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Monday 11th February 2019


I’ve been getting lots of emails from students learning English in Mexico, answering one specific Emergency Question. It has become clear that they are all in the same class and that their English English teacher Jon has set them this as some kind of exercise in using our language. It wasn’t immediately clear if they were kids or adults (though one mentions being one of 19 children). Jon is either a genius or has a very easy job as on the whole their English is better than mine. Here’s some examples of the many emails I have received:

Dear Richard

I am writing this letter as a task of my English class, I honestly haven't the minimum idea of who you are but I just hope that I am writing this letter to a great person.  I am obliged to respond to a hypothetical situation that one of your books mentions. In this example, I suppose to live in s animal habitat for one week. For this task, I would like to state that this is a very funny question that I actually like to respond.

After 15 min of thinking I finally was lead to a conclusion that the best way is living on a cave, I take the bat as an example. so the advantages are that it brings you shelter, from the rain, it also has a very silence environment that helps to be more focus on surviving. There are disadvantages as cold, however, it can be handled with a good jacket and fire.

I also have seen the problem of wide animals, and the best idea that I had has to have a rifle with me at all times.

As you could notice this letter is very short, however, I have seen the problems from a different perspective and come on with a standard idea.

I wish you never read this, but in case you do, I offer an apology.



Fatima wrote "I would live with a panda for a week because they are friendly and protected.

Pandas are one of the kindest animals in the world to humans. They are friendly and cute at the same time, causing you to want to hug them all the time. Likewise, they eat bamboo and plants so I wouldn't have to worry for myself since they are herbivores. 

Also, pandas live in the forest, the most common fruits that grow in these ecosystems are berries, nuts, and vegetables. I'm happy with the variety of food that I could find for a week in this environment. 

Forests have a cloudy with air climate which is amazing as there are not cold or hot temperatures that you could worry about. 

The areas where pandas stay are fulled of bamboo sticks and have a lowland, meaning that I could stay in the ground instead of being at the top of the bamboo trees. 

Pandas protect themselves by splitting into groups, however, pandas are still vulnerable species that have special attention because some campaigns protect them, so if I live with them it would mean that I would be protected as well! 

Spending time and living with pandas for a week would be a radical and special experience that I would like to live. Taking time off with this furry animals would be full of cuteness! Answering this question makes your mind blow! I would like you to tell me what do you think about my answer and what is yours. Thank you for writing this book! 

And perhaps best of all, Rodrigo wrote

Dear Richard Herring;

I write to you believing in the new fantasy of becoming a beaver master, inspired by your emergency question ‘If you had to live in an animal’s nest or borrow for a week, which animal would you choose?’. I came accross this question through my teacher’s obsession with your book ‘Emergency Questions’ and his lack of a better lesson plan; I must say it has been fun to engage in philosophical discussions about the probable meaninglessness of our lives, becoming Gloria (from Modern Family), or wondering whether we would want to get elephan ears or not. However, after several lessons discussing your questions, our homework came down to living in the wild with an animal of our choice and telling you about it. I think you probably do not care what we 19 children think about your questions, but you are a comedian so you let’s do this for the lols. 

What animal would I choose? I would live in a North American beaver’s lodge for a week. 

At first glance, it seems uncomfortable to live in a stick-made floating lodge, but if you think about it, it is not as bad as it goes (my teacher wants to live with a gorilla). The lodge is small and made from wood, which generally makes shelter warm. Since these are built near water and the best vegetation grows next to bodies of water, getting food and drink for a week will not be a problem. Predators also avoid bodies of water because it is difficult to hunt there. Illnesses and infections may be a difficulty, because rivers are as pollutes as they can be in North America, but I’m sure I will not get anything too bad. I would like to assume I can take at least a backpar or something in which I can carry a lamp, a first aid, or other supplies I may need; if so, it would be amazing to carry mosquito repellant, to at least keep those away. I also like to think of the experience this could potentially bring: who has never fantasized of living in a wooden lodge in the forest, near a lake or something? This is just like that, but sh*ttier because I’ll have no toilet. But hey, at least the beavers might be fun.

As it turns out, a beaver’s lifestyle is not so different from a human one: their social sturcture is based on family life, they work throughout all their lives looking for comfort, they’ll do anything to get’em resources, and will keep other living beings away unless they give them food. They are social animals who value team work and will happily accept new beavers as long as they are willing to work, so I would have to prove my worth to the community in order to bypass their territorial behaviour. Assuming I can take a couple of my own stuff to the lodge, I could totally use human tools to get them more wood than they ever could and make them love me. I could even help them build their dams and lodges more efficiently, since I have hands and they don’t. I could prove myself to be so useful, they might even make me their leader and turn me into something like a Beaver Master, venerated and adored; they could build a church in my name, adoring my ever-so-useful hands and tools, turn me into the new Jesus. Who knows? Maybe living in the wild for a week will change my life and the course of beaver history. I have no proof to support that, but no doubts either.

In any case, I hope you keep thinking of comedic ways of making people’s everydayness more enjoyable. I assure you my teacher was pleased to be lazy for a day and make something on the spot. 


The Beaver Master. "

There are loads more. It's crazy, but fun. I love this thing impacting on lives of people thousands of miles away.
I used some of this in my intro to one of the podcasts in tonight’s record. I was chatting to the charming and witty Rob Brydon and the funny, though passionate and intense David Morrissey and the strong start to series 15 continues.

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