'Chipwatch and emu attacks – silly season has arrived early. And the British media is not alone…'

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By Paula Thelwell

THE ‘silly season’, when news outlets turn to more trivial material in the absence of important news, has arrived early.

Headline-grabbing stories can be a bit thin on the ground over the summer holidays, as just about everyone you need to talk to is away.

It is not solely a British phenomenon. Americans call it the ‘slow news season’, in Germany it is known as Sommerloch (summer [news] hole), in France it is called the ‘dead’ or ‘dull’ ‘season and in Holland, Denmark and Norway it is the season of cucumber news!

Judging by the puerile stories about the shallow lives of those who appear in reality TV shows, that fill the pages of the tabloids day-after-day, every month of the year is the silly season.

I flatly refuse to describe anyone who appears in such so-called entertainment programmes as ‘stars’.

Tom Cruise, Daniel Craig, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Elton John, Meryl Streep, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Dame Judi Dench can readily be described as such.

True stars are people of great talent whose universal critical acclaim and box-office appeal transcends the generations – not those who seek fame by inviting cameras into their daily doings.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s return to the actual silly season.

Back in the day, it was a rare opportunity to get animal-themed stories into the JEP.

I can lay claim to three silly season classics – two of which got a mention on BBC Radio Four’s News Quiz.

Those stories were about tortoises in a sanctuary in St Helier going sex-mad during the climax of the eclipse in 1999 and Morris dancers who wanted to travel to the Balkans, when the former Yugoslavia was being torn apart by war and ethnic cleansing, to entertain refugees in camps.

There you are, displaced, your home and village destroyed, menfolk dead or held prisoner and you are told there’s entertainment coming to cheer you up.

Who could that be? U2, the Rolling Stones or Nirvana?

Oh no, folk dancers from Jersey who leap around as they hit each other with sticks.

The third story, which just made page three of the paper, was a real ‘dead parrot’ tale.

The National Trust was looking for an ethnically correct parrot for Moulin de Quétivel. Apparently, the moth-eaten specimen on loan from Jersey Heritage was from the wrong country for the appropriate period of history being interpreted at the mill.

I can’t recall which species either were but they were not pining for the fjords!

A local antique dealer responded to the appeal for a pukka parrot and all was well.

Very silly season

As an avid reader of newspapers, alas more online these days, I have noted an increase in the number of bizarre animal stories appearing in the last week or so.

Mind you, any diversion from the bun fights between Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – both equally appalling candidates for British Prime Minister – is welcome relief.

A 15-minute chase, The Times reported last week, through the Wiltshire town of Malmesbury, Wiltshire, was brought to a halt by an emu.

After a vehicle smashed into a shop front, the occupants – a man and woman raced off on foot pursued by a witness to the accident – local chef Dean Wade in his cooking whites, over back gardens, allotments and fields until they reached an animal sanctuary.

Here, the driver was set upon by an emu and in spite of using kung fu fighting techniques to ward it off, the big bird came out on top.

This altercation slowed their escape and with the help of a police helicopter, the couple were apprehended by the local constabulary.

Chip watch

As a survey revealed that 53% of Brits have been mugged by seagulls while eating outside, a story appeared in the UK media of a rather special task force.

Chipwatch is a seaside resort initiative – in conjunction with herring-gull experts from Exeter University – whereby a mobile seagull-deterrent crew, armed with reflective umbrellas, decoy hawks and a new seagull-distracting music track called Bye Gull Bye, take on the pesky pests.

Launched at Brighton beach on 22 July and Yorkshire’s popular North Sea resort, Scarborough two days later, Chipwatch zones were created. Once inside people can enjoy their fish and chips without fear of reliving a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s scary movie The Birds, while listening to endless replays of Bye Gull Bye.

Could it be a Eurovision winner.

‘Tyger Tyger, burning bright!’

Maharashtra in India was the source of another animal story that began on Twitter to spread around the world.

A policeman stepped into the middle of a road during rush hour to halt motor vehicles and scooters so that a tiger could cross safely. India is home to 70% of the world’s tigers and where a project to save these majestic beasts was launched in 1973.

Efforts are paying off as the population is on the increase – from 1,411 in 2006 to 2,967 in 2018.

Not such a silly season story but there are many more to come before September.

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