Ahoy there, Frank!, writes Tim Thurn in his irritatingly over-familiar manner, I couldnâ€™t help noticing that so far in this glorious new year you have treated us to your ruminations upon ducks, squirrels, and pelicans. This marks something of a change from your usual focus upon cows and pigs and bees, and I wonder if it signals an intention on your part to provide readers with an encyclopaedic survey of the entire animal kingdom over the coming twelvemonth. I would find this particularly useful, as, due to my education being interrupted by repeated concretions of the brain, much of my knowledge of the natural world has been gained by reading Hooting Yard. So I am well aware, for example, that pigs can be divided into two classes, real pigs and fictional pigs, and that pigs of both types can have the given name Popsy (or Popsie). I also know that goats can suffer from frequent fainting spells. However, I havenâ€™t got a clue about, say, giraffes or bison or some of the tinier life-forms such as leafcutter ants and barely visible microscopic beings without eyes or even heads. Assuming my surmise is correct, I look forward to being well-versed in the world of beasts by January next, and all thanks to you! Yours ever, Tim.
Well, I hate to disappoint, but I fear Tim has jumped to an erroneous conclusion. The recent pieces on ducks and squirrels and pelicans were all occasioned by an abstruse formula for selecting subjects which I have been using for a couple of years now. It is theoretically possible that, within a year, the formula might throw up every single member of the animal kingdom, but that is as likely as a monkey typing out a novel by V S Naipaul.
By the way, I didnâ€™t see a single squirrel today. Alack and alay!