Most of us would love to go through life doing exactly what we want to do. In the birder's case, that is to go birding every minute of the day. But life isn't that simple, particularly when the opportunity to go out is taken away and you find yourself behaving abnormally (massive sulks, irritability, lack of concentration, selfishness, unable to focus on any day-to-day tasks like work, food shopping, DIY around the house, visiting relations). It is this realisation - that you really need to grow up a bit - that should encourage you to seek help.
The bottom line is you will have to admit to yourself you are a birding addict, and therefore it may be time to look at the 12-Step Birding Recovery Programme. As far as I know, this doesn’t actually exist, but maybe it should.
It's time to give it a go.
It does mean, however, that from this day forward, birding is a thing of the past. That Spotted Crake you desperately wanted to see at Beddington this afternoon - but you had too much work to do, and you also had to do the weekly shop at Sainsbury's, and by the time you'd finished it was too bloody late to go because it would be dark by the time you got there – that will all be a distant memory. You'll be able to shrug it off as an irrelevance. You'll treat it with total indifference.
There will be no stress apart from the usual drudgery of every day life. All that gardening, wallpapering, skirting board sanding you meant to get on with years ago - now you will be able to spend all your hard-earned spare time applying yourself to it.
The idea is to concentrate on the source of the addiction and to follow the 12 principles of recovery. This will enable you to severe your birding addiction completely. It also means no more birding for the rest of your life – nothing - not even reading the Collins Bird Guide, or any blogs on the subject. It will also require you to turn the TV over when Autumnwatch is on (see, it doesn’t sound so bad now, does it).
If you really want to commit yourself to a normal life – and you will feel so much better for it - the following steps are the way forward, but because the 12-Step Birding Recovery Programme is based on an American model, you have my blessing to ignore all the God bits.
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over birding and that our lives had become unmanageable.
Pretty much says what it means on the tin. Once you have accepted this, the rest will become a bit easier (apart from the God bits, which you can ignore anyway).
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
It doesn’t take long for a hint of God to come into this programme, but you can replace Him with a real person if you wish. I wouldn’t suggest your wife/husband/partner, though. They may be a Power greater than ourselves, but it is a step too far to suggest they can restore our sanity. It also doesn’t mean that Power can be bird-related - Swarovski, Birdguides, Lee Evans, etc.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
While the Power is not made clear in Step 2, Step 3 assumes this Power to be God. Assume otherwise.
Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
This tells us to think long and hard about who we are and to admit our faults. Write these down – it will probably be a long list. These shouldn’t include such faults as stringing, dipping, failure to identify "what that bloody Gull was", or the inability to properly read an Ordnance Survey map.
Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Admitting this to ourselves is fine, but the slight problem here is, will anyone else really care? In fact, they don’t really need to know, do they? I might tell God though, he’ll listen.
Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
There you go.
Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
Sounds like a step for those who aren’t quite committed to the cause. “Yeah, it was no problem. All those dips I had? God removed them all for me”. If only it were that easy.
Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
An important step, this one. For, if we are to continue our lives birding free, one of the things we must do is say sorry to everyone – well, just the wife, actually. No-one else I know could give a toss. All those trips to Scotland and the Scilly Isles at the drop of a hat - oh, how she laughed (what are you like, she said... she did say what I was like, but it's not repeatable here). And just a note to tell her not to wait up. A jolly, she said? It’s hardly a jolly driving for 11 hours up to the tip of Scotland and then travel by small boat to the Orkneys, I can tell you.
Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
The only ones liable to be injured are dog-walkers.
Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Refer to Step 4. You’ve already done this one. See, it's pretty straightforward.
Step 11: Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Move swiftly on to Step 12.
Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to birders, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
In other words, exactly what I have just done – apart from practice the principles in all my affairs, obviously.
So, there you have it. Twelve easy steps towards a fulfilling and happy life. I just hope that Sandhill Crane doesn't turn up at Holmethorpe tomorrow morning to test my resolve...