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Flight of Fancy

In my Young by Name column for the October issue of the multiple-award-winning Tetbury Advertiser, I’ve been musing about superheroes and superpowers

One of the few Marvel Movies superheroes I can actually recognise (Photo by Judeus Samson via Unsplash)

Losing the plot early on while watching a Marvel movie with my teenage daughter, I fell to wondering which of its superheroes’ superpowers I would most like to have myself.

Thor’s exceptional physical strength, de rigueur for most superheroes, doesn’t appeal. While it might come in handy for removing a stubborn lid from a jam jar, it’s not something I’d have much use for in my everyday life. Besides, my handy gadget from Lakeland serves the same purpose just as well.

Nor is there much call in the Cotswolds for Captain America’s martial arts expertise, especially while social distancing rules apply. Turning green and increasing my bodyweight ten-fold, like the Hulk, is a non-starter. I’d need a whole new wardrobe. Jessica Jones’ immunity to mind control might come in handy in our era of social media manipulation, but I’d far rather have her ability to fly.

Flight Envy

Being able to take off and soar like a bird would be an undeniably environmentally-friendly form of transport, even more so than my electric car. Just think how many calories it would burn. Plus it would be far more fun than going to the gym.

photo of pheasant on road
The least careful road user I know – the pheasant (Photo by Michael Hoyt via Unsplash)

This makes me wonder why pheasants, designed by nature to fly, are so reluctant to take to the air whenever a car approaches them. There’s always a stand-off between bird and vehicle. Just when you’re starting to think your car is more likely to become airborne than they are, they tease you with a Gallic shrug of resignation and take flight with an “Oh, if I must” expression.

The pheasant’s first choice of tactic to escape from any threat is to run. This is not the smartest move in a single-track country lane with high banks and hedgerows on either side, allowing them only to run ahead of an approaching vehicle rather than to divert out of its path. Although I admire their optimism, their physiology dictates that they will never outrun my car. However, they are capable of flying at up to 60mph*. Surely it’s a no-brainer?

Bird Brain

photo of pheasant in undergrowth
Possibly the worst camouflaged bird in Britain? Even so, on the endangered species list, it rates as “of least concern” due to the zillions bred for shooting each year (Photo by Zoltan Tasi via Unsplash)

And there we reach the heart of the matter. If logic is not the pheasant’s long suit, we can blame the size of its brain: a mere 4g**. Although impressive compared to a goldfish’s 0.097g of little grey calls, the pheasant doesn’t fare much better than the hedgehog (3.35g), and we all know how ineffective the hedgehog’s preferred self-defence method is against cars. (In case you’re wondering, your own brain weighs around 1400g.)

All this makes me wonder which superpower pheasants would pick to enhance their chances of survival on the road. Given their track record on decision-making, my money is on invisibility.

* Source: https://www.pheasantsforever.org/Habitat/Pheasant-Facts.aspx

** Source of brain size data: faculty.washington.edu.chudler/facts.html


In Other News

cover of The Natter of KnittersDespite a post-cold voice like gravel, I really enjoyed giving a talk via Zoom to a local WI (Women’s Institute) group earlier this week, talking about how living in a Cotswold village has inspired my novels.

Pictured left is the cover of a story that was actually inspired by another WI, from Chudleigh, down in Devon, about a yarnbombing event that goes wrong. The Natter of Knitters is a quick read (about 20% the length of one of my novels) and is available in ebook and a slim postcard-sized paperback – the perfect stocking-filler, for anyone who is already thinking about Christmas shopping! Part of my new Tales from Wendlebury Barrow series, it features all your favourite characters from the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and introduces new ones too.

Cover of Trick or Murder?Like The Natter of Knitters, the second Sophie Sayers novel Trick or Murder? takes place during the autumn. This story sees a conflict in Wendlebury Barrow between Halloween and Guy Fawkes’ Night, fuelled by the strange new vicar, the Reverend Neep.

In the village where I live in real life, Hawkesbury Upton, we usually celebrate both of these occasions in style, but due to Covid restrictions, there’ll sadly be no trick or treating or bonfire parties this year. However, we’re now gearing up for both a Pumpkin Trail along the route of our HU5K fun run, an event I helped found eight years ago, and the annual Scarecrow Trail, for which this year I’ve rashly volunteered to make not one but two scarecrows, one to go outside my house and the other outside the parish church of St Mary’s. So you can guess what I’ll be doing this weekend…

The theme for this year’s Scarecrow Trail is “Heroes and Villains” – and I’ll show you photos of mine once the trails have started. It’s all top secret till then – but it’s a safe bet that neither of mine will be of Marvel Superheroes!

Buying Links

You can buy all my books online or order paperbacks from your local bookshop. Here are the online buying links for the books mentioned above:

Author:

English author of warm, witty novels including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries and the Staffroom at St Bride's School series, both set in the Cotswolds. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival. UK Ambassador for the Alliance of Independent Authors and for the children's reading charity, Read for Good. Public speaker for the Type 1 Diabetes charity JDRF.

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