I was writing about the gannets of Bass Rock. I visited them last summer, part of a project for the Wildlife Trusts, which I’ll be able to tell you about in a few weeks. It was a wonderful trip to what is probably the most spectacular wildlife site in Britain.
So I was blasting away at the keyboard in my efforts to describe the way the birds plunge from one hundred feet into the sea, and I was doing so with immense enthusiasm. But I have a problem in such circumstances: I go far too quick and fill the screen with typos. So then I bring in the spell-corrector and all is well. Or almost.
In my frenzies I had spelled gannets as ganets or ganest or gnets. I read through the piece as soon as I had raced through the corrections – and discovered that, though I had achieved consistency, I had lost the gannets. Instead, I had described – vividly, dramatically, compellingly — the way genets dive from dizzy heights into the ocean.
Genets are great favourites of mine, animals I know well from my obsessive relationship with the Luangwa Valley in Zambia. They’re small spotty carnivores, cat-like but with a nose like a glace cherry. They’re not actually cats though; they’re viverids, from a group of nearly 40 species that includes civets. And genets are the most wonderfully winning little things, generally seen at the top of tree, caught in the beam of a spotlight and looking down at you in so captivating a manner that you long to take one home in your baggage.
My friend Gid, who lives in the Valley, adopted an orphaned genet kit and called it Pippin. I had the honour of meeting Pippin: he was the most entrancing animal you have ever seen in your life and he moved like a ripple moving across a bolt of silk. Pippin eventually adapted himself back into the wild; it was all rather a triumph, in a quiet way.
But the idea of poor Pippin plummeting into the sea with a bemused expression on his spotty face, hitting the waves with a great splash of his cherry nose, has been troubling me for a week. Still, the idea
of Bass Rock standing proud of the sea and home to 150,000 genets is something to savour.