Coyote and Squirrel Camp

 

Time was, before social media, global warming or Donald Trump, that there were a lot more dangerous animals around squirrel camp.  10-foot beavers would chomp off campers’s heads, giant mosquitos would drink their blood with a single slurp, great ostrich-sized predatory grouse would ambush campers with a loud thud and peck out their large intestines, and terrifying whuzmucks would prowl the highways at night, waylaying trucks and dragging the drivers into the ditch. Bears were the least of ones’ worries. This was altogether too much for the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short), as students were expensive and their parents were beginning to ask questions, so they decided to do something. They resolved to send up one of their students to deal with these problem animals. This student was known as Coyote.

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Coyote was smart as a fox, swift as a hare, as playful as a bear cub and as loving of practical jokes as a frat boy. Coyote loved the forest and all its wonders, and they loved Coyote back, even if the animals were sometimes the victim of one of Coyote’s practical jokes. Coyote once stuck some fallen gray jay feathers into the rump of a chickadee, giving the small bird a hilariously long tail. Oh how Coyote laughed as the chickajay tried to fly, and how Coyote roared when it becme stuck amongst the twigs of its nest. Puzzlingly the female birds seemed to like the stupidly long tail, but Coyote decided enough was enough and removed the handicap from the poor bird. Coyote even created a study grid all to itself, choosing the best location with the finest view of the whole valley. From here Coyote would frolic and plan the next set of practical jokes. Around the grid Coyote scampered playing tricks on the squirrels by swapping babies between nests and crying with silent laughter as mother squirrels raised young from another mother squirrel entirely!

Eventually however, the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) rang Coyote to remind it its duties, and so Coyote set to work. Alongside its other qualities Coyote possessed magic in a small amount. The typically proved useful when playing jokes on the animals or convincing people to fund more research. This time however Coyote used its magic to make the forest safer. Coyote first cast a great spell to make the fearsome whuzmucks disappear. It worked, but a little too well, wiping out every whuzmuck around the world and even removing all mentions of them from textbooks or scientific articles. Hence to this day, you can find no whuzmucks anywhere, nor read about them any place. This great spell drained Coyote’s magic, meaning spells to get rid of the other animals were less potent. Rather than wait to be magicked away, beaver, mosquito and grouse tried to trap Coyote and stop the spells. Because of this, Coyote had to be very wary when moving around the forest, avoiding anything that looked or smelt like a trap, a trait Coyote’s descendants still possess to this day. While sniffing out and avoiding traps, Coyote cast spells to shrink each of beaver, mosquito and grouse. This made them far less dangerous to anyone in the woods. Mosquito was still incredibly annoying however, so Coyote shrank it further, and made mosquito susceptible to the cold, ensuring it would only be in the forest for the few short summer months. This second spell diminished Coyote’s magic even further, leaving enough for only one final piece of magic. For this final spell Coyote made beaver and grouse vegetarian, so that they would not take even teeny-tiny bites out of the campers. And so the forest was made safe.

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artist’s impression

With all of Coyote’s magic gone, it decided to stay up in the woods it loved so much, and start a family. Coyote’s descendants live there still, and on cold clear mornings you can hear them talking and yammering in high tones as they try and remember the words to re-cast some of Coyote’s original spells. Beaver, mosquito and grouse are now amiable members of the forest, although Mosquito still nips a bit of blood now and again from campers, for old times sake. And whenever grouse has been reminiscing most strongly, it sneaks into the long grass, wait for a camper to walk past, and then springs an ambush, flying between their legs with a great thud and terrifying the poor soul, leaving the grouse to chuckle and smile and remember when they were great predatory beasts long ago, before social media, climate change, Donald Trump, and the one called Coyote.

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How Squirrel Camp got its bear fence

Squirrel camp, like many wilderness camps, has an electrical fence surrounding it. Normally they are called bear fences, but they can in fact keep many kinds of animals out. There was a time in fact, where there was no fence at all. The bears knew all the food in camp was safely locked away in coolers or tupawares or tins or other containers that require opposable thumbs to open. Therefore, they did not bother camp, and the campers were happy. Occasionally the camper would spot a bear opposite a grid, browsing for berries or inspecting a dead porcupine, and they would wave to the bear, and it would wave back, and everyone would continue with their days. However, an unfortunate series of events would cause this homo-ursine utopia to unravel.

People of all shapes and sizes come to work at squirrel camp, and some of these people are of particularly dashing shape.  Ones of these dashing types was walking along the highway after a morning of squirrelling, when a family from a nearby town pulled up. They enquired as to whether she was lost, and upon learning that she was not, enquired about her motivation for being in the Yukon. She explained what Squirrel Camp was and their research goals in a manner interesting and accurate but not complex or condescending, bid them good day, and strolled back for her lunch. Now it may have been her charming manner, it may have been her good leg tone and core stability after days of trapping in the field, or it may have been the way the autumnal sun caught her auburn locks in a frankly heavenly manner, but the eldest son in the family was captivated. While she talked he stared, while she gestured he drooled, and when she walked off she had already stepped into his dreams. They went back to their home town and all he could picture was her face, her hair, her luminous trapping vest! She had said they were others, and before long he had convinced himself there was a whole group of dashing young ecologists holed up in the woods. If only he could get back to her or find one like her he would be truly happy. But devoid of a car, much charm or practically any redeeming features, it seemed hopeless. 

However, one of his few qualities was cunning, and after a few nights spent sleepless in his box room under the staircase, he hatched a plot. Our desperate teen, “Chet”, assembled his cronies, “Chad” and “Chez”. He carefully slipped the keys to his father’s new truck into his pocket and stole into the night. Chet, Chad and Chez gathered in the dark of the garage. The others were scared and timid, but Chet bribed them with promises of a harem of dashing women, and threatened them with jabs of his hockey stick, and eventually they got into the truck. None of them knew how to drive, but fortunately this was an automatic, so after some squabbling, bickering and tedious name calling, Chad wrenched the truck into drive and off they went. Fortunately it was dark, so no police officers noticed them rolling past stop signs, and none of the teens had watched Nascar, meaning turning both left and right was not alien to them. Once out of the town they became giddy with excitement. Chad revved the engine, Chet pounded the horn, and Chez turned their obnoxious nu-country up to the maximum. This cacophony of noise and raging hormones careered up the road through the woods. This disruption greatly disturbed the bears foraging on the roadside berry bushes, upsetting them greatly. To discover the source of this irritant they followed the truck up the road. Of course this then meant that when Chet, Chad and Chez arrived at Squirrel camp, a posse of bears was not too far away.

Chet, Chad and Chez tumbled out the truck and began hooting and hollering. Chet yowled and cried for his love, while Chad and Chez yelped and wailed for anything at all. Alarmed by this noise, the campers tumbled out of the cookshack to see what was amiss. Unfortunately, at this moment the posse of bears arrived at camp. It was chaos. Chet, Chad and Chez scattered. Bears growled and prowled around the camp after them, and the campers tried simultaneously to find and eject Chet, Chad and Chez, while dodging around pissed-off bears. There were many near-misses, close scrapes and on more than one occasion a bear’s maw was only a hair’s breadth away. Finally though, Chet, Chad and Chez were corralled by the bears and the campers into their truck and sent packing. The bears dusted themselves off, took a couple of swigs of some cider they had unearthed in the chaos, and returned to the forest. Camp was a bit of a mess, and everyone was a bit shaken, but ultimately all was ok. The campers then agreed that such a thing could never happen again. Therefore, to preserve the chastity of camp from further bands of horny teenagers, the campers erected a crotch-high electric fence around camp to keep out those directed by their genitals. The bears however misunderstood this gesture, thinking it was directed at them after the cider pilfering. This mistrust grew between the bears and the campers, which was a sad outcome from such an unfortunate night.

So that is Squirrel camp got its “bear” fence. Over time Chad and Chez were forgotten, and the original purpose of the fence lost, so its ability to keep bears out was recognised as its function.  The bears largely stayed away from camp,  but occasionally they would sneak back into camp, looking for a sip of delicious  cider.  As for Chet, he became a psychology major, and spent his days diagnosing his infrequent dreams of a loud truck, angry bears, and shining auburn hair by the side of an open highway.

Squirrel camp and the great storm

Squirrel camp today is not completely like the camp first built. The original lacked a place to store new vs old eggs, or a spot for each persons’ electrical wires, or a place for hare poo, or other essential things. The original did however have all the huts to sleep in arranged together in a block. This provided warmth and security to the camper, who slept soundly. This was how the nights passed, with the days of spring, summer and autumn filled with work on all the animals of the boreal forest, from caterpillars to grouse, moose to wolverine.

One year in the not too distant past, as years tend to do, turned into winter. Oh my, what a winter. The wind howled, the snow blizzarded, and even the snow-shoe hares could be seen wearing little boots and mittens to keep warm. The campers huddled closer and closer around their stove each day to stay warm. One night of this dark and foul winter a particularly terrible storm blew in. The spruce trees heaved and swayed and the boreal animals hunkered down in their earthy homes. A particular strong gust swept through camp, and with a great crash picked up the sleeping huts and tossed them into the air. They were tumbled and tossed together, before being thrown back to the ground; scattered through the woods. Never had the camp seen such devastation.

The young ecologists were miraculously unharmed. But as they stepped out into the night, they moaned and wailed at what had become of their sleeping quarters. They slept the rest of the night in an awkward pile in their cookshack, and in the morning their gathered their tools and set to work. Seeing their great struggle to rebuild their homes, some of the animals of the boreal forest came out to help. The squirrels, being energetic with nimble paws and obsessed by neatness, dashed around gathering nuts and screws, which the humans ate or used to repair their huts appropriately. The snow-shoe hares hopped out of the woods and, being soft and fluffy and of calm dispositions, packed themselves around the campers, keeping them warm and soothing their worried brows. The lynx, being excellent and stealthy hunters, disappeared into the forest and fetched meat for the campers to sustain themselves while working hard on their huts. To all these animals the young ecologists were very grateful. However, other animals were not so helpful. The bears never rose from their hibernation, and slept through the whole ordeal. The coyotes snuck in through the unguarded date and stole away all the meat the lynx had collected, leaving the campers to subsist on the nuts the squirrels had bought. The moose and the wolverine decided they would prefer to go mountaineering instead and so only returned after all the work was done. And the less said about what the jays did with the chickadees when the ecologists’ backs were turned the better.

Despite this, working with the squirrels, the hares and the lynx the ecologists repaired the camp. They were greatly pleased with the help from the squirrels, hares and lynx, and so decided from then on to focus all of their research efforts into these majestic, helpful and interesting critters. The other animals would be left to their own devices in the woods, as they had left the campers. And it was ever thus

And so due to the great storm, that is why the ecologists at squirrel camp only study squirrels, hares and lynx, why all the sleeping huts are scattered around the woods, and, due to the to the coyotes’ deceit, why there is no meat to be found in the camp.

Squirrel camp and the northern lights

In the beginning there were three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). In the boreal forest. Before that there were squirrels and lynx and bears and other such creatures, but as they cannot hold pens to write their stories down we can hardly start with them, so we will start with the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). They conducted research in the boreal forest ad all its mysteries, and they were very happy with their work. They worked all day, and some nights, and the other nights they drank beer or told stories round a fire or avoided discussing that one time they all went skinny dipping as it was terribly embarrassing for all involved. They enjoyed their work so much and discovered so many interesting things that they decided to start bringing their students up to the forest to share in the discoveries. For this they needed a camp for their students to live and eat food out of tins and to conduct research, as that is how ecologists are made.

For this camps they drove an arbitrary distance along a road out of Haines Junction in the Yukon, Canada and turned left. They looked around but decided it was not quite right. They then drove another kilometre and turned right ad decided that this spot would do. The three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) were skilled builders and craftsmen, but there were limited tools and a small budget. Still, they constructed buildings to eat in, sleep in, enter data in and other necessary things for young ecologists. After they were done the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) looked at the camp they had created and saw that it was sufficient. They called down to their respective universities and summoned their students to the camp. They came in ones, twos and threes, bright eyed and bushy-tailed and excited to live and learn in the boreal ecosystem. The tall ecologist and the medium-height ecologist were optimists and, convinced they had keen and resourceful students in the same mould as themselves, were happy that all would be well. They smiled, clapped each other in the back, and went back to their permanent homes.
The short ecologist however was a little more pessimistic. He too knew he had keen and resourceful students, but was worried that up in the boreal, a long way from the city of Whitehorse and an even long way from civilisation, mishaps might befall the students. This possibility worried him greatly, and he paced up and down, wearing through three pairs of shoes in the process, which only increased his disquiet. He could not abandon the students he cared for so greatly, but he could not live in camp as he had his duties down south. Eventually, he hit upon a solution.Squirrel camp and the Northern Lights
In the beginning there were three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). In the boreal forest. Before that there were squirrels and lynx and bears and other such creatures, but as they cannot hold pens to write their stories down we can hardly start with them, so we will start with the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short). They conducted research in the boreal forest ad all its mysteries, and they were very happy with their work. They worked all day, and some nights, and the other nights they drank beer or told stories round a fire or avoided discussing that one time they all went skinny dipping as it was terribly embarrassing for all involved. They enjoyed their work so much and discovered so many interesting things that they decided to start bringing their students up to the forest to share in the discoveries. For this they needed a camp for their students to live and eat food out of tins and to conduct research, as that is how ecologists are made.

For this camps they drove an arbitrary distance along a road out of Haines Junction in the Yukon, Canada and turned left. They looked around but decided it was not quite right. They then drove another kilometre and turned right ad decided that this spot would do. The three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) were skilled builders and craftsmen, but there were limited tools and a small budget. Still, they constructed buildings to eat in, sleep in, enter data in and other necessary things for young ecologists. After they were done the three ecologists (one tall, one medium height, one short) looked at the camp they had created and saw that it was sufficient. They called down to their respective universities and summoned their students to the camp. They came in ones, twos and threes, bright eyed and bushy-tailed and excited to live and learn in the boreal ecosystem. The tall ecologist and the medium-height ecologist were optimists and, convinced they had keen and resourceful students in the same mould as themselves, were happy that all would be well. They smiled, clapped each other in the back, and went back to their permanent homes.

The short ecologist however was a little more pessimistic. He too knew he had keen and resourceful students, but was worried that up in the boreal, a long way from the city of Whitehorse and an even long way from civilisation, mishaps might befall the students. This possibility worried him greatly, and he paced up and down, wearing through three pairs of shoes in the process, which only increased his disquiet. He could not abandon the students he cared for so greatly, but he could not live in camp as he had his duties down south. Eventually, we hit upon a solution.

As you all know, each person is made up of good and bad, dark and light, yin and yang. The short ecologist knew this too, and that was his solution. He took his good side firmly in his fist and, in one motion, tore it out of himself and threw it into the sky above the camp. There it stayed. From the sky above camp his good side could watch over all the students and help them stay safe. This satisfied the short ecologist, and so he left to return to his permanent home. However, now he only had a dark side, and so was always grumpy and saying “harrumph” and tearing down others’ ideas. This made everyone slightly crotchety to him but he accepted it was worth it to keep the camp safe. And it was ever thus. Back at camp in the high, still Yukon, on cool dark nights, camper who turn their eyes skywards may catch a glimpse of the short ecologist’s good side, dancing and curving across the sky in pinks and reds, greens and golds, keeping them safe.

And that is why the short ecologist is always grumpy, why those in the camp in the woods are safe, and why there are sometimes there are colours dancing across the sky at night.

Woah, bear!

Online bear-awareness courses are a bit of a laugh. See a bear? Try to ascertain the species, whether it has seen you or not, and it if is behaving aggressively or defensively. Presumably while praying that you did leave your family pack of Snickers back home. And not in your ruck-sack. Oh dear…

At least they haven’t given me a false sense of confidence if I do come in contact with a bear. Perhaps that was the intention all along. Maybe there used to be a really good, informative online bear awareness course, with interactive videos and challenging scenarios and a scratch-and-sniff section, to prepare you most fully for a bear encounter. Perhaps this lead to too many hikers boldly striding up to bears, pointing out to the bear that it is merely a lone black bear and not a mother with cubs or a grizzly, and so that it is unlikely to attack said hiker unless it felt threatened, which of course lead to much mauling and rendering of expensive Gortex jackets and the soiling of expensive sweat wicking underwear and that sort of thing. So they did away with it and went back to the 1980s version. With questionable hair styles, questionable shot transitions, and more prosaic advice. The only good encounter with a bear is no encounter with a bear. Announce your presence by singing, walking loudly, or saying “Woah bear” every few strides. Noted. Thank you.

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woah, bear indeed

Now I am sure you are pleased that those striding into contact with bears will be prepared for it. Possibly elated. But why was I doing such a course? Well, as luck, ambition, and a first shaky step on the academic ladder would have it, I am heading up to the Canadian Yukon to carry out field work for my first post-doc after my PhD in evolutionary biology. “WITH BEARS?” Erm, nope. With a closely related mammal, the North American Red squirrel (coming from working on crickets and before that fruit flies anything quadrupedal and fluffy is pretty closely related.). I’m joining a bunch of other researchers, graduate students and volunteers up near Kluane national park to carry out the work that has, in part, been continuing for over 25 years, monitoring a population of the little ginger squirrely blighters. And as it’s a bit out in the wilds of Canada, there is indeed the small chance of encountering a bear. Hence the mandatory training.

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Terrifying…. Derek Bakken

Its always a bit daunting heading off on field work, especially when its new (I’ve blogged about this a little before, nice to see nothing has changed). Have I packed the right stuff, will I make the plane, will the camp be as rudimentary as some make out, while the work be easy or hard, will I learn quickly or drag everyone down? Exciting, but nerve wracking. But its what I am here for, so the bag is packed and my loins have been gird up. Lets go.

I may be able to do the odd blog post or upload the odd picture while I’m away, but no promises. So don’t assume silence means I did indeed encounter a bear, and failed to enact my training:

 

“Hmm lets see, humped shoulders, slightly upturned snout, large claws, yes indeed. Ooh, it’s seen me. Aggressive and defensive, bit of a box-to-box midfielder. And I brought my pack of Snickers. Oh shit wait, that’s not quite ri…”

Keep moving, just to be still

New country, new me. New sports, new food. New people, new office, similar routine. New bars, new beers, still get drunk, same old hangover. New job, same mission. Same blog, but from Canada.

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Pretty much what I was expecting (Jessica Wood, thecord.ca)

Having finished wandering through Morocco, Spain, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan and India, I am now becalmed in Southern Ontario, Canada. I have a new job, a new(ish) culture to learn about, but more importantly I have new sports to take in! Wintry, white framed sports. Apart from a minimum of skiing on a glorious and impromptu day in Iceland, and the compulsory skidding down a hill on a farm fertiliser bag in my childhood, I’ve never really dabbled in winter sports. The same is true for the vast majority of the world’s population, which does make me wonder whether they can capture what makes sport such a global phenomenon. But a Miracle on Ice, Eddie the Eagle and Jamaica’s bobsled team, these titular tales suggest the medium of movement, the degrees of the air, may not matter. But currently its summer, the ripe Ontario peaches fill the punnets of the market traders, and I have to find something else to talk about.

So Xingyi it is. A relative of Tai chi and Bagua in the Chinese martial art family, it is an “internal” art. This means that the focus is on activating body structures such as the ligaments, tendons and the skeletal system, to generate powerful motions and strong positions rather than the big muscle groups used more heavily in the “external” arts such as karate. It is part meditation, part fighting skill, and, perhaps because I get to wield a spear some of the time, I really like it.

Despite years of rugby, drinking in pubs, and being ginger, I’ve never got into a proper fight. So I’m not dreaming of cutting foes down or being admired for my prowess in the ring. Was always probably a bit scared of getting hurt. Probably afraid of getting knocked down by someone I didn’t expect it from. Probably just didn’t care about anything enough to want to fight someone for it. But I digress. For now, what I’m really loving is the constant, near mindless repetition.  Now that sounds daft, so let me explain. Learning is enjoyable, new things are enjoyable, and James Saper and the others at Stone Lantern are enjoyable company. Buts it a different aspect to it that I’m enjoying. You do an action: a cross-cut or a drill or the dragon, and then you do it again. Again. You or someone else tweaks it, and you go again. Something else now goes wrong. Tweak it, go again. We march relentless up and down (or for Bagua, step in endless circles) towards some distant ideal of the perfect form. The after work squat merchants grip, clean and jerk after us, they too in search of it. Dancers like us stare at the mirror, move, assess, criticise, and go again. Until skin chafes and blisters pop and blood seeps into seat-soaked socks. Have you ever been doing something and thought “nah that’s not what I wanted, I need to do that again”. Scoop up the can and aim for the bin you’ve just missed. Go for that keepy-uppy record again. Delete that last line and write it again.

James Saper (the boss, sensei, coach at Stone Lantern) set me up, going up and down with the crushing fits, or perhaps the pounding fists, and then went to help someone else. I stepped up and down, squeezing my punches closer to the midline of my body, or trying to spring off my back foot a little sharper each effort. James came back after a time, to see how I was getting on. “Fine” I remarked, and carried on. “Oh yes” he said, “you’re a rower aren’t you. I had one before, very happy with the repetition; just leave them to it”. I stopped then, as that link hadn’t occurred to me. In the year before leaving for Canada, rowing, specifically gig rowing had been my main sport. Now I was out of a boat, on land, learning some relatively obscure martial art form. They hadn’t seemed connected to me at all.

Hmmm….

But the link is of course repetition. When rowing, our mantra was “every stroke better than the last”. A straighter blade, a cleaner catch, a smoother exit, neater returns.  Every time, again and again. Describing it now, it sounds mind-numbingly dumb. Surely something like football or ice hockey over here where the fluidity keeps you permanently on your toes and so much more mentally stimulated was more attractive. As a spectator sport, the numbers speak for themselves.  But participation wise, martial arts are extremely popular. Do we all really like fighting, or is it some aspect of the repetition? Even other incredibly popular past-times such as fishing have the same element of the simple repetition. Cast, reel. Cast, reel. No fish? Never seems to stop them going back. Now any fisherman will tell you this is relaxing, not mind-numbing.  Rowing; its not dumb, its intense focus. Those martial art routines aren’t stationary repetitions; you’re constantly moving towards your inner goal. Call it centring, zen, relaxation, it doesn’t really matter. The point is we seem to achieve an inner calm, a stillness, when focusing on some repetitive action like this. Not just repeating it, but striving over and over again to make it better. In these modern times of shares and likes and retweets, there is still clearly plenty of room for the individual road, the long journey towards some pointless but simultaneously essential perfection.

Make that reflection in the mirror that bit taller, that bit brighter and that bit closer to your perfection. Smile. But you’re only one step of many, many closer. Step up. Go again.

One went to the cricket

 

Crash. Bang. Wallop. Hashim Amla smacks the ball over the boundary for a 6. The crowd roar. We jump and dance, throw confetti and wave signs. Cheerleaders gyrate around the ground. I’ve made some new friends and together we celebrate these batting heroics, this “rampage” as the bright video screens inform us. We settle down and wait for the next ball, eager for another explosion. Amla goes again, carving the ball high into the air. Only this time the ball falls short. Into the grateful hands of the fielding side. Out. The crowd roar. They jump and dance, throw confetti and wave signs. Cheerleaders gyrate once more. No matter that now the home side ebb where before they flowed. We celebrate the explosion, the action. This is Twenty20 cricket in India, the IPL (Indian Premier League) and it is brash, loud and immensely proud of it. Teams are assembled for millions, plucked from all corners, dressed in bright colours and set to do battle for our entertainment. Its curious to be at a ground where fans cheer both teams almost equally, but I guess that is why they are here. Not for their team, hard to feel attached to a constructed franchise, but to be entertained.

The home side, Kings XI Punjab, lost in the final over, to Sunrisers Hyderbad. So I was certainly entertained. But it was also a little perplexing. Wickets and runs from both sides were cheered, heroes on both sides adored. The only real spontaneous name chanting was for David Warner, the destructive Australian Batsman on the away team. He took the whoops and cheers with a nod and a wave, a bit bashful. Embarrassed perhaps, that the home fans favoured him over one of their own stars. Over their own team even. In fact It was very much about the stars rather than the teams. We weren’t here to see these two made up sides, but to see Warner and Amla swing their bats. Miller and Yuvraj Singh lay waste to the bowler. Who cares what the overall score was, how many runs did he get, how fast did he get them? Which bowler got the most wickets, who did he get out? Cricket, and the shortened format Twenty20 especially seem to lend itself to that. Individuals bowl, bat and catch. It lends itself to the creation of standout individuals: their contribution quantifiable, their worth valuable, their services hireable. The IPL is the pinnacle of this idea. It’s a funny mixture of an odd English game and a hyper-commercialised American entertainment sport. Its got colour, its got razzmatazz, and its oh so incredibly Indian. Its bright, brash and vivid for all of its existence, one massive party. Oh, and there were people taking selfies everywhere.

The selfie is obviously a modern phenomenon. But it is also a global one. East, west, north, south, everyone is holding their camera phones at arm’s length and taking a picture back at themselves. In India though it seemed to e to reach new heights. On the streets, at the mall, in pars and at sacred monuments: nowhere is safe. Do they really like themselves? Are they desperate for attention? Certainly they get uploaded exhibited on social media to be liked or favourited or shared. Bu where does that lead, what is the point of it all? Are we now so obsessed by ourselves that we just want to flood the world with our image, and the Indians more so? Why go to the cricket or the monument at all if it is really all about you? It’s a strange phenomenon, a curio of modern life with no end product.

However, perhaps we are weaving something. Creating a story, an identity, a hyper-individual of ourselves. Want to know about me? Here it is: freely available online to view, complete with a tally of likes and shares and comments to help you gauge my life’s performance. Putting statistics to the individual. Quantifying our contribution.

Selfies are like this, this Mid-Atlantic-Indian cricket is like this, and other sports are like this. We’re recording, judging and rating everything. Prizes for the winners. At the basketball there was a car on the court: Best social media post with the corporate hastag and YOU WIN THE CAR like like like Bazinga! How very American. At the bull fight too everyone was dressed up to the nines, and putting and preening in front of their own small screen while massive bulls died below. Are these the modern times?

This movement felt particularly strong at the IPL game of all the sport I’ve seen probably because its cricket, which lends itself to individual performances, and because it was India, where they seem obsessed by the cult of the individual. And yet the funny thing was I had some lovely personal moments with other fans while at the cricket. I met tons of people, shook hands or high-fived umpteen times. Danced with scores at every 6, cheered along to the music with every four. It may have been very temporary, but for that match (and about half an hour afterwards) I made so many friends. Face painted, grinning, shouting, waving friends. Yes, they all wanted to take a selfie with me. But I’m certain they would’ve approached me without their phones. I hung out with some policemen, some telecoms employees on a corporate gig, but mainly I got on with the other denizens of the North stand. It was wonderful. I beamed all the rest of the night and the next day. I too took a few selfies with these exuberant fans. But what I’m taking home is the warm glow from being with a group having a great time We had a lovely day out at the cricket.