I live in Hertfordshire, an ostensively fairly quiet county on the edge of Greater London. But it turns out there are 104 dangerous and/or ‘exotic’ pets kept here. And those are only the ones people admit to.
According to animal welfare charity Born Free, 3,951 dangerous wild animals are licensed to be kept privately in Great Britain. They say a total of 210 private addresses across 129 local authorities hold licences to keep dangerous wild animals such as lions, tigers, crocodiles and cheetahs.
In Hertfordshire, the Dacorum Council area – that’s basically Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring and the western part of Kings Langley – has:
15 venomous snakes
1 bearded lizard
4 ‘death stalker’ scorpions
1 fat-tailed scorpion
3 gila monsters
2 spectacled caimans
6 servals (whatever they are)
12 serval F1 hybrids (presumably faster than normal servals)
1 recluse spider – though I suspect people don’t see much of that one
In my own council area there is, I am relieved to report, only one exotic pet – a Savannah cat.
The East Hertfordshire District Council area goes in for quality, not quantity, with:
and 2 Mississippi alligators
But never venture into the North Hertfordshire District, whose 46 exotic animals kept as pets include:
1 clouded leopard
1 snow leopard
and 10 – yes, count ‘em, 10 – pumas
The most unlikely things are true.
A few days ago, the BBC reported that one David Morris took a photograph of what appears to be an oil tanker floating in the air near Falmouth in Cornwall.
This, apparently, was the result of a rare optical illusion caused by special atmospheric conditions that bend light.
BBC meteorologist David Braine explained: “Superior mirages occur because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the sea with warmer air above it. Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground or on the coast, changing how a distant object appears.
“Superior mirages can produce a few different types of images – here a distant ship appears to float high above its actual position, but sometimes an object below the horizon can become visible.”
It’s all about perception.
Yesterday evening, for 1 hour and 50 minutes, ITV screened the much-hyped Oprah Winfrey interview in California with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. It made me a tiny bit more sympathetic to La Meg, but she still seems strangely naive verging on being a self-obsessed airhead.
One thing it did was highlight the Atlantic divide. The Daily Telegraph‘s front page this morning reports US President Biden saying the Duchess (Meghan) had shown courage. Their other front page story is an opinion piece headlined: They may claim to respect her, but this is a devastating insult to the Queen.
It starts: “Towards the end of her more-shocking-than-you-can-possibly-imagine, even-in-your-worst-Royal-Family-trashing-nightmare, interview with Oprah Winfrey, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, mused, “Life is about storytelling, right? About the stories we tell ourselves, about the stories we buy into”… The story the Sussexes have told themselves about their own behaviour… is perfectly clear. The only truthful lens is their own.”
This morning, a female friend of mine’s opinion was:
“She’s a decent actress and she showed she hasn’t lost the knack. Quivering lip etc. Knows how to let the camera catch a slight tremble. I’ve watched all of (her TV series) Suits. Loved her in it. This performance was up there. And I take my hat off to any pregnant woman who can wear those heels. Harry sounds like he’s had LOADS of expensive West Coast therapy.”
This morning, I also received a text from a gay acquaintance of mine who said succinctly and rhetorically:
“Is she a drama queen?”
Meanwhile, at the risk of seeming slightly drama queeny myself, my supposed vertigo hovers like an oil tanker in the sky.
I have been ever-so slightly unsteady on my feet (which means wobbly inside my head) since January when I had to spend three days in bed/holding on to walls to avoid falling over if I got up.
It recurred for a couple of less-bad days in February.
Three nights ago, I went out about 7.30pm to get some chocolate (I am on a diet, but hey-ho…) and, for the first time in a while, I felt 100% fine.
Then two nights ago – bear in mind that, since May last year, I wake up at least once every hour during the night with a severely dehydrated mouth and drink lots of water – I got up on one occasion to go to the toilet and had to hold on to the walls and sundry objects to avoid falling over.
During the next day I was fine.
But, last night, again only once, I was again wobbly when I got up and had to touch walls etc.
And today I am OK again.
The Chinese curse: may you live in uncertain times.