The fifth of January, 2011: Fox Busters, St Tiggywinkles, Farming Friends and RIP Mr King-Smith

He was a whiz at cryptic crosswords. He was “delightfully old-fashioned” and had “disarmingly good manners”. He was rubbish at long division. He was an atheist. He wrote lovely books about wildlife. Sounds like a bally hero to me. Dick King-Smith, the author of The Fox Busters (1978) and The Sheep-Pig (1983), has died, aged 88.

I don’t think I read The Sheep Pig, but I do remember The Fox Busters (something to do with chickens dive-bombing foxes with specially hardened eggs, I think). It’s King-Smith’s ‘Watch’ books – Country Watch in particular, but also Town Watch and Water Watch – that I remember most fondly. Country Watch, along with Gerald Durrell’s The Amateur Naturalist and Terry Nutkins on the telly, did as much as anything to get me interested in wildlife (what’s more, King-Smith’s persuasive postscript talked me into bunging a hard-earned fiver to St bloody Tiggywinkles).

So, thanks, Mr King-Smith. I wasn’t sure what to post by way of tribute, my copies of his books being too crumbly (or too lost) for scanning – so here’s a great King-Smith quote:

“The books spring up like mushrooms now. Perhaps I should see a doctor about it.”

And here’s a nice photo of some King-Smithesque Gloucestershire farmland.

Picture taken – not inappropriately, given that the charmingly incompetent King-Smith needed all the help he could get, farming-wise – from the farmers’ support network Gloucestershire Farming Friends.

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