Olympic hedgehogs

One of the least talked about aspects of the all-consuming Olympics has been the apparent absence of hedgehogs. This is not to say that the Olympics were without charm. The opening ceremony revealed a double-act as wonderful as Morecambe and Wise – the Rattle and Bean show. And the when Mary Poppins rescued the NHS from the Tories I was giddy with delight (though I think I had drunk a glass of cider by then).

The radiance of Mo’s smile and lightening Bolt’s relaxed chatting up of a track attendant – along with all the tears from people who can do so much more than I could ever dream – the bits I saw were fun. But, here was the Olympics taking place in the home of the hedgehog (I know there are hedgehogs all over Europe, Asia and Africa, but we pay more attention to them) and this most iconic of species was significantly missing.

In fact I had given up any hope of seeing evidence of a hedgehog when I settled down to catch some of the closing ceremony. What a ceremony, as different to the clever opening as possible. Many of the most interesting contributors were on tape, and while it was great to have a little Python, the opportunity to do a Boyle and use the song to attack the Romans was missed, and, as Chris TT wrote in his searing critique – while the opening ceremony embraced every culture, here the ‘exotic’ drummers were clearly ‘different’.

Then there was a little bit of fun, I have always had a soft spot for Queen – and Brian May in particular. His unflashy playing of the guitar carries a great deal of heart – and what a lot of noise one man can make. Then as some woman joined him on stage I noticed something on the shoulders of his coat. On his left, a picture of a badger, and on the right, a fox.

Because there is more to May than brilliance at the guitar (and a PhD in Astrophysics) – he also cares about wildlife. Cares? That is not strong enough. He has a deep love of the natural world with which I can relate and he is using his considerable pulling power to raise awareness of the threats these wonderful animals face. He has set up a campaigning organisation ‘Save Me’ which has been vocal in its opposition to the badger cull – hence the badger on his sleeve. And he is also rallying support to oppose a return to fox hunting, something that many of the Tories would love.

Bri’s highly visible protest (watched by an estimated 26 million people in the UK) has raised a storm of protest in the farming press. But … still no hedgehog?

Then there was a shot from the back as he played – there was another image on his jacket – but we never got a good look at it. Perhaps it was just decoration? But that seemed unlikely given the clear intent of the other images.

I scoured the internet for photographs to see if I could get a clear view – in the end it was Bri’s charity that supplied the answer. The image contained a Buzzard, two herons, an adder and … a hedgehog. Brian May, you are truly wonderful.

If that was not enough hedgehog-excitement for one night, as the great multi-flamed cauldron began to open out as part of the final ritual it dawned on me, there it was, one great big fiery hedgehog. It had been there, curled up, all along. And I had not been drinking either!

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4 Comments

  1. Posted 15 August 2012 at 08:03 | Permalink

    Thank you Hugh for an enlightening, informed and hilarious piece – a joy to read as ever, and straight from the heart. The image of the magnificent blazing hedgehog will remain at the back of my eyes for a long time to come – I hadn’t seen it before, but my eyes have been opened by your words. How extraordinary, that those ‘without a voice’ were able to enter the ceremony so subversively and unforgettably. And I found an otter holt very close to the stadium! Animals unite..

  2. Posted 15 August 2012 at 18:24 | Permalink

    Lovely ‘hog,
    enlightening and perceptive as the above piece is, I am distressed to notice a certain insectophobic tendency, as you carefully, and doubtless unintentionally, (intent would indicate a far more dangerous degree of speciesism) omit the two magnificent dragonflies, rising to sweep across the planet, on the back of RH May’s jacket. O, and isn’t the hedgehog there, actually a fox – blinded by your passions, perhaps

    I commend our otter-holt-finding cousin for her investigative tendencies. We amphibian types did our best to infiltrate the games but discovered that so many of our heroic human athletes look up, out and away and not so much at where their feet are treading. There were casualties

    With respect and gifts of earthworms,
    Some Old Toad

  3. Posted 18 August 2012 at 16:46 | Permalink

    Fantastic piece, hilarious and heartfelt! How did i not notice that little hedgehog tucked up on the back on Brian Mays jacket (and yes it is a hedgehog as mentioned on his website!) And then to also miss the giant flaming hedgehog at the end of the ceremony! There is hope yet, and hope i have that people are becoming more hedgehog aware and friendly!! Thank You Hugh!

  4. Posted 25 August 2012 at 21:25 | Permalink

    Actually those Indian dancers in the ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ sequence were a finely judged riposte to Cameron’s idiotic remark about physical education in schools earlier in the week. “The trouble we have had with targets up to now, which was two hours a week, is that a lot of schools were meeting that by doing things like Indian dance or whatever, that you and I probably wouldn’t think of as sport”. I thought they did well to get it in so quick. Unless it was all a coincidence in which case it did look very ‘othering’.

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  1. By What a weekend … | Hugh Warwick on 3 September 2012 at 10:28

    [...] (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_GB/all.js#xfbml=1&appId=129990657094004"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Hugh Warwick Hedgehog-loving ecologist and author Skip to content HomeBooksPodcastsGalleryDanceHedgehogsPlayPortraitsProtestThe Beauty in the BeastBats, dragons and sparrowsOwls, robins and foxesToads, otters, beavers and addersVoles, moths and dolphinsArticlesEventsContact « Olympic hedgehogs [...]

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  • Hugh Warwick holding a toad

  • Hugh Warwick is an ecologist and writer with a particular fondness for hedgehogs. His first book, A Prickly Affair, remains the only book to have accolades from both Jeanette Winterson and Ann Widdecombe on the cover. The Beauty in the Beast is published in May 2012 and takes him on a journey in search of other animals. And in November 2012 he returns to hedgehogs with a book about the iconography of the animal.

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