A positive thought and a negative thought from Samuel Taylor, both probably true:
…But where there exists that degree of genius and talent which entitles a writer to aim at the honors of a poet, the very act of poetic conposition itself is, and is allowed to imply and to produce, an unusual state of excitement, which of course justifies and demands a correspondent difference of language, as truly, though not perhaps in as marked a degree, as the excitement of love, fear, rage, or jealousy. The vividness of the descriptions or declamations in DONNE or DRYDEN is as much and as often derived from the force and fervor of the describer, as from the reflections, forms or incidents, which constitute their subject and materials. The wheels take fire from the mere rapidity of their motion …
… With no other privilege than that of sympathy and sincere good wishes, I would address an affectionate exhortation to the youthful literati, grounded on my own experience. It will be but short; for the beginning, middle, and end converge to one charge: NEVER PURSUE LITERATURE AS A TRADE. …
The garden has been busy this morning! The poem in the post below was prompted by the wild yelping, followed by a few foxes running around. However, my speculations were answered pretty swiftly when the pair began mating, right in the middle of the garden! It’s 10:30 am for goodness’ sake…It was pretty fascinating to watch, actually.
There was an open-mouthed behaviour that I first thought was the female telling the male to **ss off, where she held her mouth open and bared her teeth, and he did the same in response. It actually seemed to be more like an, ok are you ready to go again? Gesture.
The whole shindig carried on for quite some time, probably about an hour. I didn’t watch the entire time, but I did get rather nervous when I realized my neighbour’s little cat was hanging out just below our window! The foxes couldn’t have cared less. After a little bit of research it seems that urban foxes don’t tend to go for cats, which is good news and also makes sense–there are an awful lot of cats in this neighbourhood as well as an awful lot of foxes. Some really interesting information about London foxes can be found here.
Unfortunately, while I was observing the mating foxes and doing research about what was going on and their level of threat to the cat, they finished mating. (That’s not the unfortunate part.) When dogs finish mating, they “tie” or get stuck together:
“This is due to the bulbis glandis of the male dog’s penis swelling after it enters the female, thus preventing the male from withdrawing from the female until after the swelling has subsided. This is a completely natural occurrence that can last anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, and does not hurt either one of the dogs. The worst thing a person can do is to try and pull them apart because that can cause trauma to both dogs.”
Well, trauma may have occurred, because after about five minutes of the “tie,” the neighbour (in the flat below), ran out, clapping her hands and driving the foxes off…The neighbour turned to see her cat, innocently standing by, and made a dramatic gesture of relief.
I wasn’t able to see, but what happened to the poor, post-coital foxes? Did they have to lope off sideways, butts stuck together? Based on the way they were pulling each other around, back-to-back, they were very definitely stuck.
If only the neighbour were more well-informed, she wouldn’t have been so worried about her cat and maybe would have left the foxes alone. Even if foxes did eat cats, they certainly weren’t thinking about food at that point!
Even though I’ve got to adjust to the number of foxes around, I should say that I certainly wouldn’t advocate shooting them. It seems pointless, (and cruel,) as they just breed more and a new fox will take the territory of one that has been “culled”. Once you know what the yipping is, it’s not so bad, though if you don’t know it can certainly scare you! Urban foxes are part of city life, just as other wildlife is part of country life. People should adapt– the foxes certainly have.
Along with about a million other people in the UK and throughout the world, I’m gearing up for a very busy, Darwin-filled year. Many people have already commented on how they were sick of Darwin before 2009 even began, but not me.
In case you haven’t heard, 2009 is the 200th anniversary celebrating the birth of Charles Darwin. He was born on 12th February. 2009 is also the 150th anniversary of the publication of his most famous book, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection. I’ve read it. Have you?
The BBC has a great programme planned around Darwin and biology to inform and inspire. Cambridge is hosting what is probably the most intellectually-packed, worthy of name-dropping festival, called ‘Darwin 2009.’ Pretty much every museum, science-related or education-related organization will hold events. Below I post a list of what little ol’ me will be doing (so far) for 2009.
I should probably note that I’ve got a number of other projects in the works, of which I will speak once they are confirmed. This includes two new projects (one poetry-related and one fiction-related), so I promise I won’t be going on about Darwin’s Microscope forever…
19th January: I turn 24! Ok, this isn’t really book-related, but it’s exciting. And it is related because I set a personal goal to get published by the time I turned 25. Time for some new goals…
February: Darwin’s Microscope comes out! This, of course, is very important, as most of my other activities for 2009 relate to the book. I don’t know the exact date yet but it needs to be early in the month.
11th Feb: I will be at in the Aberdeen branch of Waterstone’s at the Cafe Scientifique, reading from the book and speaking about how it came to be.
12th Feb: I will be at the Aberdeen Zoology Museum, parked in front in the Reading Bus for a special Darwin Day event. I will read some poems and work with groups of school children to discuss museum objects including a platypus, some skeletons, and seashells, and encourage the students to write some science-inspired poetry of their own. Happy Birthday, Charles Darwin! I hear we may even have birthday cake…
25th Feb: The official book launch of Darwin’s Microscope, published by Flambard Press. My friend, Dr. Melanie Keene, who co-organizes the Cambridge Science and Literature Reading Group, will introduce the book. There will be wine, and the setting is the fabulous Victorian Grant Museum of Zoology, University College London– housed in the very London home of Charles Darwin himself!
9th March: Reading from Darwin’s Microscope after a talk by Cambridge academic Boris Jardine about his work on Darwin’s actual microscopes. Hosted by the Science and Literature Reading Group. In the Lloyd Room, Christ’s College, Cambridge, 7:30pm.