There has been talk, or perhaps type, on various internet fora lately regarding the phenomenon known as pan-listing. For those of you are unfamiliar with this term it is not a listing of pans (whether this is for cooking or otherwise) but another use of the word – pan-listing is the listing of every living thing that you have seen. Absolutely everything. Without exception. What an
idiotic admirable task you might think. Listing everything that you have ever seen (within a Natural History framework of course) in a little book or on some check-sheets or whatever. Simple eh? Well the chap that has the most pan-ticks in the UK is at a little over 10,000. Does that sound a lot to you? It does to me, especially after I thought I’d put some stuff together to see where I was up to, and once I totted up my list I realised that I have seen bugger all. Honestly, absolutely bugger all. I thought that I’d seen a few things – I like to try and identify the odd insect, or an interesting plant, the odd sea gooseberry here and there so my thinking was that there would be a fair few ticks on my list, but how wrong I was. Even less than bugger all.
However, not being unfazed so easily I gave the matter some thought and wondered if it would be a practical thing to do. The theory sounded easy at first; just go around identifying everything and then writing it down in a book. Easy. With a little bit of thought it occurred to me exactly what everything actually meant and with a little bit of investigation the numbers started to come in and the size of the task began to dawn on me. Everything. Flowers, reptiles, plants, molluscs, trees, birds, mammals, moths, butterflies, flies, beetles, arachnids, crustaceans, fungi, lichen, moss, etc etc. Want some numbers? 14,000 + fungi in the UK. 600 + birds, hundreds of spiders, thousands of insects, 2500 moths, and the list goes on. There are literally tens of thousands of ‘stuff’ to identify, all of which I haven’t got a clue where to start (other than flicking through a book of bugs – got, got, need, got, swap etc). And to put a specific name to some of them you need to get them under a microscope and piss about with their genitals before you can be sure. No, really. The question then raises its head – can I really be bothered with all that? Joan Collins reportedly said that life is too short to stuff mushrooms. Well I have come to the conclusion that my life is too short to be dissecting the genitalia of Lepidoptera. And that is the end of it. No pan-listing for me. No way.
But hang on a one Gossypium-picking minute. Without doubt the journey would be interesting, but the road is like too long and wide, yah? So what if the pan-listing thing was downsized a bit? Would it be more sensible then? Limit it to just Norfolk perhaps? Still daft, Norfolk is bloody big and there is loads and loads of stuff in it, still a stupidly stupid endeavour. No Norfolk pan-listing for me. No way.
But. Isn’t there always a but? But, perhaps downsize it a bit more?? What if I put two and two together. Go for a spot of pan-listing, but limit it to the patch!?!?! Ooooh – identify and list every single species that can be found in the patch! Even then it really is a stupid thing to do. Have you any idea how many different types of grass there are? Nah, not doing it. I’ll stick to the birds. That is plenty. Small, insignificant, but plenty for me.
Not that easy now though is it? It’s out of the bag now. The creation of a bird list brings out the Lister Demon and his evil temptations, but pan-listing brings out the demon, all his little helpers, the demon’s boss and most of the rest of the hordes from listing-demon-central. The temptation is difficult to resist. The whole idea has the potential to be a stupid tempt filled crusade. In fact I would go as far as to say that it is verging on lunacy. Stupidity. Folly. Trying to identify everything in a patch when you don’t know the first thing about botany or zoology, and not much about birds. Truly, truly stupid.
Bollocks. I’m in. Lets get listing!
In the spirit of the insane new quest, here is a picture of a grasshopper (which I have yet to identify).
Not just a picture of a grasshopper anymore is it? No, it is sitting on some lichen! AAAaaaaaaaarrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!