I’ve taken the unwise step of reading the tabloids over the past few weeks and now I’m scared. Everything out there is out to get you in one way or another, didn’t you know? I didn’t know. I’ve managed to stay alive for 30-ermm-something years now and I’m not entirely sure how. It would appear it was more by luck than judgement, especially as I spend so much of my time out and about in the wild. Well, the wilder parts of South London, at least. There’s just so much out there that wants me dead! So here’s a round up of everything I’ve read throughout July that falls into that old staple, the Summer Scare Story:
- Sharks! Of course there’s always a shark loafing around the Cornish coast come July, but the Mail are really stretching it this time (I know, who would have thought?), getting a little jumpy about toothless smooth hound sharks, which they do admit have never attacked a human. This one I love, particularly for the short-title with which it originally appeared on the website ‘FIFTY five-foot sharks…’ – a rather marvellous piece of misdirection, there.
- Foxes! Mail again (obvs), and a piece of news that came out suspiciously close to the Fox Hunting vote. There might be something in this, but then again it does sound like yet more pointless fox hyperbole.
- Snakes! News of a ‘giant’ Grass Snake that ‘terrified’ Guildford household (which in actual fact looks about a foot long in the photo, but don’t let that spoil it for you).
- Spiders! Not even False Widows this time, oh no. Now we have to worry about real, proper Black Widows in our bananas again.
- Squirrels! Not just squirrels, but drunken squirrels getting rowdy and smashing up pubs.
- Errr…Cockchafers! Yes, Cockchafers. Which have been divebombing people left, right and centre down in Margate. Which is, of course, due to pesky strengthening of insecticide controls. Interestingly, according to the Express, Cockchafer literally means ‘Big Beetle’. This is news to me. Can anyone cast any light on this?
- Jellyfish! Ah, err, no. And this piece by Steve Backshall shows-up just how some tabloids can go out of their way to produce these stories despite all expert evidence and advice to the contrary.
The two biggest species that have been threatening life and limb around the country this month have definitely been the broad definition ‘gulls’ and of course Giant Hogweed (that’s what kicked this all off, really):
- Hogweed! There were a full full ten (TEN! Count them, Ten!) articles on Giant Hogweed in the Mail alone since the start of July. It’s nasty stuff, undoubtedly, but people seem to be jumping up and down like this is a new phenomenon.
- Gulls! Virtually over the last two weeks, gulls seem to have become public enemy number one. I’ll leave it for you to decide just how much danger you are in should you venture down to the seaside, but as always I’d advise reading a little further than the screeching, alarmist headlines to see what the various ‘experts’ actually said:
There’s lots more out there, but here’s something a little more sensible on the subject. Now if you’ll excuse me I think I need to go and scrub myself with borax.