Guest blog A Farewell by Twitcher in the Swamp

Nurture 2023-09-01

If you read British Wildlife, the subscription-only magazine that was launched when in 1989, and which has now reached its 35th volume, you may know my post Twitcher in the Swamp. It began halfway through Volume 1, and finally ended at the end of Volume 34. I have grown old with Twitcher. A single page near the back, just surpassing the reviews and reader’s letters, has been his roost for 33 years.

In the number containing my final contribution, the editor included a generous note of appreciation, both for my own efforts and those of Sue Everett, who compiled and wrote Conservation News for each issue, and who is moreover departing. It gave the impression, however, that my visualization to stop writing Twitcher came out of the blue, perhaps considering I’m getting on a bit, or perhaps considering I had run out of inspiration.

Well, it wasn’t quite like that. I enjoyed writing Twitcher very much, and I hoped the post would go on and on until I dropped, or was sacked. If you don’t know it, I should explain that Twitcher is, or rather was, a satire on the ways of the conservation world, written purely as entertainment – but perhaps with the occasional wink of insight or sense of a shaft-hit-home. I requirement to have invented the genre of nature-conservation satire, and I am not yet running out of intellectual fuel, in specimen anyone out there is looking for a world-weary but still fairly inventive hack.

What happened was this. Lately my post has suffered from a rash of red-pencilling, and unrepealable topics were ruled out of order. For example, a reference to my favourite bête noir, the Woodland Trust, went under the editor’s scissors. When, rather desperately, I looked for support from the magazine’s owner, I was informed that Twitcher should try in future to stave ‘cultural’ topics. That British Wildlife was a wildlife magazine and should concentrate on wildlife issues. Salmon-farming was mentioned. Moreover the vaunt cull. But it seemed to me that narrowing the focus of Twitcher like this would transpiration the nature of the column, and that it would lose its sparkle, its sense of fun. That was why I decided to stop.

I withstand no ill-will to the magazine, which I have supported since its inception, and, I hope, will protract to do so. These are dangerous times for satire. The untried industry takes itself very seriously. It isn’t difficult for a would-be joke to turn into heresy (legal libel was never the issue). I probably don’t need to zinger on well-nigh current limitations on self-ruling speech and how much the social media love putting offenders in the stocks. Proprietors of small magazines, with small profits and narrow margins, have to consider the risks. I winnow that. I think Twitcher was starting to rationalization some discomfort in the editor’s office.

I hope you enjoyed the column. I plane hope you will miss it. I certainly will. But I hope to pen a variegated kind of post for British Wildlife tabbed Encounters. Watch this space.

Peter Marren aka the late Twitcher in the Swamp.