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Fearful felines in an Indian forest reserve

Fearful felines in an Indian forest reserve

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

William Blake

Tigers are massive. Not elephant-style massive, but simple, pound for pound, feline power, stealth, arrogance and confidence. It shines out of every hair on their bodies. They move majestically, slowly and with that inner knowledge that no-one, no living, breathing being is going to dare to get in their way. I was desperate to see at least one in the wild; to meet it, from a safe distance, in its territory, not at a zoo or on TV.

The battered, beaten, open-topped, four-wheel drive, steel-bar surrounded, safari ‘bus’, plus signs that proclaimed that, even though the safari is through one of the six routes of the Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, India, visitors should not expect to actually see any of these shy animals, did not put me off. Just a glimpse would be enough.

Within ten minutes I caught that glimpse. This magnificent beast was reclining on a stone ledge half hidden by scrub, dry bushes and bare tree trunks and branches, and then it moved. Long, thick, fur-covered legs stretched, and it rose and walked alongside our ‘bus’, oblivious to the gasps, stares and clicking camera shutters of the 20 aficionados watching its every move. I was stunned, and the tiger moved on.

Tiger awake from his rocky perch
Tiger awake from his rocky perch

We sat back. Langur monkeys chattered, deer and antelope grazed, and we took in the unfolding views as our transport sidled and climbed bumpily up dry river fords and stone-strewn inclines that would defy most vehicles.

A short and exciting hour later we approached a broad, shallow lake where a myriad of different types of bird flitted and flew, strutted and posed for the cameras. Ten minutes later we drew to a halt on a ridge. On our right was the lake; on our left in a shallow valley, a stream and by it a green meadow – one of the few areas of green in the entire Reserve.

On the meadow, sleeping in the rising heat, were two tigers: an enormous male, and a few feet away a large and imposing female. They weren’t posing, but the clicking of cameras, and muted gasps and cries of wonderment from our ‘bus’ in languages from broad Scots to Hindi, Japanese and Chinese, didn’t disturb them. Half an hour later, emotionally and photographically sated, we set off again to see more sights and animals, including a relaxing family of wild boar who, were they able to speak, would have let us know how much they enjoyed being disturbed by a pack of noisy humans.

Sleep in the morning sun after a hard night’s hunting
Sleep in the morning sun after a hard night’s hunting

It was soon time to return and the route took us back to our sleeping tigers. We stopped; more photographs; and then the huge male awoke.

His head was like a Chinese dragon’s, seemingly far too large for its neck as it shook slowly in a rolling, stretching motion. Then a leg extended and a massive, furry paw faced us: clear and in detail from just 50 yards away. The other three legs followed as the tiger rose and looked around. He spied his mate, still supposedly sleeping, or at least pretending to! She awoke, rose and then settled back down again.

A powerful male tiger awakes
A powerful male tiger awakes

The male’s short walk was majestic. Ripples of power shuddered through every step of each of those massive legs. He looked at his mate, shook his head again, moved round her rear and she rolled slightly. This towering example of feline, male beauty, straddled his mate and thrust forward, grasping her neck in those powerful jaws and showing the watching crowd long and vicious teeth.

Feline love – or simply an animal urge
Feline love – or simply an animal urge

A few seconds later, mating was complete. The male released the female’s neck, stood up, and roared. It was a rolling sound that bounced and echoed around the gentle slopes of the meadow valley; it thundered and crashed against the higher slopes and rebounded at seemingly greater volume. The magnificent male strode away, faced the distant hills, stretched his long body and neck, and seemed to take stock of who he was and where he was. He was the king, the leader, the emperor of the Reserve and he was damn sure that he was going to let everyone and everything know it.

A regal beast marches majestically away
A regal beast marches majestically away

The return trip was always going to be a deflation after such a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but how could it be? Another tiger was spotted moving stealthily along the hillside and, in front of it, deer and monkeys stopped, sniffed and began their loud and urgent warning cries to other members of the herd and pack.

There are in life experiences that will stay with you forever. Dad rugby tackling me as I careered down a slope near Beeston Castle in Cheshire, and thus saving me from ripping my neck open on a strand of barbed wire; my first day at senior school; riding on a bench over the buffers of a train up the Khyber Pass; my wedding day; the birth of my daughter – and now a safari at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve.

Maybe I should go back and celebrate the birth of the new tiger? Perhaps that’s best left to the care and sustenance of the kitten’s magnificent parents?

Years at Telegraph inspire ex-journalist’s debut novel

By Derby Telegraph  |  Posted: June 27, 2014

Ex-Derby Telegraph journalist Richard Cox has written his first novel.

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A FORMER Derby Telegraph journalist says that the inspiration for his debut novel, First Dead Body, came from his experience working with the newspaper from 1970 to 1977.

Richard Cox, who writes using the pen name Tony R. Cox, will release the novel on Saturday at a book signing at Scarthin Books, Cromford.

He hopes that he will be able to reconnect with some of the same journalists he used to work with.

“I had an amazing time with the Telegraph,” said Mr Cox. “I was in contact with some of the best journalists I have ever met. They were truly inspirational, and I hope I took with me what they taught me.”

The journalists were so inspirational to him that he decided to set his novel in Derby in 1971 and write about their investigations.

The 1970s period allowed Cox to focus more on the heart of journalism, writing from a time when the primary source of news was newspapers.

He said: “The technology we were working with was a telephone, a notebook and a pen.

“There was a romance that has probably been lost with modern journalism, but that romance has been replaced with efficiency. I feel a little left behind but I’m perfectly happy about that.”

He describes the concept of his book as “journalists doing the investigation, not the police, and finding that they are in situations they’re not trained for.

“It’s got violence, murder and corruption, and I wanted to focus on the importance of the newspapers and the journalists, instead of the police.”

The launch event for First Dead Body takes place from 2pm to 5pm.

Read more:

Former reporter tells tale of violence and corruption

Holdthefrontpage – the web site for journalists – June 11, 2014
FDB-cover-1Former reporter tells tale of violence and corruption

An ex-journalist has penned a debut inspired by his time as a reporter on a regional daily in the 1970s.

Richard Cox worked for the Derby Evening Telegraph and Nottingham Evening Post as a young journalist before moving into a career in PR.

Now he has penned a novel recalling the days of telephones, buses and notebooks, before mobile phones, emails and the internet took over.

Billed as “a tale of death, violence and corruption” it is set in the 1970s Derby which formed the backdrop to Richard’s early career.

The book, First Dead Body, features a fictional ‘cub reporter’ Simon Jardine who goes out on a murder story with hardened, hard-drinking, hard-grilling crime hack Dave Green.

The story is set loosely around the construction of Derby’s inner ring road in the early 1970s and is scheduled to be the first in a series.

Anton Rippon: New book explores gritty subject set in the streets of Derby

Anton Rippon column, Derby Telegraph, June 4, 2014

WHEN I wrote of an 11-year-old who had never heard of a typewriter, my fellow columnist, Neil White, recalled the days when hand-held communications devices were something out of Star Trek.

As a young reporter, when Neil needed to phone over his copy he first had to find a public telephone that hadn’t been vandalised.

“They were days of carbon paper, smoke-filled town-centre newspaper offices that shook when the presses rolled, and editors who would never admit to dyeing their hair.”

Our industry has certainly changed a lot since the days when the staff door at Northcliffe House in Albert Street stood conveniently cheek-by-jowl with the entrance to the Exchange Hotel.

Opening that door one summer Saturday evening I was pinned to the ground by the photographer who had been leaning on it. He had called at the Exchange on his way back from an afternoon in the beer tent at Derby Regatta.

Back in those days, such things were tolerated. Now they have been recaptured in a new book, First Dead Body, set in Derby and written by former Derby Telegraph journalist, Richard Cox, whose nom-de-plume is Tony R. Cox “because there are too many writers out there called Richard Cox”.

Richard’s Derby credentials are impeccable: his maternal grandfather was headmaster of Gerard Street School in the 1930s; and the bottling plant for his great-grandfather’s business, Cox & Garrard, was in Abbey Street.

At the Derby Telegraph, Richard learned the basics, from collecting names at society funerals – and risking the news editor’s wrath if even one name was wrong or omitted – to producing the stories of praise, hope, fear and death which are the lifeblood of a regional newspaper.

He said: “In the late 1960s and early 70s it was a rite of passage for a cub reporter who showed some talent to be shown the ropes by the chief crime reporter on a big story.

“In First Dead Body, for Simon Jardine the sight of his first dead body is the catalyst for a mentoring relationship with the hard-drinking, hard-grilling crime hack, Dave Green, alongside their mutual friend, a DJ and part-time private investigator.”

Green knows the identity of the corpse found in East Street. It is the son of a woman with whom he had an affair while her husband was in prison, and First Dead Body follows the trail of the three amateur detectives who become enmeshed in the corruption and violence that are rife in the construction of Derby’s new inner ring road in the early 1970s, their snooping exposing them to risks that they are not trained to handle.

Richard’s book vividly captures life in the days when reporters’ lunches were often long and liquid, when contacts were met in pubs like The Dolphin, Exeter Arms and Wagon and Horses. He should know, because he was there.

His characters are amalgams of the many people, including exceptional journalists and ex-journalists, who were part of the life of a large town in a beautiful county. It was an age of call boxes, notebooks and travelling to jobs by bus. As we said at the beginning, how times have changed …

First Dead Body (£6.99) is available from Amazon later this month.