I would never had picked up A Prickly Affair: the charm of the hedgehog by Hugh Warwick it if wasn’t for a conversation with my good friends Calliste and Oli, who were making sure that changes they were making in their garden would provide a good home for hedgehogs. As I learnt about why it mattered and how to do it, Calliste told me that her friend Hugh had written a great book devoted to a lifelong love affair with these spiky little creatures. It sounded like a book I had to read.
I’ve very glad I did. It’s a great story of many dark, cold, wet nights Hugh has spent in fields in beautiful parts of the UK trying to find, and trying to protect, hedgehogs. As you follow Hugh’s journey through life and around the world you learn about why hedgehogs are important and what we can all do to make sure they remain a key part of the UK’s habitat.
In contrast, as soon as I saw Labrador by Ben Fogle in a bookshop whilst browsing I knew it would go on my reading list. I watched Castaway in 2000 – the first reality TV show I think we really had in the UK – so I remember Ben Fogle and his dog Inca as they both got famous through the series. Labrador is a charming book about their life together, about Ben looking after Inca when she started having fits, about Ben meeting his wife through their dogs, and a sad, sad end that comes at the beginning of the book, which I found really hard to read.
Along the way Ben explores the history of the Labrador, tracing its origins back to Canada, through the English aristocracy and the breed’s royal connections. I learned a lot of interesting facts along the way, but mainly it was just a pleasure to read a book by someone who is clearly as dotty about Labs as I am.
These are two charming books by two men besotted by animals. Reading them was a very nice way to start the year.