The helpful folk at WordPress – who host this blog – have sent me a summary of the stats for last year. And for a beginner in this world, I am quite pleased … they appear below. But before I get there I want to reveal something that the stats-keepers have also been collecting. And that is the search terms that people put into Google et al – and then end up arriving at my site. I would be interested to know which you think are the most unlikely – and also the most impressive … here are some of my favourites (editorials in brackets):

  1. contrary between swallow and sparrow in ancient egypt (I am just copying what is there … if you can understand how this got to me, please share)
  2. where do hedgehogs originate
  3. the cute storybook with hedgehogs in the bottom of each page
  4. punk beijing china hedgehog
  5. gothic hedgehog tattoos
  6. natural looking dog paw prints tattoo with shading (dogs???)
  7. hedgehogs chewing on leather
  8. dead sparrow
  9. new book about opera (well that one should be obvious …)
  10. unsocialised lemur (how did this end up with me???)
  11. stephen fry (this was the second most popular search – and I am guessing there are some disappointed people out there … )
  12. osborne thieving bastard
  13. ben fogle tattoo (I am not sure if this was someone looking for a tattoo of Ben, of just to see if he had a tattoo … it had better be a hedgehog if he does! And how did it get used 23 times?)
  14. hedgehog jokes (nearly twice as many people searched for this as they did for hedgehog hugh … there might be a message in that)
  15. hedgehog taxidermy ebay (I guess that one is not too hard to explain – but interesting that I am not alone)
  16. slug slime feet
  17. hedgehog marijuana (have I even mentioned marijuana? And what is hedgehog marijuana anyway … I would be happy to experiment)
  18. parasitology jokes
  19. fat eating capitalist cats
  20. flagelist (help me on this please …)
  21. hedgehog hugh!! (I love that someone has searched for me with exclamation marks!)
  22. prodded poppies
  23. scared of 5 rhythms
  24. greenpeace hedgehogs
  25. how much is a hedgehog worth (they are priceless … and that is enough of this … here follow the year in stats)

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 9,800 times in 2010. That’s about 24 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 45 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 64 posts. There were 41 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 93mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was April 12th with 314 views. The most popular post that day was countryfile and empathy.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were britishhedgehogs.org.uk, urchin.info, care2.com, facebook.com, and hedgehoghelp.co.uk.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for hedgehog jokes, stephen fry, hedgehog feet, hedgehog hugh, and hedgehog tattoos.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

countryfile and empathy April 2010
2 comments

2

How much is a hedgehog worth? February 2010
8 comments

3

Stuff about me … November 2008
5 comments

4

hedgehog feet April 2010
5 comments

5

Why the exotic pet trade is wrong and undercover investigations are so important January 2010
5 comments

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I think it is important for everyone to have a Nemesis – or at least someone at whom one can rant and moan and blame for anything and everything. For me that person has been Ben Fogle.

Which is a bit like saying that you don’t believe in fairies, or that puppies are hideous. The revelation is often met with gasps and a hand going to the mouth in horror.

Why? Isn’t it obvious? No one can be that nice. There must be some evil alternate existence in which he dissects fairies and plays football with puppies. Oh, and then there is the simple matter of the green-eyed god of jealousy. I want as many people to read my books as read his, I want to be on TV as much as he is (well, maybe not as much, but a little bit more than the near nothing I have now).

But most of all, I want to elicit the same response he does from every woman involved in the British Hedgehog Preservation Society, my wife and countless others.

When he accepted our kind invitation to him to become a patron of the society there was swooning. I have already written about the delight when he signed some envelopes for us and how the announcement of his raising money for the charity by going off on a jog was met with awed silence (even though I raised more through the agonising acquisition of a hedgehog tattoo).

And now? What am I supposed to do? One of his adoring fans at the BHPS has passed on to me an article he wrote in The Times. “A Prickly Affair by Hugh Warwick is a wonderful story…” “The book is funny and moving…” “Read it and you will see hedgehogs in a whole new light.”

Is this deliberate torture? Do you think he knows what he is doing? Destroying my mental punch bag? Damn and blast is all I can say (because I have not the verbal dexterity of Mr Fry).

So, who next? Who else can I moan about now I have to accept Ben Fogle might actually be a force for good?

ps – couldn’t find a picture of him with a hedgehog … so stole the one of him and a cheetah from his website … when I went to Namibia and stroked a cheetah there was no-one there to record it … he is at it again….

Very rarely do I feel that I have been in the vanguard of anything. There was a time when I was one of few people talking about the emergence of genetically engineered trees, and the threats to the environment that an unfettered release might cause. I felt then that I was on the wave. Everything else, well, I have either just been part of a pack, or ploughing a very lone course.

But now, I am thrilled to have assisted in the beginning of a new craze that is sweeping the globe at an unprecedented rate. No longer are people looking for esoteric celtic knots or the names of their children/loved ones/cities of conception. Mum, love, hate and ironic anchors are no more the tattoos of choice. The new tattoo is … well … I hardly need say … the hedgehog.

I received an email from Eryka Blank – the delightful mystery of emails is that you can have so little idea of who you are in contact with. I had no idea of country or age – just that she had read my book in its US incarnation (always a good starting point) and had been attracted by the images at the bottom of each page, so much so she was contemplating having one done as a tattoo. I sent her some larger copies of the pictures – the originals were done by the great artist David Shephard – and asked that if she did get a tattoo done, she send me a photo. And she has, along with a note explaining more about her and what motivated her … so here she is:

And here is what she had to say about herself:

“I agree, our tattoos should be friends.  I live in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up in Cedarburg, Wisconsin.  I am in my third year of college studying Communications Arts emphasis on Global Communications, and a theater minor.  I have always loved the outdoors and critters, and I constantly surround myself with pets.  I love books like ‘Watership Down’ and ‘Life of Pi’.  I can’t remember how I got interested in hedgehogs, but I did quite a bit of research on them, have a  pet hedgehog (named Phinneus), and am a member of the Hedgehog Welfare Society.  I short story I wrote titled ‘Burberry and the Fox’ is appearing in the Nov/Dec issue of the Hedgehog Welfare Society newsletter.  Last winter and spring I get receiving mysterious packages (I suspect my parents may have had a hand in this) with little plush hedgehogs and hedgehog books.  One of these was ‘The Hedgehog’s Dilemma’.  I loved reading your book and every time I saw one of the little inked drawings on the bottom of the page I thought what a great tattoo it would make.  I judge art by whether or not I would be willing to get it tattooed on myself.  The little hedgehog is actually my fourth tattoo (the others are a circle of Beatles lyrics on my upper back- “Pools of Sorrow Waves of Joy are Drifting Through My Opened Mind”, a fiery colored swallow on my leg, and my beloved dog’s paw print on my ankle) and didn’t hurt much.  It stung a little, but was no worse than getting a shot from the doctor.  I thought, what better animal to have staring fiercely out of my arm at everyone? Eventually I want to get the whole arm that the hedgehog is on turned into a full sleeve of critters- air, earth, and water all represented. I hope whatever you get tattooed on your other leg is as worthy as your hedgehog!

Personally, I have a great fondness and respect for cheetahs, birds (like swallows and sparrows), and otters.  In fact, I think a river otter will be my next tattoo.  Whatever you choose I can’t wait to read about it in your next book.

Thanks,

Eryka

P.S. I recently did a speech on the history of the relationship between hedgehogs and humans for my speech class and I found your book to be an excellent reference!”

And as Eryka suggests, I am in the market for a new tattoo – but this is a serious one, one based on a competition that has already begun. There are advocates for different species all clamouring for my attention, trying to win me over to their particular animal. What will it be? Badger? Dolphin? Solitary bee? House sparrow? Owl? Otter? Water vole? Dragonfly? Fox? Porpoise? Robin? Bat? Any other suggestions?

Have just found that, thanks to a generous donation from wildlife camera makers HandyKam, I have reached my target on the JustGiving site … now at £503 … raised from my tattooing adventure. And the greatest part? I have shot past Ben Fogle’s £443. I hope that at the next trustees meeting of the British Hedgehog Preservation Society this is noted!

This is a little bit more sophisticated use of the web than usual for me … but I have the video of the tattooing – or rather 30 seconds or so … this was with the four pointed device that was used for shading and was, to use the language of the midwife, a little uncomfortable … but not so bad as to make my hand shake. So, if you are of a sensitive disposition, look away now …

To get to the ‘tattoo parlour’ – a temporary affair above the gallery, cordoned off by a red-rope barrier from the crowds, I was lead up the back stairs by Jai, master-mind of the madness that was about to begin. I was in the first batch of three – out of the 100 to be tattooed over the long weekend.

I think that Jai was probably more nervous than I was – so much to worry about, from media, to health – even so, there were a few butterflies tumbling as I walked out into the glare of the stage. I shared a quick smile with Kate, who was also about to get her first tattoo – before we took our places.

Many people I know already have tattoos, so the details will be well appreciated, but for me, this was a first, and probably last, opportunity to experience the art.

Simon – already fairly well covered with a wide array of images, was to be my artist. A quick shave of my lower left leg, a swab down with some fancy gel that allows the image on paper to transfer across to the skin … so that is how it is done … not just the freehand genius, they have help! And then, after attaching a fresh needle to the Heath Robinson tattooing machine, he began. He dipped the needle into a small pot of ink – preparing his quill.

As I had sat down I had realised there was quite a crowd come to see the start of the show, but found I was facing away from everyone. Not sure what it would have been like looking out at everyone.

I tried to relax, but there was a slight moment of bracing as the needle, buzzing like a gentle dentist’s drill, first touched my skin. Remarkably un-uncomfortable – though there was a strange taste in my mouth that started almost immediately and lasted for a couple of days.

It was such a benign experience that I picked up my camera and started taking photographs … proof of the calmness came in the steadiness of my hand – no flash and no shake. As my back was turned towards the crowd, the only way of finding out who was looking was by taking photographs over my shoulder – you can understand that I did not want to move too much while Simon was needling my skin.

And then it was all over – so quick. He had been dabbing away at flecks of blood and excess ink – along the way and the result looked remarkably complete. Yes, a little bruised, but otherwise fine. But that was not it … there was another component to the process – to be photographed with a 120 year old camera – big plate film, masses of detail I am sure. And not of the tattoo, but portraits of each of the ambassadors.

All 100 are done now – and I am hoping that we can arrange some sort of reunion – and as I discussed in a piece in the Guardian, possibly linking up with people doing this in other countries to present a block of wildlife ambassadors at the next meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

So, to the healing – the instructions were simple – get hold of nappy cream and cling film … I was so disappointed that when I left the restaurant with a friend all the supermarkets were closed, I just wanted to imagine the look of confusion when all that was bought was beer, nappy cream and cling film.

After three days of that, it was on to coco butter – and there is general appreciation for the tattoo – in fact more than that. People are surprised at how cute it is … there is an association between tattoos and anger I think, so it is pleasing to have an image that subverts this. There is no attempt to repel with the hedgehog – it is there to attract.

Is that it? Will there be any more? Well, the night of the tattoo, back at my friend’s flat and her partner asks about my next book idea – the one where I track down people with animal passions similar to my own, but for different species … and Ian’s thought? “You are just on the hunt for the next tattoo, aren’t you?” Well, that has set something stirring in my mind …. will just have to wait and see.

I have been putting an awful lot of work into raising awareness about my impending tattoo … in fact so much that I might have failed to mention it on the blog … Well, my first (and last) tatttoo is due to be applied to the lower part of my left leg at 8pm on Thursday 26th November … i.e. tomorrow. I thought that I should spread the word through the usual channels of the media – and so far it has been a bit of a damp squib, but then along came The Wellington News …. yippppeeeee …. who have faithfully copied a press release what I wrote. So please – help me spread the word. ExtInked, the project that is organising the tattooing, is just so inspirational.

And wish me luck tomorrow.

hx