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      As part of the build-up to Christmas, we bring you today a representative from the RSPB, the Royal Society for the Pampering of Birds, and he is going to answer all your queries about the treatment of birds over the Christmas period.
         Trevor Hardsmith has lived in a hide in the Norfolk marshes for the last five years among wild birds, and has not talked to a human in all that time, so he is well qualified as a bird expert.
         Your questions, please !

       Dear Trevor Hardsmith, I have got a forty-pound turkey...
       Trevor Hardsmith writes Let's get one thing clear. I am not here to help with the cooking of turkeys. If you want help with cooking, go to Jamie Oliver or Delia Smith or one of those murdering swine. I am a friend of birds, not a killer!
       Dear Trevor Hardsmith, Let me finish. I have got a live forty pound turkey which has been living with us for three years, ever since we saved it form the butcher's knife one Christmas. It has been a delightful, if ugly pet, and we have got very fond of it. However, I think the time has come to return it to the wild so that it can resume its noble existence as a creature of nature. But I am not sure where the wild would be. Where should I release it?

   Trevor Hardsmith writes Stop! Don't do it! In heaven's name, don't let a turkey free in this or any country! A turkey, as we know it, is a bloated, cumbersome descendant of the sprightly bird that the Pilgrim Fathers found in America. It could not last in the wild. It would not be able to feed itself, or breed, or indeed survive the vicious traffic on the roads round Norwich. And because you have kept it as a pet, you have cruelly unsuited it for a natural life.

   Dear Trevor Hardsmith, Then what shall I do with it?

   Trevor Hardsmith writes: The best thing to do is cut its throat, stuff and roast it for Christmas. Any good cook book will give you the details. Next!

   Dear Trevor Hardsmith, I have a bird table in my garden which is very busy over the Christmas period, and I feel that I ought to give my garden birds a treat on the big day itself...


    Trevor Hardsmith writes: Good idea. Why not rig up a small TV set on the table so that the birds can watch the Queen's Speech as well? And in the evening they can have a look at the Morecambe and Wise Special, or whatever it is they put on telly these days.

    Dear Trevor Hardsmith, Are you taking the mickey or what?

     Trevor Hardsmith writes: Not at all. When you have been living in a hide in the Norfolk marshes for the last five years, with only the lonely piping of the birds for company, and only the soughing of the wind for amusement, you crave for a little light entertainment relief. I had a small portable TV for a while in that hide. I was watching it one evening when I looked up and saw, at the entrance to the hide, a family of grebes watching over my shoulder. It was a re-run of an old Alan Partridge programme. They didn't watch for long. I can't blame them. It was rather disrespectful to the county of Norfolk.

     Dear Trevor Hardsmith, I'm sorry - did you say "soughing of the wind"

         Trevor Hardsmith writes: It's in the dictionary. Have a look.         
         Dear Trevor Hardsmith, Which dictionary?

      Trevor Hardsmith writes: The "Concise Dictionary of Wind Noises". Next!

      Dear Trevor Hardsmith, I feel very sorry for all the migrant birds who go south at the end of the summer and thus miss all our winter festivities. What can a swallow or a swift know of Christmas? Should we save some Xmas pud for them?

      Trevor Hardsmith writes: Don't bother. They get some wonderful Muslim feasts down in those hot places, and are spoilt rotten by the PSRB.
          Dear Trevor Hardsmith, "PSRB" ?
          Trevor Hardsmith writes:  The "Prophet's Society for the Refreshment of Birds".
          Dear Trevor Hardsmith, What is a calling bird ?
          Trevor Hardsmith writes: I have no idea.
          Dear Trevor Hardsmith, Then what is a French hen ?
          Trevor Hardsmith writes: Right ! We've got the time-wasters and trouble-makers in! That's it! No more! I'm off back to the Norfolk marshes!

          Do YOU have any seasonal Yuletide bird-linked queries for Trevor Hardsmith? If so, I'm afraid you're too late. Come back next year, please.

The Independent Thursday Dec 19 02

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