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Hash House Harriers
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YH3 Run No 1297, The Empress, Harrogate, 4th June 2007 Hare – Stick Scribe – Jake the Peg Springwatch Special Welcome to Springwatch on a very special evening. Hashers from all over the planet are gathering tonight, each one exhibiting its customary and peculiar social and mating behaviours. Exotic and rarely-seen species are all around including an owl, a weasel, a dark horse, a black widow spider and, remarkably, the first glimpse of a sasquatch since AGPU 2007. Local species are hopping in all over from neighbouring gardens in Harrogate. Others are arriving overland from nearby conurbations such as Leeds and Bradford. Some hardy individuals have even been wafted from as far as Scotland, Ghana and South Africa. It is a true delight to watch them perform their greeting, preening and courtship rituals before they go off on their inevitable forward journey. But what drives them on in such frenzy? Some experts say it is the scent of flour. Others have observed an unusual symbiosis with hares (involving mutual mobbing, abuse and grasping of the nether regions). Most likely, however, they are all driven by alcohol addiction – yet more victims of mankind’s interference with his fellow creatures. And suddenly, they’re off – this cacophony of grunting, belching, farting and strange calls is absolutely piercing! We’re struggling to keep them in sight as they weave their way through the surrounding parkland, streets and ginnels. Sometimes they break up into tiny groups, only to be found seconds later lurking and posturing beside the uniquely patterned droppings which prove that these creatures really are hasheriae. We see local juveniles trying to disrupt the hashers’ display. The youngsters weave in and out in vain, calling sporadically. One by one, however, we see them being picked off mercilessly by this pack of wily old critters, most of which have journeyed tens – indeed hundreds – of times before. Within seconds the juveniles are spent and are seen retreating dejectedly to the comfort of their Woodbines and alcopops. Railway cuttings, bridges, hospitals, cliff edges, recreation grounds, suburbs, bandstands, parks, ponds and city-centre buildings. No environment can escape the hashers’ scrutiny and profanity. Even as we speak Betty’s refined atmosphere is being polluted as the pack roosts outside for a few minutes before sundown. On this occasion, the clientele are fortunate and will not endure the customary singing and trouser-dropping displays that normally accompany such gatherings. The most cirrhosis-ridden hashers have already picked up the distant scent of beer and within a few minutes the whole pack will be back safely in its natural habitat – the hostelry. No-one has, until now, observed these creatures’ post-hash rituals in their entirety. This year, however, our clever Springwatch boys and girls have been all over this hashing den for the last three months and have secreted a total of 173 cameras amongst the optics, pool tables, flagstones, drainpipes and plates of chips. We only have one shot at getting this right, so fingers crossed. SHHHHHHhhhhhh!....... I’ll have to whisper now….. The hashers are ushered outside by their leader (auctor religiosus, common name Matilda) who, you’ll remember, earned this privilege during the AGPU rutting season in early February. He will now proceed by calling other hashers to account, either individually or in small groups, and will award alcohol to each one by means of praise or punishment. Let’s see who’s first up. It’s the hare! This old hasher (baculum pilii albi, common name Stick) has been round the block more times than we care to mention. Matching white pumps and hair, combined with modest stature, make him easy to spot with a pair of 8 by 30 binoculars. He was first ringed here in 1958 and has returned many times each year since. His beer goes down in a flash and he slinks back towards the crowd. But wait! He’s called back along with – now this is a surprise – the entire Harrogate hash (genus hasheriae harrogatiae illigitimii). They have evolved entirely apart from their close Yorkshire cousins (genus hasheriae yorksheriae ex cantabrigensis) since the mid 1980’s. The existence of these shy, secretive creatures was only recently confirmed after an embarrassing clash of trails in Boston Spa. Nonetheless, the Yorkshire hash was itself almost brought to the brink of extinction this May after an outbreak of the deadly H3N1 strain of avian flu during a migration to North Wales. But I digress. Thirteen half pints are consumed by the harrogatiae before the other hashers can complete their mating calls. I don’t believe it – another surprise! The landlord (as head of this roost) is beckoning the rowdy hashers back inside the pub to entertain his brood. Unprecedented! Quick - Let’s go to Barcam – and we see – two members of, of, of … aha! - a very rare species indeed – expatriae durbanii (common names Headbutt or Long Hose). Their expansive and very public mating instincts have got them in trouble once more, this time involving an innocent pair of stuffed hares. Let’s hope they survive without being locked up until the end of the series. Next up – sine subucula (common name Rivet). Inevitably she has been found sans culottes (and worse). As we watch, she is reunited with her errant underwear and dispatched to cover her dignity properly. This is such a feast for the eyes! Noone has ever seen stirips caledoniae (common name Stumpy) in the flesh before. Simultaneously elusive and energetic, this endangered species is confined almost exclusively to the Forth-Clyde valley, close to its essential diet of Tennent’s lager and fried Mars bars. This fine example was ringed in Edinburgh and is behaving true to form. Marvellous! Another rare event – a species naming. A juvenile, known previously only as quartix wetnix, is now classified as a species in her own right - iaculator saxa (common name Stonethrower). We see a frenzy of flour and beer droppings over the newly anointed harriette. As the landlord jarrodius jarrodius is rewarded for his exemplary hunting and gathering that have sated all the hashers’ appetites, further rituals, involving the drawing of lots, continue for a while before the hashers melt away into the night, out of sight and home to their lairs. And so our privileged insight into this strange World draws to a close. Tomorrow on Springwatch we’ll catch up with our sparrows, voles and moths. See you then! On On from Jake Oddie.


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