2007年10月29日 星期一

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography


(BBC) 手機短信在大學教育方面的妙用




英國里茲大學(University of Leeds)的一位講師想出了一種絕妙的辦法,既可吸引學生集中注意力,也能鼓勵他們參與討論。



里茲大學歷史系的講師兼行政人員凱文·林奇博士(Dr. Kevin Linch)對科技應用非常有興趣,他推出了手機短信助教學的辦法。
















2007年10月22日 星期一

英國人的健康 肥胖與酒醉


報道說,蘇格蘭已經實行免費的眼科和牙科檢查,以及免費老年服務。另外,蘇格蘭學生將可以免費上大學,而小學低年級每班學生只有18人。 該報指出,納稅人聯盟的負責人說,"使英格蘭納稅人感到不滿的是,他們大量賦稅,而蘇格蘭人卻享受免費眼科檢查和老人照料以及即將實行的免費處方。”


Britain is sickest nation in Europe
By Richard Edwards
Last Updated: 2:43am BST 23/10/2007

Have your say Read comments
Britain has been branded "the sick man of Europe" after a Government report revealed a nation blighted by record levels of obesity, alcohol abuse, diabetes and smoking related deaths.
One in three NHS trusts failing financially
Your view: How can we bridge the north-south health divide?
Community health profiles

The rate of obesity in Britain is the worst in Europe
The rate of obesity in British adults is the worst in Europe and, in some areas, are now above the national average of the United States. In Boston, Lincolnshire, almost a third of men and women are now dangerously overweight.The "snapshot" of the nation's health showed that almost 900,000 children aged under 11 are obese - a 50 per cent increase in the past decade. The report from the Department of Health also revealed England as the only European country with rising alcohol consumption and an increase in alcohol-related deaths, particularly amongst women.

Other findings included:
* Britons drink 11.37 litres of pure alcohol per person compared with an EU average of 10.95 litres.
* The number of women aged 35 to 54 dying of alcohol abuse has almost doubled in the last 15 years.
* There are 288 deaths per 100,000 people from smoking-related causes in the UK, compared with an EU average of 263.
* People in the Britain eat an average of 25kg less fruit and vegetables each per year compared with EU countries.
* Diabetes sufferers have risen to 4.8 per cent of men and 3.6 per cent of women in 2003.
* Despite declining teenage pregnancy rates, the UK still has the highest proportion of births to under-20s compared to other western European countries. There are also new highs in separate figures for self harm, and the sexually transmitted disease Chlamydia.
* A stark north-south divide remains, with boys born in Manchester likely to die on average 10 years younger than those born in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea in London.

Tory Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "These figures show a shocking rise in alcohol abuse and obesity levels in this country and how the Government is losing the battle to tackle public health challenges.

"This is a dreadful toll upon those affected and a great burden on our NHS. We have to reverse this. We can't continue being the sick man of Europe on health issues."

The Liberal Democrats claimed the figures revealed a "crisis in public health", and accused the Government of "half-hearted" measures to combat obesity.

Health spokesman Norman Lamb said: "Ten years of Labour Government has left us with widening health inequalities and a crisis in public health.

"We must urgently examine why we are the only European country with rising alcohol consumption and an increase in alcohol-related deaths - particularly amongst women and young people.

Mapping out he nation’s ill health: click to enlarge
"It is shocking that England is still the fattest nation in Europe."
It emerged on Monday that the Department of Health is considering plans to officially warn parents their children are fat by making them subject to compulsory weigh-ins.

Primary school pupils are weighed in school at the ages of five and 10, but the results are currently only passed along to parents if they are requested - even if the child is severely obese.
Under new proposals being considered by the Department of Health parents could be handed the measurements automatically and then offered help and advice to improve the well-being of their offspring.

The Health Profile of England report did show some positive results. Premature mortality rates from the two biggest killers, circulatory diseases and cancer, are reducing faster in England than the average for the EU. Life expectancy is at its highest ever level and the infant death rate is at its lowest in England.

Dawn Primarolo, the public health minister, conceded the report showed there was "a lot to do in tackling health inequalities".

"Whilst we have made good progress in stopping people smoking, I am determined to move further and faster to respond to all these challenges - with a cross Government drive to tackle obesity, improve diet and activity levels and promote safe and sensible drinking," she said.

"Our ambition is to reverse the rising tide of obesity and overweight in the population, by enabling everyone to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

"Our initial focus will be on children: By 2020, we aim to reduce the proportion of overweight and obese children to 2000 levels."
The Health Profile of England is based on analysis of national and regional data by the Department of Health.

First published in 2006, it is designed to allow comparisons of regional health trends to allow resources to be targeted effectively and efficiently.

It compares health data across nine English regions: London, South East, South West, East, East Midlands, West Midlands, North East, North West and Yorkshire and the Humber; as well as comparing the figures to international averages.

Have your say










【2007/10/22 中央社】

2007年10月20日 星期六

the greenest city in Britain is ... Bradford

And the winner of the award for the greenest city in Britain is ... Bradford

· Yorkshire mill town tops environmental impact list
· Liverpool ranks lowest despite salmon in Mersey

  • The Guardian
  • Saturday October 20 2007
Bradford skyline.

Bradford skyline. Photograph: Guardian/Simon Barber

In Bradford's "woolopolis" days, the mills turned the waters of Toadholes Beck a different colour every day, depending on whether the dye was for redcoat uniforms, green billiard cloth or blue boiler suits.

Now the little stream on the city's outskirts is home to frogs, toads and newts; an emblem of Bradford's success in healing the environmental blight caused by its pivotal role in the industrial revolution.

The Yorkshire city more associated with dark satanic mills than rolling hills comes top of the environmental impact league table in the Sustainable Cities Index published today by Forum for the Future, the charity founded by Jonathon Porritt.

Brighton and Hove came top overall in the index which ranks the 20 largest British cities according to social, economic and environmental performance. Three league tables measure environmental impact, quality of life for residents and "future proofing" - how well the city is addressing issues such as climate change, recycling and biodiversity.

Brighton won despite coming 15th in the environmental impact league table, because it was found to have the best quality of life - measured by healthy life expectancy at 65 and satisfaction with green spaces and bus services. Low unemployment coupled and a highly educated population also counted, and the city came top of the future proofing league because of the council's commitment to tackle climate change and recycling.

"The fact that Brighton and Hove is in the most affluent part of the country is reflected perhaps in the higher scores for quality of life and the lower score for environment impact," said the report accompanying the index.

Edinburgh was judged the second most sustainable city in Britain. The Scottish capital scored highly for air quality, public open spaces, employment, education and healthy life expectancy.

London was ranked 10th. Although the capital came sixth for both quality of life and future proofing - with one of the most ambitious civic climate change action plans in the world, pollution brought it down to 17th in the green league table.

Liverpool was found to be the least sustainable of the 20 cities surveyed. Poor water quality along with high unemployment, low educational attainment and low healthy life expectancy at age 65 let the city down, as did its failure to plan for a more sustainable future.

Berni Turner, Liverpool city council's executive member for environment, said: "I am surprised we did badly on water quality because the river Mersey is cleaner than it has been for generations and now supports cod and salmon, while on the environment we have more green open space than many other cities, which we are committed to improving. We recognise we have a long way to go and this is a useful benchmark, but statistics can never tell the whole story."

Despite Bradford's success in the green league table, it fared less well on quality of life and future proofing, pulling it down to ninth place in the overall index.

Bradford scored highly in the survey for sustainable waste treatment and the results show in the unexpectedly beautiful surroundings of one of Europe's largest sewage works. This has always been an area of innovation in the city; in the wool days, lanolin was extracted from its stinking waste and sold to cosmetics manufacturers.

Today, as Yorkshire Water's asset delivery manager Simon Gibby points out on a tour of the filter beds, byproducts include ash for builders' breeze blocks, electric power (from methane and a sewage-powered turbine) and the city's latest pride and joy - recycled sludge.

"A lot of the £70m we're spending here has gone on a scheme which mixes sewage sludge with Bradford's green recycling waste in a huge cake," he says. "We sow this with rye grass, whose roots destroy remaining pollutants, and the result is a rich soil compound which is excellent for 'green' landfill."

Residents can see otters and kingfishers within a walk of the once-filthy city centre. "The council's always going on about the environment and so they should be," said Roy Murgatroyd, out for a breath of fresh air in Manningham Park with his wife, Olive.

"It was green sheep fields and clean water which got the textile industry started here. It's only right that we should be putting it back in order now that the mills have pretty much gone."

Forum for the Future plans to publish the sustainable cities index annually. The charity's chief executive, Peter Madden, said: "We are now a majority urban world and this trend will intensify so we have to learn to live in cities in a more sustainable way. UK cities make claims about being green and eco-friendly without any real objective criteria to back it up. Our index will provide a base line and create healthy competition between cities to encourage sustainable urbanisation."

Drink limits ‘useless’; 階級差異









文章引述有關專家的話說,流行病學專家已經承認,現行飲酒量安全指導是不科學的 。由於沒有具體數據和分析,很難說情究竟喝多少酒是安全的。


October 20, 2007

Drink limits ‘useless’

A woman tastes wine in a wine shop

Explore alcohol limitations further with a 'Tipple Too Far'

Guidelines on safe alcohol consumption limits that have shaped health policy in Britain for 20 years were “plucked out of the air” as an “intelligent guess”.

The Times reveals today that the recommended weekly drinking limits of 21 units of alcohol for men and 14 for women, first introduced in 1987 and still in use today, had no firm scientific basis whatsoever.

Subsequent studies found evidence which suggested that the safety limits should be raised, but they were ignored by a succession of health ministers.

One found that men drinking between 21 and 30 units of alcohol a week had the lowest mortality rate in Britain. Another concluded that a man would have to drink 63 units a week, or a bottle of wine a day, to face the same risk of death as a teetotaller.

The disclosure that the 1987 recommendation was prompted by “a feeling that you had to say something” came from Richard Smith, a member of the Royal College of Physicians working party that produced it.

He told The Times that the committee’s epidemiologist had confessed that “it’s impossible to say what’s safe and what isn’t” because “we don’t really have any data whatsoever”.

Mr Smith, a former Editor of the British Medical Journal, said that members of the working party were so concerned by growing evidence of the chronic damage caused by heavy, long-term drinking that they felt obliged to produce guidelines. “Those limits were really plucked out of the air. They were not based on any firm evidence at all. It was a sort of intelligent guess by a committee,” he said.

Mr Smith’s disclosure casts doubt on the accuracy of a report published this week that blamed middle-class wine drinkers for placing some of Britain’s most affluent towns at the top of the “hazardous drinking” list.

The study, commissioned by the Government, relied on the 1987 guidelines when it suggested that men drinking more than 21 units a week and women consuming more than 14 units put their health “at significant risk”.

In a further attack on Britain’s drinkers, it was revealed yesterday that a coalition of health organisations is mounting a campaign to force a 10 per cent increase in alcohol taxation.

The group, headed by the Royal College of Physicians, is also seeking to secure the support of MPs for stricter regulation of the drinks industry and warnings on alcohol advertising. A total of 21 bodies, including Alcohol Concern and the British Liver Trust, will form the Alcohol Health Alliance, according to Harpers Wine and Spirit magazine.

2007年10月18日 星期四

Deborah Kerr Is Dead at 86

In Pictures: Deborah Kerr's film career

Deborah Kerr plays patience

British actress Deborah Kerr has died aged 86. In a career spanning 46 years, she made almost 50 films including Prisoner of Zenda and Black Narcissus.

Deborah Kerr Is Dead at 86

Columbia Pictures via Associated Press

Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr in the famous beach scene in the 1953 film "From Here To Eternity."

Published: October 19, 2007

Deborah Kerr, a versatile actress who long projected the quintessential image of the proper, tea-sipping Englishwoman but who was also indelible in one of the most sexually provocative scenes of the 1950’s, with Burt Lancaster in “From Here to Eternity,” died on Tuesday in Suffolk, England. She was 86.

Her death was announced to The Associated Press by her agent, Anne Hutton. She had Parkinson’s disease.

Miss Kerr was nominated for six Academy awards, without winning any, over more than four decades as a major Hollywood movie star. She finally received an honorary Oscar for her lifetime of work in 1994. Mostly in retirement since the mid-1980’s, she lived for many years in Switzerland, with her husband, Peter Viertel, the novelist and screenwriter.

The lovemaking on the beach in Hawaii with Mr. Lancaster, viewed with both of them in wet swimsuits as the tide came in, was hardly what anyone expected of Deborah Kerr at that point in her career. Along with Greer Garson and Jean Simmons, she was one of three leading ladies Americans thought of as typically British, and decidedly refined and upper-class. More than once she was referred to by directors, producers and newspapers as the “British virgin.”

Time magazine, in a 1947 feature article, predicted she would be one of the great movie stars because “while she could act like Ingrid Bergman, she was really a kind of converted Greer Garson, womanly enough to show up nicely in those womanly roles.”

Throughout her career, Miss Kerr worked at being unpredictable. She was believable as a steadfast nun in Black Narcissus; as the love-hungry wife of an empty-headed army captain stationed at Pearl Harbor in “From Here to Eternity”; as a headmaster’s spouse who sleeps with an 18-year-old student to prove to him that he is a man in “Tea and Sympathy”; as a spunky schoolmarm not afraid to joust and dance with the King of Siam in “The King and I”; as a Salvation Army lass in “Major Barbara”; and even as Portia, the Roman matron married to Brutus, in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar.”

She could be virginal, ethereal, gossamer and fragile, or earthy, spicy and suggestive, and sometimes she managed to display all her skills at the same time.

Miss Kerr made “From Here to Eternity” even though Harry Cohn, chief of Columbia Pictures in that era, had wanted Joan Crawford in the part and had to be persuaded to accept Miss Kerr. She regarded the role as the high point in her climb to stardom in the United States, and it yielded her second Academy Award nomination.

Another high point came in 1956, when she was given the film role that Gertrude Lawrence had played on the stage in the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “The King and I.” She played opposite Yul Brynner, who recreated his stage performance as the strutting king in the film.

Bosley Crowther, reviewing the movie version for The New York Times, praised “her beauty, her spirit and her English style.” Her singing for classics numbers like “Getting to Know You” was dubbed by the offscreen voice of many Hollywood stars of the time, Marni Nixon. But her acting needed no assistance; she was nominated for another Academy Award.

She also received Oscar nominations for “Edward, My Son” (released in 1949), “Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison” (1957); “Separate Tables” (1958); and “The Sundowners” (1960). Other notable roles came in “Major Barbara” (1941, her first credited film role); “Julius Caesar” (1953); and “Tea and Sympathy” (1956), based on the Robert Anderson play.

Miss Kerr was applauded in the Broadway stage production of the play as well. After Brooks Atkinson of The Times saw the original production, he wrote that Miss Kerr had “the initial advantage of being extremely beautiful, but she adds to her beauty the luminous perception who is aware of everything that is happening all around her and expresses it in effortless style.”

Miss Kerr struggled against being pigeonholed by the public as somehow representing the British upper class, and was said to have instructed friends to tell anyone who asked that she preferred cold roast beef sandwiches and beer to champagne and caviar any day. But she is also quoted in a 1977 biography by Eric Braun as saying that “the camera always seems to find an innate gentility in me.”

Deborah Jane Kerr Trimmer was born in Helensburgh, Scotland, on Sept. 30, 1921, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Kerr Trimmer. Her father, who was called Jack, was an architect and civil engineer who had been wounded in World War I and who died when Deborah was in her early teens.

Her aunt, Phyllis Smale, had a school of drama and insisted that Deobrah and her younger brother take lessons in acting, ballet and singing. Deborah was attracted to the ballet but concluded that she was too tall, at 5 feet 6 inches. She began her acting career by playing small parts with a group that performed Shakespeare’s plays in the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park, London.

She got her first movie contract in 1939 after Gabriel Pascal, the producer and director, spotted her in a restaurant.

During the war, she read children’s stories on BBC radio. She made movies, too, among them “Penn of Pennsylvania,” “The Day Will Dawn,” and “The Avengers.”

By 1945, she was much sought after by British filmmakers and was cast opposite Robert Donat in “Perfect Strangers.” Her career was further enhanced when she appeared as a nun in “Black Narcissus” in 1947. However, after the movie was released in the United States, it was called “an affront to religion and religious life” by the National Legion of Decency.

Miss Kerr was married to Anthony Bartley, an Englishman who had been a decorated fighter pilot during World War II, for 13 years. They were separated in 1959 and their divorce became final the next year. They had two children, Melanie and Francesca. In 1969, she married Peter Viertel, who survives her, along with her daughters and three grandchildren, according to The Associated Press.

BBC cuts back programmes and jobs





BBC cuts back programmes and jobs
BBC director general Mark Thompson
Mr Thompson said the plans involved 'difficult choices'

BBC TV audiences can expect more repeats and fewer original programmes, under plans to reduce the size of the corporation revealed on Thursday.

Up to 1,800 staff will also be made redundant - primarily in news, BBC programme-making and regional centres.

The BBC will also sell-off its flagship Television Centre, under the plans to make up a £2bn budget shortfall.

Director General Mark Thompson said the plan will deliver "a smaller, but fitter, BBC" in the digital age.

The six-year-plan, called Delivering Creative Future, was prompted by a smaller than expected licence fee settlement from the government.

Every part of the BBC will be required to make efficiency savings.

The main changes include:

  • Closing 2,500 job posts over the next six years.

  • About 700 jobs will be created, resulting in an estimated 1,800 redundancies

  • Making 10% less original TV programmes by 2012/13, focusing on fewer, high quality shows.

  • Establishing an integrated newsroom - merging TV, radio, and online

  • Reduce the size of the BBC's property portfolio by selling BBC Television Centre by 2012/13

  • Scrapping proposals for new activities, including plans for four new local radio stations

    'Minimum' repeats

    Across TV as a whole, the BBC plans to commission 10% fewer hours, saving £100m every year.

    Despite press speculation, digital channels BBC Three and BBC Four will remain.

    Jana Bennett, director of BBC Vision, said there would be an emphasis on quality.

    Repeats during the BBC One peak viewing times would continue to be kept at a minimum.

    Programmes like Panorama, Imagine, Horizon and Who Do You Think You Are? are "safe", but there will be less light factual "middle-ground" programming, she said.

    BBC staff lobby Broadcasting House
    Some BBC staff protested about the plans on Wednesday

    Ms Bennett also said there would be a "significant investment" in High-Definition TV, which launches next year, and a shift to on-demand and interactive programming.

    She said plans to make programmes available through the iPlayer and other interactive platforms were "meeting the needs of our audience".

    Despite 660 redundancies in BBC Vision, she said the BBC would continue to provide a wide range of original drama, such as Spooks, as well as comedy, popular entertainment, and "world class" factual output.

    Up to 370 people will be made redundant in BBC News by 2012, but the process is expected to be pushed through "as fast as possible".

    'Powerful vision'

    Mr Thompson told staff: "BBC News is, and will remain, the cornerstone of the whole organisation. The proportion of content spend that goes to News will go up not down over the coming years.

    "We have a powerful and coherent vision of what BBC News can become in a fully digital world.

    "We think we can significantly reduce duplication in newsgathering and production without our most important flagships like Today and Newsnight losing their distinctiveness and their character."

    Plans for BBC journalism include an enhanced on-demand news, sport and local information for the digital age.

    There are also plans to build content for younger audiences, including a multi-media Radio 1 Newsbeat.

    Mr Thompson added: "I've devoted almost my whole working life to this organisation, much of that not as a suit but as a rank-and-file programme-maker.

    "Like many of you, I love the BBC and what it stands for. I love it too much to see it drift steadily into irrelevance.

    "For the BBC then, success depends not just on riding the digital wave but on really living up to our audience's expectations of us in terms of quality."


    Responsible for Redundancies
    Vision Factual, children's and entertainment television 640 - 660
    Nations and Regions Regional news and programmes 510 - 550
    News News for TV, radio and new media 355 - 370
    Future Media & Technology Online, mobile, interactive, archives 120 - 130
    Audio and Music Music radio, audio on other platforms 65 - 75
    Sport Sport on TV, radio and new media Up to 20
    Professional Services Marketing, legal, finance etc Up to 75

    BBC計劃裁減兩千多名員工 工會將發動罷工








    2007年10月12日 星期五

    People are very worried about childhood


    探討英格蘭小學教育前景的"Primary Review"調查顯示,英格蘭的小學生活在恐懼中,承受的壓力來自各方面,包括考試、社會暴力、恐怖主義、同輩朋友、地球變暖等。








    《泰晤士報》說,工黨政府一項主要教育政策是為提高五歲以下兒童發展的"Sure Start"計劃,這個調查結果使人質疑這個計劃的成效。

    October 12, 2007

    Pressure of tests ‘means primary school pupils lose their childhood’


    Children at primary schools are being forced to grow up too soon and face ”intolerable pressure” from both the regime of testing in schools and fears about commercialism in the outside world, research suggests.

    There is widespread concern that family life is breaking down and the culture of respect is disappearing, according to a review of primary school education published today by Cambridge University and the Esmée Fairbairn charitable foundation.

    The review, based on discussions with children, teachers, parents and community groups, revealed a “pervasive anxiety” and a “sense of deep pessimism” about modern childhood.

    It also raises questions about whether starting school at 5 is too young and suggests that the creation of more middle schools, taking children from age nine to 13, may help to ease the transfer to secondary school.

    Robin Alexander, director of the review, said the general unease discovered by researchers as they travelled around the country, could not be easily explained away. “What struck us was that the overall message everywhere was the same. People are very worried about childhood,” he said.

    The researchers conducted 87 in-depth discussions about primary education at schools across England. In all, 750 people took part.

    Many children said they were very worried about the effects of climate change and global poverty, but this was countered by the optimism felt by those whose schools were actively involved in environmental issues.

    Pupils, parents and teachers were also concerned about national curriculum tests. Children were arguably the most relaxed on this issue, describing SATs tests as “scary”, but necessary.

    Teachers said that the Key Stage 2 national curriculum tests sat by children in Year 6 of primary school put the whole school under pressure and instead advocated informal assessment of the pupils by teachers.

    Teachers and teaching assistants thought the national curriculum was too rigid and left them with insufficient time to teach others things that they believed to be important.

    Parents complained that too many tests induced “mental shutdown”, putting children off learning. Most groups expressed concern about “the commercially-driven values” of society.

    Professor Alexander said that ministers may need to accept that improving school “standards” through tests and Ofsted judgments is not the same thing as raising the quality of education.

    The report, Community Soundings, is the first of a series of studies that will be published by the Primary Review in the lead up to a final document next year. Michael Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, said that the findings confirmed the Tory view that “society is broken”.

    But a spokeswoman for Department for Children, Schools and Families said that children at primary schools were not overtested.

    The head

    Tim Benson has been a head teacher for 20 years. He now runs Nelson Primary School in East Ham (Nicola Woolcock writes).

    Mr Benson, 52, described excessive testing as his bugbear. “There are now 130 criteria for assessing each five-year-old pupil, it’s absolutely ridiculous,” he said.

    “It’s not improving standards but making them more skilled at passing tests. The only people who can’t grasp this are in the Government.”

    The school is extremely large for a primary, with 900 pupils. A high proportion of children are from Sri Lanka, Africa, the Caribbean and, increasingly, Eastern Europe.

    Mr Benson said that behavioural standards of pupils had changed little during his career – but that some parents were now more in need of discipline than their children.

    “Behaviour has improved over the last five years, because part of the indigenous white population that used to be here caused most of the bad behaviour,” he added.

    The parent

    Caroline Morgan lives in Dorset with her husband and three children. William, 7, and Alice, 5, are at the Prince of Wales School in Dorchester, which caters for pupils until they reach year four (nine-year-olds). Isabella, 10, left last term and has just started at middle school.

    Mrs Morgan, 42, said: “The school has a fantastic head teacher who is sympathetic to the Scandinavian model, where children don’t start school until the age of 7. When Isabella was in her final year, she had one optional piece of homework a week. Now she has compulsory homework twice a week, it’s a shock to her.

    “I think the school’s ethos and atmosphere is lovely because once you get on that treadmill there’s no turning back. The school still gets really good academic results, but there is a balance and it also prioritises other things. They do a lot of school trips.

    “I do think children start school too young. They just look so tiny at four and it’s a long day.”

    The pupil

    Molly Webb, 10, is in Year 6 of St Andrew’s Church of England Primary School in Skegby, a village near Mansfield, Nottinghamshire. She said: “I like school because everyone is really nice and friendly and always really helpful. All the teachers are really nice.

    “I like learning about numeracy and literacy, and also doing drama, art and design and technology. I use the computer and we store data in it and learn how to find things out. It’s very useful.

    “At playtime we play things like stick-in-the-mud, skipping and hand-clapping games.

    “I’ve taken a mental maths test and my SATs tests in year two. I like tests because I like to see how I’m getting on. I don’t feel like there is too much pressure.

    “We’ve learned how to recycle in schools and use different bins in the classroom. We were asked, if we were in charge of the world how we could change it to stop pollution. I would make it so there weren’t so many cars causing pollution.”

    2007年10月9日 星期二

    裂縫: bbc , Royal post, Tate







    BBC目前聘用23,000名員工,當中18,000人為核心公共廣播服務,其他則是BBC商業分支機構BBC Worldwide和BBC國際台的員工。














    2007年10月8日 星期一

    world's worst poet

    New Tay disaster: William McGonagall faces challenge to title of world's worst poet

    WILLIAM Topaz McGonagall is under threat of being knocked from his pedestal as the world's worst poet by a little-known Londoner.

    The 19th century Scots bard's notorious lament for the Tay Bridge Disaster of 1879 has been challenged by a single appalling last line by English doggerel merchant, Theophile Jules-Henri Marzials: "Drop / Dead. / Plop, flop. / Plop."

    The poem is titled A Tragedy. Its opening lines: "Death! / Plop. / The barges down in the river flop. / Flop, / plop," suggest the author is thinking about suicide.
    The 1873 collection of verse in which it was published, The Gallery of Pigeons, was once highly praised.
    But the latest edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography says it is now claimed to be the worst ever written.

    Philip Carter, the dictionary's publication editor, said: "McGonagall was included in the dictionary for the first time in 2004, as by the late 20th century his work had gained notoriety.
    "Marzials was said to be the author of the worst-ever poem and he is included in this edition for that and other reasons.

    "Both are included on their respective merits and we will make their two lives available on the dictionary's online home page so people have the opportunity to read and compare and decide who was the worst for themselves."

    Critics say it is a close call who is the most awful. Kathryn Petras, editor of the book The Worst Poem Ever Written in the English Language, said: "It is no easy task to designate one very bad poem as the absolute epitome of awfulness. But in going through hundreds of selections, one poem stood out, A Tragedy, which, indeed, it was."

    But Dr Gerrard Carruthers, a senior lecturer on Scottish literature at Glasgow University, said: "A Tragedy is an awful poem, but incredibly, it has more emotional engagement than anything McGonagall ever achieves."

    This article: http://news.scotsman.com/arts.cfm?id=1604692007
    Last updated: 07-Oct-07 00:28 BST

    2007年10月6日 星期六

    The Squirrel Wars

    who's who

    October 7, 2007

    The Squirrel Wars

    When you think of England, Rupert Redesdale is who you think of. He has a slanting forehead, a nose shaped like an adze and the pink face of an aristocrat from the Georgian era. But in fact his family is far older: it is one of five in Britain that can trace its roots directly back to William the Conqueror, the last successful invader of England, in 1066. “Our original name was Bertram,” he told me recently. “We were Normans.” Redesdale, a 40-year-old baron, can stand on a Northumberland hilltop and see the Rede Valley, with the Rede River running through it. He is able to say things like, “Our family had a castle in Mitford, but Robert the Bruce, the sod, knocked it down.”

    I first met Lord Redesdale one day in August in the Lake District, about 80 miles southwest of his home in the Rede Valley. The Lake District, in the north of England, is on the front lines of a new Hundred Years’ War. It is a war between rodents. Since the 19th century, gray squirrels, an American import, have been overtaking Britain’s native red squirrels and claiming their territory. The grays have moved up from the south of England, thinning out the reds along the way. The reds now survive mostly in Scotland and the English counties, like Northumberland, that border it. The grays are larger and tougher and meaner than the reds. They can eat newly fallen acorns, and the reds cannot. They cross open lands that the reds are scared of. They are more sociable than reds, allowing for higher population densities. Although gray males cannot mate with red females, they often intimidate red males out of doing so. “It’s like: ‘That’s my girl. You move away!’ ” Redesdale said.

    The situation has now reached a crisis point: there are only an estimated 160,000 red squirrels left in Britain, whereas there are more than 2 million grays. Without human intervention, reds could be gone from England in 10 years. The red squirrel is a national icon, and the British government is trying hard to save it. Deliberately killing a red squirrel or disturbing its nest, called a drey, is a crime. Last year the government set up more than a dozen refuges for red squirrels in the north of England. The country’s National Lottery granted £626,000 to a group called Save Our Squirrels to run the reserves. Save Our Squirrels, or S.O.S., is a who’s who of British conservation organizations, among them the Mammals Trust and Natural England. It has a toll-free number for reporting sightings of grays and reds and works to raise public awareness of the red’s plight.

    Redesdale, too, has planted his standard on behalf of the red army. Last year, with a grant of £148,000 from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, he founded an organization called the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership. The work of Redesdale’s organization is different from that of S.O.S. It shoots, or traps and then smashes on the head, every gray it can find. It currently has 20 core members, with another 150 or so irregulars.

    The day I met Redesdale, he had broken off the long summer holiday from the House of Lords to try to enlist new recruits. A woman named Sue Southworth, the proprietor of the Squirrels Pantry Tea Room, was holding a meeting in her home in Cockermouth on the red squirrel. Redesdale had driven two hours to be there. He told me he knew the crowd would not be big, but his organization practices retail species elimination — he says he wants a trap in every backyard from Carlisle to Newcastle — and every pair of hands counts. He is enthusiastic and unapologetic about his work and does not use euphemisms the way the S.O.S. organizations do. “What is this ‘method of cranial concussion’?” Redesdale asked Southworth and the two other women who met him in Southworth’s high-ceilinged living room, quoting something he had heard at a red-squirrel preservation conference. “Why not just say ‘hit on the head’? Sounds better.”

    Red squirrels evoke strong emotions in many Britons, especially in the north where people still grow up seeing them. And to be sure, these women, Southworth in particular, were passionate about them. There was a set of Beatrix Potter figurines on a shelf in Southworth’s living room, including one of Squirrel Nutkin, the eponymous red squirrel of one of Potter’s best-known books, and there were red-squirrel pillows and fleece blankets. Outside in her garden, Southworth had a red-squirrel topiary, with two bumps for paws, evocative of the Venus of Willendorf in shrub.

    “Can I, um, suggest something?” Redesdale said to the three women. He was seated on a couch with a red-squirrel throw. “I was thinking . . . it would be great to form a sort of mobile kill group.” He explained: “We just knock on people’s doors and find out if there’s a gray and get them to put the traps in.” One person a day, he said, would go around and do the actual killings. The women gave Redesdale a “Candid Camera” look. Was this a joke?

    Redesdale doesn’t travel alone. Always by his side is a man named Paul Parker. Parker is a professional pest controller from Newcastle. He keeps 300 dead grays in his freezer, seven of them skinned, waiting for the day he will have time to cook them. When I asked Redesdale how many squirrels the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership had killed to date, he said, “We’ve taken 2,000 whatsis. . . .” and Parker added, in his heavy Newcastle accent, “2,000 — 300 — 32.” They laughed like boys killing flies for sport.

    “And then at the end of the week,” Redesdale continued, speaking to the three women, “we’ll probably have 1,000 squirrels taken out. If we do that, that will knock them back two years in their advance.” He added, “We’d get a lot of publicity.”

    “And the fun of killing them as well,” Parker said. Parker and Redesdale laughed again, Falstaff and Prince Hal. This time the women smiled too, a bit nervously.

    So did the women want to be part of the solution? Redesdale asked.

    They hesitated. Redesdale and Parker seemed like pranksters. On the other hand, they were government-financed pranksters.

    “Aye,” they said.

    “Brilliant,” Redesdale said.

    Parker took out his business card. The women looked a bit doubtful again. It had a three-dimensional image of a mole on it and the words: “Ants, Bees, Wasps, Bed bugs, Fleas. Cluster flies, Woodworm, Snails. Rapid response.”

    The first gray squirrels came to Britain to amuse the rich, probably in the early 19th century. Landed gentry kept grays in cages as animal exemplars of can-do Yankee spirit. But in 1876, the gray passed from guest to resident in the British Isles. A Mr. Brocklehurst, who had brought over gray squirrels from America, released two on his property near Cheshire in central England. Many more releases took place. The wealthy had grown bored of the grays and set them loose.

    They spread quickly. By 1910, they were spotted in Woburn, about 50 miles to the northwest of London, and they reached Wales, 150 miles away, by the mid-1920s. Few Britons were pleased, but little was done about the problem. It was the more numerous native red squirrel that was in the rifle sights of the time. In the early decades of the century, for instance, a hunting association called the Highland Squirrel Club killed 82,000 red squirrels, in part to protect the timber industry. (Squirrels damage trees by stripping off the bark.)

    But over time the red squirrel became beloved in Britain. It supplanted the realm’s old icon, the lion, as the symbol of a gentler, more evolved nation. There was Squirrel Nutkin, Potter’s irreverent playful red, and also Tufty Fluffytail, the Safety Squirrel, a public-service creation whose warnings about danger on the road began in the early 1950s and lasted until the ’80s. As the red rose in popularity, the gray sank in public esteem. Potter’s attempt to follow up Squirrel Nutkin with a story about a gray squirrel, Timmy Tiptoes, did not achieve the same success. In 1922, a government permanent secretary was quoted in The Times of London calling grays “sneaking, thieving, fascinating little alien villains.”

    A nationalist subtext attached to the objections to the grays. “I know of more than one patriotic Englishman who has been embittered against the whole American nation on account of the presence of their squirrels in his garden,” wrote the Oxford squirrel authority A. D. Middleton in 1931. When the Forestry Commission began an investigation in the late ’20s of the effect of grays, a New York Times article bore the headline “American Squirrel on Trial for His Life in England” and suggested a fair jury would be hard to find. In 1932, Britain indicted the gray: it classed it as a pest and made it a crime to release one into the wild. That meant there was only one way out for any gray caught in a trap. A National Anti-Grey Squirrel Campaign enforced the sentence.

    Many bad things were said about grays at the time, but then as now, the heart of the English objection to the grays comes down to this: they outcompete the reds. They are simply better at the job of being squirrels. Britain’s taste for unfettered competition has always been fitful, and how much it tipped the playing field in favor of the reds varied. At first, the job of controlling grays was largely left to the private landowners who had first imported them. But as the grays pushed up England, the government got involved. Beginning in the 1930s, it offered half a shilling per gray-squirrel tail, eventually raising the bounty to 2. The arrangement was politically popular but flawed: farmers and ranchers had a good reason to kill gray squirrels but no reason to eliminate them entirely. In the late ’50s, the government called off the program after estimating that there were more grays than before. From then until the early 2000s, and especially during the Thatcher-Major years, when the British government re-enthroned competition in Britain, the gray was left alone, and it extended its range, at the expense of the red, from the top of Wales to the Scottish border.

    Redesdale and Parker didn’t tell me there was going to be a gray squirrel in the trunk of their car. We were in the gift shop at the south end of the Northumberland national park, near the town of Hexham. It was the day after the meeting in Sue Southworth’s living room, and Redesdale had promised to take me to see a place where he had cleared out grays and the reds had come back in. He and Parker had been busy. The gray toll was now 2,353, up 21 from the day before.

    Redesdale sat with Parker, who was dressed in the exterminator outfit he wears: toxic-green sweater and pants. With them was a local groundskeeper. They were looking at maps of Northumberland, seeing how the war was going. Redesdale explained the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership to the groundskeeper. “So you on board for being part of the killing team?” he asked the man.



    Redesdale has a strained relationship with the main red-squirrel protection groups: they need him; they call him sometimes when they get a gray squirrel sighting over their toll-free hot line; but he takes up a lot of their time. Carri Nicholson, the project manager for S.O.S., told me that she thinks of Redesdale as a kind of naughty child. “If you can’t play nicely, you’ll have to go to your room,” she said she tells him.

    Most of all, S.O.S. officials say they wish Redesdale would trap squirrels only where reds and grays are currently competing, in the north, rather than in areas more toward the south, like Hexham, which are considered a lost cause. “Lord Redesdale wants to get rid of grays all over Northumberland,” Peter Lurz, an ecologist at Newcastle University, told me. “I think it’s a tall order. You’re dealing with a rodent that has two litters a year.” He added, “Unless you remove 70 percent of the rodents you’re just making room for the litters.” He suggested that Redesdale’s efforts had only “psychological impact.”

    Lurz was an architect of the plan for the red-squirrel reserves that the government established last year: 16 in the north of England. He based his plan on the observation he made in the field that because the red squirrel is smaller than the gray, it can live on less food. It does fine, for instance, in a conifer forest, without rich acorns and beechnuts; in such an environment the grays will leave for a better habitat elsewhere. As it happens, the large conifer forests in Britain are in the north, where the reds remain. According to the initial government plan, S.O.S. would monitor the red and gray squirrel populations in the refuges. The Forestry Commission would replenish conifer trees that make the habitat desirable for reds. And the government would establish buffer zones along the perimeters — places where it would encourage landowners to kill any grays they found. The reserves seemed a fitting solution for postcolonial Britain. The gray would keep what it had won. The red, like the British themselves, would content itself with a small homeland in return for peace.

    The refuges might have held the grays back, at least for a while, but as they were being created, it became clear to Lurz that any contact between grays and reds — even the minimal amount occurring in the refuges — was going to be catastrophic. This is because grays have yet another weapon in their arsenal: they carry a virus, to which they appear to be immune, that kills the reds. The disease, called squirrelpox, is awful to see: it turns the soft tissues around their eyes, ears and nose to sludge. Death comes within two weeks. Last summer, Lurz, having carefully studied squirrel-population records, calculated that where infected grays mixed with reds, the reds very quickly disappeared. “It was too much of a coincidence,” Lurz told me. In fact, he noted, “dirty” grays took land away from reds at roughly 20 times the rate healthy grays did.

    Lurz estimates that two-thirds of grays carry the squirrelpox virus. In light of Lurz’s work, it was clear that buffer zones alone would not save the red squirrels. The only solution was to start killing grays and to kill them quickly. Scotland, which has refuges that are administered separately from those of England and Wales, took up arms. It hired two culling officers to trap at key spots along its border with England. (I asked to meet with them but was told that “for their safety” I would not be allowed.)

    In England, however, nothing similar happened. The blue-chip organizations associated with S.O.S. spoke passionately of saving the reds, but, sensitive to the opposition of animal-rights groups, they have not made trapping a priority. “They just keep faffing around,” Redesdale says. He calls them “talking shops.” In fact, the hands of S.O.S. are somewhat tied: its National Lottery grant specifically forbids using its funds to cull grays. “Until we can get better funding,” Nicholson, the project manager for S.O.S., says, “the most we can achieve is stasis.”

    There may not really be any reason to do more: red squirrels, after all, are not scarce outside the British Isles. In fact, worldwide — reds live throughout Europe and Asia — they probably outnumber grays. It is only in Britain (and more recently in Italy, where grays were introduced in 1948) that the red is considered threatened. In addition, Britain is not a place where killing animals goes down easily anymore. Animal-rights advocates put themselves between the hunter and the fox he pursued until hunting with hounds was outlawed a few years ago after extensive parliamentary debate. Highways have toad crossings. Many people prefer to build little bridges for squirrels over roadways — the S.O.S. Web site provides a blueprint — than to spend their time killing animals.

    This mood shifts only when an animal threatens the carefully set ecological dinner party that is rural England. I saw this force at work when Redesdale and Parker set out to convert a woman at the gift shop at the Northumberland national park. Like many people Redesdale talks to, she was at first surprised at what he told her. She said she thought she was part of the effort already: she supported Save Our Squirrels.

    Redesdale clarified: “There are two organizations. They promote red squirrels; we kill grays. We just kill grays.”

    “We just kill grays, that’s all,” Parker echoed.

    The woman, who looked to be in her 60s, gave the “Candid Camera” look.

    “But surely the two go together, don’t they?” she asked.

    Redesdale explained why they did not. He said that to preserve reds you had to wage war on the grays without pity.

    “We used to often see red squirrels, but I don’t think we’ve seen any recently,” the woman said.

    Redesdale laid out the details of his trapping plan. “We can probably give you a trap today — we just have to get rid of the occupant,” Redesdale said, referring to the one in the trunk of his car. He and Parker laughed. Redesdale gave his handsome goofy smile, flashed his excellent teeth.

    The woman held on: “It’s a shame because they are quite nice in a way” — grays — “when they are climbing the tree.”

    Redesdale broke in: “If they weren’t wiping out the reds we wouldn’t be doing this. The other thing is they do wipe out the birds.”

    This seemed to give her pause. Songbirds are popular in rural England. “I had a nice mistle thrush nesting at the bottom of my garden and the magpies came,” she remembered sadly.

    Sensing his opportunity, Redesdale told Parker to give the woman his card.

    She took it and read it. She looked like she had been tricked.

    “We’ve got to get you a proper card made up,” Redesdale said to Parker.

    In March 2006, the House of Lords debated the question of the red squirrel, one of its favorites. It was logical that the august body would be interested in red squirrels. Many members of the House own lots of land, their taste tends to be nostalgic and they themselves might be seen as endangered — the government has cut the number of hereditary peers in the House nearly 90 percent in the last decade.

    Earl Peel rose to call attention to the decline in numbers of the reds and its significance. “To many,” he said, “the red squirrel represents an integral part of our woodland landscape — an iconic creature, immortalized by Beatrix Potter, through the charismatic character of Squirrel Nutkin.” But before turning his attention to Squirrel Nutkin, Earl Peel proposed conducting “a brief health check” of various other Beatrix Potter characters. “Starting with Tabitha Twitchit and Tom Kitten” — both cats — “they are truly on top of their game. . . . Let us now consider the status of Mr. Tod, the fox. On second thoughts, given that he has taken up 700 hours of parliamentary time, it would be somewhat hypocritical of me to prolong the debate.” He went on: “That brings me on seamlessly to the other really controversial character that graced the class of 1912 — and that of course is Tommy Brock,” Potter’s badger. “Hasn’t he done well?”

    Peel continued: “Despite suffering from and carrying tuberculosis, he has successfully managed to establish himself in the hearts and minds of the nation as being more important than dairy cows or, indeed, farmers’ livelihoods, and like Mr. Tod, has managed to secure his very own legislation.”

    Peel concluded his health check: “Squirrel Nutkin must look back on his alma mater and think to himself, ‘How could it have all gone so wretchedly wrong for me?’ ”

    Redesdale rose to congratulate Peel. “My Lords,” he said, “I thank the noble earl, Lord Peel, for initiating the debate and commend him for his bravery. It takes a brave man to initiate a debate that had Radio 4 saying this morning that he would be calling for an immediate cull of gray squirrels. I hate to say that his postbag will immediately be filled with letters from irate people who love gray squirrels.”

    He continued: “One of the problems in the public perception is that gray squirrels are the only squirrels they see. They see them in parks and gardens, and they are sociable and friendly animals. Yesterday, I walked through St. James’s Park and watched tourists feeding gray squirrels crisps by hand. In Regent’s Park, a gray squirrel came up to my son and me and actually climbed up my leg to look in my pocket.”

    Lord Hoyle soon cut off Redesdale: “My Lords, perhaps they are friendlier in Regent’s Park than they are in St. James’s Park. One that ran up my leg bit me.”

    Redesdale resumed: “Efforts involving buffer zones have been undertaken to halt the advance of the gray squirrel. It is unfortunate that in Northumberland, when there was talk of a cull of gray squirrels, there was such public outcry that much of that work had to be deferred.”

    Lady Saltoun of Abernethy, the 21st to hold that title in Scotland, then spoke to point out the inherent superiority of the red over the gray squirrel: “Red squirrels,” she said, “are rather like quiet, well-behaved people who do not make a nuisance or an exhibition of themselves or commit crimes and so do not get themselves into the papers in the vulgar way gray squirrels do.” She continued: “Red squirrels do not strip bark from trees; damage arable crops, market gardens and garden plants; dig up bulb and corms from recently sown seed; eat birds’ eggs; or eat telephone wires and electricity cables, as gray squirrels do.” Lady Saltoun suggested some research be done on whether gray squirrels tasted good. She foresaw a fight at the dinner table: “I have a nasty feeling that . . . children in particular would say, ‘Oh, no, I couldn’t possibly eat that,’ just as they say they cannot eat dear little bunny rabbits. But this is worth having a look at.”

    Lord Inglewood concluded with a call to action. “We have been far too intellectual about this and tried to be far too clever,” he said. The matter was simple: “There has to be at least some killing of gray squirrels.” To Inglewood’s mind, British governments over the years, regardless of political persuasion, were guilty of “squeamishness.” And “as far as the red squirrel is concerned,” he went on, “squeamishness spells nemesis for this lovely and iconic creature. Those involved with trying to preserve the red squirrel in this country have adopted a policy of appeasement towards the grays. The red squirrels have had Chamberlains and not Churchills, but it is Churchills that they need.” Inglewood finished with a dark prediction: “Unless something radical and imaginative is done . . . Squirrel Nutkin and his friends and relations are going to be toast.”

    The gray in the trunk of the car still awaited us. “We gray squirrels who are about to die salute you,” Redesdale said. We walked back to the vehicle, parked near the gift shop. Parker had said he wanted me to shoot the squirrel — that grays were in Britain was, after all, my fault as an American — and I did not want to. He had also asked Redesdale to shoot the squirrel, and he did not want to either. Now Redesdale seemed to be summoning his nerve. “We keep on being told by the bunny-huggers, you know the wildlife-trust people, I mean I’m all for — I mean killing things to me is bad,” he said. “I’m all for it but at some point you have to nail your colors to the mast.”

    I had by that point learned more about Redesdale: he and his wife met at a human rights conference; he has mixed feelings about being a lord (“No one really cares if it’s you that shows up”); when he first sat in the House of Lords, at age 23, he looked across at a cousin who was the Tory whip and remembers thinking, “I’d rather eat warm vomit,” after which he joined the Liberal Democrats, a party that, he points out proudly, is to the left of Labor; and he does not like guns (“I don’t see the sport in hunting”).

    All the same, Redesdale was the officer; Parker, the enlisted man. If Redesdale did not kill the squirrel, he would never be able to lead. And had his family not led for 1,000 years? So we drove to an isolated parking lot, and Parker took the cage out of the trunk. He put the trap — “it’s me killing trap,” he said — on the asphalt. This was the place this animal was going to die.

    The squirrel, large and dark gray with just a hint of red to his fur, wheeled around the cage looking for a way out. Then it made a piteous noise, a whee-whee-whee sound. Parker handed the air rifle to Redesdale, and he pointed it.

    “That’s the, uh, trigger?” Redesdale said.

    “That’s right,” Parker said.

    The squirrel paused. Redesdale steadied the barrel over its head. Then came the shot.

    “You’ve got it,” Parker said softly.

    But he hadn’t.

    “Is it dead?” I asked stupidly.

    The squirrel raced around the cage, blood dripping from somewhere around its mouth. WHEE-WHEE-WHEE. The same noise.

    “I know it’s bad when they run,” Redesdale apologized. I thought I saw the warm-vomit look in his eyes.

    The squirrel kept running and finally stopped when it realized there was still nowhere to go. Redesdale once more placed the rifle over its head. POP! The squirrel fell on its side and shook, scrabbled and shimmied twice around the cage like a break dancer.

    “They’re dead when they do that, aren’t they?” Redesdale said, sounding more Macbeth than Prince Hal. Parker assured him it was dead: these were just the death throes. Parker put the dead squirrel — number 2,354 — and the cage back in the trunk, and we trooped out of the parking lot to look for reds.

    Parker said he had done a lot of trapping in the area. Some of his traps are just cages on the ground, but here Parker had set one about two feet off the ground, connecting a blackthorn tree and a pine tree via a cross-strut. Some bird feed and a half a coconut dangled above. The gray was supposed to sample the coconut and feed and then come down the trunk and try Parker’s trademark hazelnuts, drilled for easy access, inside the trap. The smell of the grays caught earlier in the trap is supposed to keep the reds away. But today the trap was empty. An owl waited high in a tree, looking down at us from above its white-ruffled collar. Redesdale’s mobile rang. It was Sky TV. They wanted him to be on to talk about the new foot-and-mouth outbreak and were willing to send a van to his home. “Brilliant,” he said.

    Then we saw movement in the blackthorn tree. There was a red-orange flash high off the ground. We drew together and watched a red squirrel from behind a stone building as it silently tumbled and turned. In direct sunlight, its plush tail seemed almost blonde. Other times it was russet. It stood on its hind legs.

    This was the red-squirrel money shot, the one on the fund-raising postcards: rounded rump, fluffy russet tail curled up and over the back, almost to the point of touching the squirrel’s head. The head itself is inclined slightly, and the paws are brought together around the acorn or beechnut. In this position the red looks like a tiny country vicar giving advice to a young married couple or like a trusted servant who is suggesting gently that His Grace might wish to come to dinner. Seen in profile, the paws are where breasts would be and convey a sense of the delicacy and femininity of the animal.

    I could see even from below how soft the red’s fur was. Its belly was white, giving it a two-toned Twenties sort of elegance. Its plushness made me think of bunnies or maybe even baby bears or lemurs. The red squirrel’s head was wide and gave the face a roundness, which combined with the huge ears suggested a newborn baby. There were no tufts on this one — reds loose their tufts in summer — but even without them, it looked like an old man who had rolled out of bed.

    Like millions of Americans, I see gray squirrels in my yard every day. They have that helter-skelter, fritzed-out agitated and agitating quality, that urban jumpiness. They always seem to be watching you. This red, by contrast, was uninterested in us, benignly disdainful, like one of the spirits of the forest, the trolls under the bridge and the wise little sprites who appear on tree limbs to play tricks. It wanted to be there. It belonged there. But it was hard to believe it would be there long.


    nervous, high-strung, edgy

    I have been jumpy ever since the plane landed.


    Out of order, beyond economic repair esp. of electronic equipment, similar to "fried".

    This capacitor is fritzed.

    D. T. Max, a frequent contributor, is the author of “The Family That Couldn’t Sleep: A Medical Mystery,” a scientific and cultural history of prion diseases, which is now out in paperback.