The Fellowship of Life
Batty about bats
This is National Bat Week in Britain. Once considered a sinister or repulsive little creature which, given half a chance, would entangle itself in your hair so thoroughly that you had to be shaved bald to get rid of it, the bat seems now, thanks to our greener sensibilities and to brilliant propaganda, to be well on the way to becoming everyone's favourite small mammal. A protected species cherished by owners or neighbours of belfries, barns and attics throughout the land, it is no longer pursued with tennis rackets and shudders, but displayed proudly, watched fondly and, for this particular week, studied with special loving care by bat groups and their groupies.
Has Batman had something to do with it? Or close-up photographs of soft-eyed bat faces with large appealing ears? Or, at long last, a laudable sense of the worth and interest and importance of all God's creatures, including this particularly fascinating one?
A certain anthropomorphic quality is also suggested by the bat lobby: as with dolphins, now considered to have almost superhuman qualities of intelligence and articulateness, bats are put across as almost human in sensibility and even life-style; wheeling, heroic creatures of night and sky, but, being mammals, closer to us than owls or nightingales. A mother bat bears a single baby a year, feeds it on milk, looks after it in a nursery. Bat colonies are no longer considered clusters of dirty vermin to be smoked out or at least avoided but enviable examples of happy communal living, which, again given half a chance, could give us lessons in neighbourliness and parenthood.
What the Nature conservancy Council hand-outs with pleasant silliness call batty events have been taking place with rip-roaring enthusiasm: a bat count, to try to establish how many bats there are in the whole of Britain; a survey of bat habitats; bat talks, bat packs, local bat events and practical tips on caring for orphaned bats and building a bat-box in the garden. We are also given some useless memorable information such as the fact that if all Britain's Horse-shoe Bats were put on the scales together, they would still weigh less than Nigel Lawson.
From the 'Notebook' section of The Tablet dated 30 June 1990
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