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A Corvid pandemic? Stone the crows

As a writer for hire – latterly a writer for hire by one particular company – I am often called upon to rattle off a piece about wildlife. In recent years I’ve written at length about bird watching in southern Europe; the ongoing revival of the UK’s osprey population (though as a migratory bird, strictly speaking I don’t suppose the osprey is a native of anywhere… sorry, getting off the point); the lizards on the Majorcan island of Sa Dragonera; and especially Britain’s red squirrels, about which I now know more than I ever thought I wanted to.

Now I’m as fond of untamed fauna as the next person; but I wouldn’t say I’m any more fond, if you see what I mean. If asked to submit an article about, say, pine martens in Scotland, I gen up on the subject, submit my 1,000 words, and send off my invoice. Then it’s on to the next thing. The natural world is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.

As luck would have it, a short while before this awful virus visited our shores I was doing some background reading on jays and magpies prior to turning in another avifauna article (which has been spiked for the time being). In some ways the success of both is a non-story: neither is endangered, in fact if anything numbers are on the increase thanks to both human activity and the birds’ willingness to share breeding territories. But common as they may be, they are lovely to look at and surely undeserving of their associations with the malign and the sinister.

Anyway there I was, making notes… one of which was the fact that the two birds belonged to the crow family. Corvidae. Corvids.

What a difference an ‘r’ makes. As pandemic-related rumours coalesced and became news, I spent at least a week prey to the delusion that we were facing an altogether more Hitchcockian nightmare.

Compared to which the novel Coronavirus is… well… chicken-feed. Strictly for the birds.

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Bubble etiquette: a minefield in the making

As (please God) we Brits approach the end of our nationwide lockdown, or as our government at least begins to think about exit strategies, there is talk on the BBC website (and probably elsewhere) about expanding the “social bubble”: ie the friends and family one is permitted to see and spend time with while (as I understand it) NOT observing the two-metre distancing rule.

With the caveat that nobody knows anything: I expect bubble expansion to start sometime in May. I hope so, anyway.

But someone pointed out that it could be a bit awks. What if, for instance, I wanted to expand my social bubble to include you, but you didn’t want to include me in yours? Or vice versa? “Sorry – I’m only allowed 10 people in my social circle, so I’ve chosen the folk I really like. And you’re not one of them.”

Tricky.

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Taking freedoms for granted? Not any more

Nothing like depriving you of something to make you realise how much you miss it, is there?

Shopping, food shopping especially, has always been a chore. An unavoidable, wallet-lightening once-a-week trip to Lidl or Aldi (plus Waitrose for posh). When the big supermarkets started doing home deliveries it felt like liberation.

Not any more. Right now I would no more book a home delivery than fly to the moon. Have groceries delivered and miss a chance to leave the house? Only a hermit, an anchorite or a misanthrope would consider that a preferable option.

Similarly, I’ve never been particularly exercised by the need to exercise; but now my freedom of movement has been curtailed, I’m out there with the best of them. My location of choice is the local cemetery: two large, open areas bisected by a main road. A full, walking lap of both takes almost exactly an hour, and is almost exactly 10,000 steps.

I’m getting to know the place pretty well. I wouldn’t say I’ve unearthed all its secrets – but I know where the bodies are buried.

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