I recently wrote about the gods of bat-work - small, mischievous god-lets, who entertain themselves by making our lives complicated (Ignore the gods of bat-work at your peril). So many people seemed to enjoy discovering the truth behind those niggles and problems in their professional lives that I thought I'd tell you a little more about them.
Have you ever wondered what happens to a bat ecologist who shrugs off their mortal coil? As with all things, the gods of bat-work have a part to play in this, and it may surprise you to hear that there are close parallels with the Norse world. When a viking warrior died in battle, a beautiful, shining winged valkyrie would bear him off to Valhalla, the feasting-hall of the Norse gods. In our case, it's more likely to be a couple of tatty Pipistrelles who owe you a favour, but it's the thought that counts.
On arriving at the chiropteran feasting-hall, one or two differences between it and Valhalla may become apparent. Like the vikings, we will spend the rest of our days feasting with the gods, but we'll do it in a more appropriate manner. The vikings would sit at their feasting-benches, imbibing great foaming tankards of ale and goblets of mead, whereas for us of course it will be luke-warm cups of Costa coffee and out-of-date cans of Red Bull. You see, the gods of bat-work would like us to feel at home after we switch off our detector for the last time.
Not for us the roasted sucking-pig or great sides of beef, whilst talking of battles and wars - that would be simply wrong. Until the end of days we shall feast on service-station sandwiches, tupperware boxes of left-overs and many strange Ginsters products, whilst arguing yet again about whether that bat three years ago really was a Barbastelle...
There will also be some strange burgers made of compressed midges and there'll be meal-worms, served squeezed-out or not, according to taste. After all, this is the feasting-hall of the bat-gods, and their delicacies can't possibly taste worse than our filling-station menu, can they?
But who will serve this largesse to us? For the vikings, that was easy. If they didn't have enough serving-wenches, they could simply capture some more on the next raid. Clearly, for us, in the 2020s that is not appropriate, especially as professional ecology has more women than men, most of whom are a better fit for the role of feasting shield-maiden than serving-slave. So the gods of bat-work, recognising this problem, have found a solution. Unscrupulous developers who have destroyed bat roosts without a license will serve the feasts. After all, until recently the fines for this were so small that they must surely be due further punishment in the afterlife? To add to their punishment they might be shaved, oiled and forced to wear the sort of leather gear that Holywood thinks Roman slaves wore, but that decision is probably best left to the shield-maidens.
So, once we've partaken of the food and drink that the bat-gods know we love (after all, we eat and drink so much of it?) what entertainment will await us in this chiropteran feasting-hall? Viking warriors would spend their days at Valhalla re-fighting their favourite battles. For us it will clearly be re-runs of our favourite surveys - you know, the ones where it definitely was a Barbastelle, and you got a clear view of it foraging. Or will it? The gods of bat-work cannot resist a little mischief and think perhaps we would prefer to spend long hours analysing thousands upon thousands of bat calls, whilst desperately short of sleep. After all, this is how we spend our lives, isn't it?
At least spending the rest of our days in this batty Valhalla will give us the chance to meet and feast with some of the lesser-known bat-gods.
- You may encounter the bat-god of creaking timber, who amuses himself by making old beams creak and groan, just as you put your weight on them. You know they're sound, but that little bat-god voice in the back of your head suggests otherwise.
- You'll meet the bat-god of thermos-hammering, who can take the stoutest of coffee flasks and shatter them. He's also branched out into making unbreakable flasks utterly useless for keeping your coffee warm.
- The bat-god of bugs might introduce himself and, with great amusement, tell you that all those caddisflies you swallowed during a survey last year were his pets, as was the Elephant Hawk-moth that head-butted you.
- A sudden squeaky-squawky kind of undescribable sound behind you will herald the bat-god of unidentifiable ultrasound (also known as "Middleton's Nemesis").
- Meanwhile, the bat-god of SD cards will amuse himself in the background, playing air-hockey with a pile of SD cards. But at least, from the Valhalla of the bat-gods, you'll be able to see them being snuck back into your former colleagues' equipment. And, as you watch the cards fail on a survey and see the anguish that causes, maybe you'll experience just a little of how much fun it is to be a bat-god.