Despite loathing Biology at school (it was so dry and distant from the natural world), I was always fascinated with books about animals and three of my favourites were Kipling's 'Just So Stories', Jack London's superb 'Call of the Wild' and Gerald Durrell's 'My Family and Other Animals'.
I had never read anything like the latter : it was very funny ,seemed exotic and was set in Corfu. If I ever go there I hope there's a Gerald Durrell tour, though I doubt it somehow.
As a teacher I used the book whenever possible in class and found it just as rewarding after many years : so well-written compared to Roald Dahl's predictable autobiography 'Boy' for example; so witty and revealing about Nature and family relationships.
Nowadays, my experiences with animals are related to our house and garden and my daughter's.
Plagued by rats , we have tried a variety of solutions, till I found that simply not feeding the birds sent them packing. I do mourn the fact that tits, finches, sparrows and nuthatches have also abandoned our garden.
However, with the rats duly dispatched we have seen a return of grey squirrels. One head-banging squirrel even tried to befriend his reflection in our French windows! His ardour left him with a migraine the size of a twmp!
In the past our moss-covered garage roof and oak tree have attracted important visitors. A couple of homing pigeons have stopped off en route to wherever to re-fuel. Once we even had a tame jackdaw ( apparently famous in the village at the time) settle on our patio : he would fly onto your arm and chatter away like a chopsy child.
In the absence of any pets , the squirrels and birds are so vital and I've been pleased to observe the normally shy jays come to our oak to feed off acorns. Hedgehogs were regular visitors, but I haven't seen one in years and last summer was the first one that I noticed a scarcity of bats, whose feeding flight-path crossed close to our outhouse. It was a worrying absence : I loved to stand in the dark and watch them winging just above my head, back and fore, back and fore, in an insect-eating pattern.
If our garden has its own eco-system dependent a great deal on the oak and garage roof (ideal material for making nests), then my daughter's place is a different matter.
The first time we entered the house just for viewing, there was a living bat on the sitting-room floor, sleeping in daytime.
Next, her garage became the perfect nesting spot for martins and I was given the thankless task of removing the beautifully-crafted bowl, fully downed with four gorgeous fledglings.
I tried to do so carefully and put it in a high location in the hope that the mother would hear her chicks and find it, but I am still haunted by the thought of a cat or hawk finding them.
I miss the roaming animals we used to come across often in our village: cows and horses grazing on our hedges and lawns and, of course, the ubiquitous sheep which - down the road in Georgetown's old terraces - would take cover in porches. Grey urban sheep, stained by exhaust and rain.
My latest book 'Moor Music' features a poem 'Came the Ram', which describes the day a large and rather menacing ram was loose in Heolgerrig. It was quite astonishing the fear such a woolly creature could create!
Within our house I am 'Person In Charge of Insect Disposal': spiders, 'Granny Greys' ( woodlice), Daddy Long Legs, flies, wasps and bees have to be coaxed out or carefully removed.
Dust mites are, however, another question altogether and perhaps I shouldn't have informed two other family members about them quite so graphically when they began sneezing and blamed those creatures.
Millions of them!
Feeding off flesh flaking.
If I had microscopic eyes
I wouldn't need to hallucinate them ;
I wouldn't need to be paranoid,
wear a surgical mask in my home ;
put every cuddly toy in the freezer,
open the windows even in winter,
hoover carpets mornings and afternoons,
chase them away with the duster.
It's not even them I'm inhaling,
it's their excreta, air-borne :
dust mite cack down nose and throat,
I sniff and splutter, must get out.
I'll sleep in a tent in the garden,
let the wind blow away my dead skin
like leaves across the moorland.
Dust mites everywhere! Millions of them!