May 2011


To avoid all the conflicts I suffer, trying to get hedgehogs mentioned in every entry, I have decided to establish a new blog to cover the work I am doing on the NEW BOOK … so if you would like to see what else is going on – visit:

http://beabeautyst.wordpress.com/

Frustratingly someone is sitting on the ‘Beauty in the Beast’ wordpress url … does anyone know how to try and shift an unused url?

There should be loads of interesting snippets from the up and coming book, so subscribe and await glorious details of my time with beavers, bees, badgers, bats and other animals not beginning with ‘b’ …

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I used to enjoy festivals for the mud, music and madness – but as I have aged so my energies have declined (refined) and I find my preference shift. While I look back very fondly to hazy Glastonbury or the delights of  travelling to Womad by boat from Oxford with a crowd of friends (when it was in Reading), neither is as easy with a small family. Now we go to Wood (soon, wonderful – and featuring not just me on hedgehogs, but also our film – Nonviolence for a Change – recently updated for the Quakers) and Buddhafield (quite simply the best – alcohol and drug free – the perfect play space for interested children).

The last couple of years we have supplemented this by me being invited to talk at Camp Bestival – but that is not a festival I would ever pay to attend. The kids adored it, and riding high on the big wheel, their faces were filled with glee (as ours were with terror) … but it is big, commercial, expensive and crowded.

Also for the last couple of years Zoe has been asked to work with Greenpeace at Glastonbury – and I have been only moderately jealous … okay, that is not entirely true … the idea of spending a week at Glastonbury without the children … that does sound like fun.

But this year it is a little different. Wood and Buddhafield are booked in, but I have been asked to join the exalted company of the Idler’s Academy as they spread deep thoughts through the open minds of gently inebriated participants.

I wrote an essay for The Idler a while back – a marvellous thing that Tom Hodgkinson and Gavin Pretor-Pinney have done for the world, creating this space for ideas to marinate and percolate. I argued, most persuasively I like to think, that the importance of the hedgehog is often under-rated, as is the importance of love. And when you put the two of them together, you have a perfect storm of passion that can help change the world.

And now I have to distil this further for the academy – I have been thinking about basing my lecture on ‘My Quest for Normality’ – weaving my love affair with hedgehogs and my desire to get to China in and out of a pursuit of hedgehog-extremists … as I try and prove that I am, comparatively, normal. Hope it works … if you want to see whether it does, I will be at:

Port Eliot Festival, 21-24th July in Cornwall

Wilderness Festival, 12-14th August in Oxfordshire

West Dean Festival, 26-29th August in West Sussex

I might have excelled myself with the tangential nature of this post – in that there is no direct reference to hedgehogs – BUT …

Yesterday I was sat in my shed trying to concentrate on beavers (the new book is getting closer to completion, and the chapter on beavers is rather fun … I was impressed that they do the things in real life that they do in cartoons … in fact I will deviate even further from my plan to bring you an illustration:

They chop down trees, they make dams – all in all, they are wonderful. I was with Paul Ramsay who has introduced them to his estate in Perthshire and the night I had out watching them – I saw eight – was as exhilarating as any I have had in East Africa … I have become distracted, again)

So I was trying to concentrate on writing about them when my wife Zoe asked if I would like to meet Eddie Izzard … of course I said, not knowing that there was to be hard work involved.

He was on a tour of the UK – drumming up support for the YES campaign in the AV referendum. His plan was to cycle around the streets of Oxford offering his words of wisdom as to why we should be voting for a change … and my job was to cycle our tandem and allow Zoe to film him as we went. I will drop in a link to the film in a moment, but here is the vague hedgehog-link … as we were cycling along I asked whether he could weave the subject of hedgehogs into his spontaneous and divertingly surreal monologue … and I think I made this man of grand and improbable connections pause – and he had to admit that I had flummoxed him. Which is a great shame, as I think he would have been able to do it quite well …. as it is, he did manage to liken the Tories to the Dementors from Harry Potter – might not be a hedgehog joke, but was well-made all the same. And here is the resulting film:

http://vimeo.com/23226768

I hope you enjoy it – I will be back with some hedgehogs soon … as long as I can clear this backlog of beavers … must keep beavering along … chop chop now … damn this is nearly funny!