I had promised a posting about opera – but first the news … for those of you who enjoyed A Prickly Affair (or The Hedgehogs Dilemma as it is in the USA) and would like to hear more from me, 2012 promises to be a good year; as long as the planet still exists … I am not so sure about this Mayan prophecy … so their calendar ran out in 2012 … perhaps this is more to do with running out of paper and ink?

And if there was to be an ‘end of times’, I am sure that there would have been some mutterings in the hedgerows. You don’t get much more planetary-connected than a hedgehog, and I have heard not a whisper … and I would be horrified to think that they would keep something of this scale from me. Though what I am to do about it, I do not know.

Perhaps follow the hordes to Bugarach in southwest France? According to the Telegraph (and many others) this has been identified as the one place on earth that will survive the apocalypse thanks to it being the parking place for the extraterrestrials who are using a cavity beneath the mountain as a saucer-park. Strange to think that Bugarach actually translates as ‘stupid-buggers’ in Alpha Centuarian … maybe there is something in it all …

But, the good news is that even if the world does end on the 21st December 2012, there will have been time for BOTH my new books to emerge into the world. And I will be saved the agonising over sales figures – so bring it on …

Both … you noticed? I am in the middle of the second – Beauty in the Beast – and loving the process of writing (if a little daunted by the May deadline … diminution of blog output will be caused by this I fear). I have been forced to meet some fascinating people and get them to try and seduce me (away from hedgehogs, you understand) – the serious narrative though is the quest for a tattoo on my right leg … what species? I have found a pretty good contender …

Back to the ‘both’… I have been asked to write the Hedgehog contribution to Reaktion Books Animal series. The series is amazingly varied – Bees, Camals, Cockroaches, Ducks … Tigers, Tortoise and Whales. It is not so much a natural history of each species or group of species, but an un-natural history with diversions into the iconography and lexicography, literature and poetry.

I have to get that finished by the beginning of November 2011 … so no pressure then.

And here is a taster … operas featuring a hedgehog? How many can you think of? I was lucky enough to meet the composer Peter Ash over dinner who told me about his friend Donald Sturrock had written the libretto for Tobias Picker’s opera, Fantastic Mr Fox. Peter started to wax lyrical over the closing aria by Miss Hedgehog – he even broke into song.

But then the bombshell … oh, here are the words, see if you can spot the slight problem with this beautiful romance:

“MISS HEDGEHOG Is this the one…

PORCUPINE ..that I’ve waited for?

MISS HEDGEHOG I feel a tingling…

PORCUPINE ..I never felt before.

MISS HEDGEHOG Could it be him?

PORCUPINE Could it be her?

MISS HEDGEHOG I feel excited.

PORCUPINE I feel insecure.

MISS HEDGEHOG He’s spiny handsome!

PORCUPINE She’s prickly bliss!

MISS HEDGEHOG His eyes are sparkling.

PORCUPINE She’s too good to miss.

MISS HEDGEHOG Can it be true?

PORCUPINE Things are moving fast.

MISS HEDGEHOG Is it me and you?

PORCUPINE This is love at last.

TOGETHER Hand in hand, foot in foot, over leaf, over stone We will wander together, sleep never alone – Though our quills may go grey and our prickles fall out, We will grow old together, always snout to snout!”

As we all know (and Donald now knows) hedgehogs are insectivores, porcupines are rodents … and they are very very unlikely to become romantically involved.

I hope that one day they will put the opera back on – in the meantime, here are some photos from the production – featuring designs by Gerald Scarfe.