Amirah R.I.P.

AmirahWe were thrilled to see Amirah the Amur Leopard cub at Marwell zoo on the 26th March. Tom sent me this photograph of her. Two days later she was dead, killed by her father after squeezing through the rock barrier between their pens.

I hope Marwell are doing some hard thinking. In a rather Orwellian way, all mention of Amirah has vanished from their site. But she did exist, and Mike McCombie’s lovely set of photos, taken on the same day we visited, remains as a tribute.

The same week saw the deaths of Terri Schiavo, who spent fifteen years in a persistent vegetative state, and Pope John Paul II, who wanted her to remain in it.

Dangerous wild animal?

This is Sheeba, a brown-spotted Bengal, and one of the Jordan-Maynard cats. The Bengal is a rather new breed, created by hybridising the wild Asian Leopard Cat with domestic breeds including the Abyssinian and Burmese. It is regarded with some disdain by proponents of more established breeds, but is allegedly beloved by celebrities including Rolf Harris, Esther Rantzen, Mohammed al Fayed, and, umm, Jeffrey Archer.

Notwithstanding her exalted pedigree, Sheeba seems to enjoy life as domestic moggie and, aside from occasionally biting my ankles when supper is late, shows no tendency to terrorism. So we were rather surprised to read this article in the Hampshire Chronicle, 28th January 2005:

An American woman living in Winchester is having trouble being reunited with her cat because its breed has been classed as dangerous. Tina Hulme’s domesticated Bengal cat, Ava, is descended from the Asian Bengal leopard cat and the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs has classed it as a dangerous animal. Two-year-old Ava is still in the States, but Tina will have to apply for a special licence to bring her into the UK. Six months quarantine will follow, and then Tina’s home will have to be inspected by a Defra agent to ensure it is suitable to house a “wild animal”. Said Tina: “I just want my baby back.”

Spiers & Boden play Winchester

BellowLast Friday, the Tower Arts Centre treated us to a concert by the wonderful John Spiers and Jon Boden. This excellent booking was allegedly achieved through Boden calling John Tellett a bastard in Folk on Tap for not having booked them previously, despite Boden being a native son of Winchester, a stratagem clearly worth repeating.

Several times, Boden acknowledged his debt to the campfire singing of a “mysterious underground camping organisation” (how do you camp underground exactly’) called Forest School Camps. One of the songs he learnt there was Prickle Eye Bush, recognisable to the more mature members of the audience as Gallows Pole from Led Zeppelin III. (One of my earliest albums – the original gatefold sleeve with the rotating paper disc with weird little pictures on it.) Not having the benefit of the FSC, Zep had come to the song via Leadbelly and John and Alan Lomax, and perhaps didn’t even know of its English origins.

Through and ThroughCourting Too Slow could have been a letter from a timid software developer to a modern agony aunt, and brought out the Maynard school of counselling: just pull yourself together.

The packed Tower audience immediately warmed to the performers’ energy, and sung quite audibly. Tom, who had been dragged under protest to a boring old folk gig, and apparently had his suspicions confirmed by his first sight of the audience, was particularly enthusiastic (“why didn’t you tell me they were like this'”). And it was good to see some old friends again and come out as unapologetic folkies.

Finally, John Tellett please note, Spiers is a homonym for Spires, not for Spears.

Goodbye Dance Tent'

According to efestivals, there will be no Glastonbury Dance tent this year. Its site will be used for the enlarged New Tent, now renamed the John Peel Stage. Which goes to show, as my mother claimed, that fashions always come around again if you just hang on long enough.