Today has been my fourth day of editing an upcoming publication on the importance of engaging people with wildlife and wild places in Norfolk. Editing is hard work, especially, as is the case for me now, when the document to be edited has been spliced together from numerous others, each with its own conventions on punctuation and spelling, each with its own tone, and each with its own internal logic. In the worst cases, the constituent chunks of text I edit seem to come from documents which have none of these.
I feel like a sheepdog tearing round an unruly flock of words, speech marks and ideas, trying hard to herd them into a coherent whole. Just as I make a decision on which hierarchy of headings to employ, from the three styles used in the text I am tasked with weaving together, just as I feel the word-flock is at last heading uniformly towards its pen, a sub-flock of commas, of misspelled scientific names, or of ill-used terminology will break off, leaving this poor word-dog panting and staring and hoping that somewhere there's a shepherd who will come to sort the whole mess out.
One of the constant refrains of conversations with friends who, like me, work in wildlife conservation is how much of our time is spent doing things which, on the face of it, have nothing at all to do with wildlife. I would like to believe that somewhere a square metre of marsh is safer because of my daily skirmish with underscores, semi-colons and bold fonts. I wonder.
The sky all day has been the barely grey of promised snow, and of wild things I have seen only my chaotic swirl of black-headed and common gulls, joined on and off by a jackdaw. Thank goodness for Haydn's Theresienmesse; and the knowledge that in ten days' time I shall be in Kolkata.