Donald MacInnes: All creatures great and small get the St Tiggywinkles treatment


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The Independent Online

Given the upmarket location of this newspaper's offices, the surrounding pavements tend to be populated by charity collectors in primary-coloured cagoules, adopting the "Hello! You look ace! And rich! Let's be direct debit friends!" stance as you approach. And while there are surely wiser things to do than to admit this in a national newspaper, I must confess I never stop and proffer my bank details.

I did it once, when I was just off the boat from Scotland, but that's another tale for another time.

Please understand, my response to these people has nothing to do with the causes they represent or with me being cheap... I just hate getting bothered in the street. Someone could hold a tenner out to me and I would probably let it fall to the ground as quickly as if they had offered me a photo of Gok Wan showering.

However, I may have found a charity for which I would be willing to be hassled: the St Tiggywinkles Wildlife Hospital. Due to its Potteresque name, I assumed this place just dealt with squashed hedgehogs, but the other day a colleague put me right.

Mike lives quite near the hospital, which sits in the poverty-blighted slum that is rural Buckinghamshire. Recently, his daughters Elise and Lydie had invited some friends for a sleepover. Those parents among you will appreciate that by 6am on Sunday, the assembled cast of St Trinian's had probably only been asleep for half an hour. Nevertheless, they were suddenly wide awake and screaming, due to the fact the cat had dragged in a blackbird, which looked if not at Death's door, certainly at the end of Death's garden path.

It was carted off to St Tiggywinkles, where the staff no doubt dashed around, shouting: "Code black! 20cc of seeds, stat!"

Praise be to Attenborough, the bird was saved, so everybody was happy.

Actually, what made me happy was when Mike relayed what one nurse had told him. It seems there are few limits to the variety of forlorn fauna which punters drop off, from rescued muntjacks (it's a deer, dear), to hedgehogs (yay!), as well as assorted other critters. Someone even showed up once carrying a bumblebee with a broken wing. That's a BEE. With a broken wing.

I began wondering what other emergencies they might have had to deal with. A fly with a cough? A slug with measles? Actually, what it brought to mind most of all was the Monty Python song, Eric the Half-a-Bee, which you should Google and listen to immediately. Altogether now: "I love my hive employee, bisected accidentally, one summer afternoon by me..."

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