeks ago, during our last few days in America I was sitting up late playing music to Naomi West. I have always been surprised how even erudite muso types like the Wests were ignorant of some of what (in the UK) the cognoscenti think of as the most seminal American music ever produced. Surely a prophet is without honour blah blah blah. So I played Naomi Scott Walker, Gram Parsons, and above all a little band from Tennessee called Big Star who produced some of the most glorious chiming guitar pop of all time. These (together with Early Times cheap Kentucky Bourbon, and Walmart's own Mesquite barbeque sauce) have given me more pleasure than anything else hailing from the USA (and when you consider how much pleasure Elvis, Richard Hell, Calexico, Paula Frazer and Reece's Peanut Butter Cups have given me, this is against some stiff competition), but Naomi enjoyed it all - especially Big Star.
Why am I writing this?
Well, I wasn't feeling very well last night, and so I went to bed with a copy of Uncut (a music magazine I buy occasionally from Asda). I was shocked to read that the very week I had been introducing the music of Big Star to our dear friend Naomi that their main man Alex Chilton died of a heart attack. The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that their 1993 live album Columbia has been on the bloggo playlist for some days. Again this is pure coincidence, although - as you know - there ain't no such thing.
I had always hoped that Big Star would eventually get the commercial breakthrough that they always deserved. Now, sadly, they never shall.
Today we also say goodbye to Malcolm McLaren who, despite being a manipulative old sod, was one of the pivotal influences on my late adolescence, and Mark Linkous who was the front man of Sparklehorse who (in collaboration with Dangermouse) recorded one of my favourite albums of 2009. Again, unjustifiably obscure, I didn't find out until yesterday that he had shot himself on March 6th.
The world is considerably poorer without these three men.