Opera and a new book

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.

Ben Fogle

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….


Unsurprisingly, I find that I am at the receiving end of a great deal of hedgehog-related strangeness. But not all of it warrants a posting, or, as is happening at the moment, it is arriving while I am in the middle of something that is making my brain hurt … like now. I am writing about the house sparrow – a fantastic bird being advocated by an amazing gentleman. But there is just so much information that I need to squeeze into so little space and the bit that is making my head hurt is trying to make the links work … so a little deviation is called for to lighten things up for me.

In no particular order, here are some hedgehoggy things we should all care about:

1. Actually, this is not to lighten things up but to say ‘told you so’ … someone has been found trying to sell a European hedgehog in Kent – the actual ad has been taken down and they have been reported to the police and the RSPCA, but an archive of the ad is here. I am often asked why I am concerned about the push to sell pet African Pygmy Hedgehogs in Britain, and this is one of the main reasons. Either unscrupulous or mind-boggling stupid people will try and sell on our own wild animals. If you want a real hedgehog thrill, then try and get to see a wild one, where it belongs, in the wild.

2. There is a lot about the latest crop of pop stars that has passed me by, but I have now heard of Lady Gaga. Apparently this most eccentric of individuals has a commendable fondness for hedgehogs. Well, that is what I thought when I first read the headline, but it turns out that, and as this is something I read on the web, it is quite possibly no more reliable than a posh-boy Lib Dem promise, Lady Gaga had a rider for her concerts demanding two baby hedgehogs to be present back stage in her changing room. And I thought I was a bit over the top asking for a cake.

3. I was giving a talk to the Kent Mammal Group and was given the most amazing story – a woman told me how she had recently failed her driving test because she had stopped for a hedgehog in the road. Apparently you should not stop for anything smaller than a cat. So would that make it okay to run over a chihuahua?

4. Hedgehog carers all over the country are having to feed an enormous number of animals this winter – so if you find yourself unable to get away over Christmas, or your guests don’t arrive … why not donate some of what you would have spent to the sanctuaries? The British Hedgehog Preservation Society has a list of just a few in each county on their website. These are not necessarily going to be the closest, but you can ask them if there are any nearer you.

5. And finally – something to gladden your hearts and excite you into a late Christmas purchase … the wonderful woman who made our wedding rings many years ago has just made some hedgehog earrings. When she told me I was nervous as she is a friend and many of these sorts of things are dire … but they are wonderful. Her name is Bridget Wheatley and her shop is also online.

The little hedgehog is fantastic – she has only just designed it and made a few. If you are interested, get in touch with her (through the website) and ask for a hedgehog or two for your loved one’s lobes!