While at the Conwy Food Feast this weekend, I acquired myself something I didn’t expect. All aglow with bonhomie, meandering with the crowds, I took pity on a young man selling calendars for a great charity, our local children’s hospice. I beamed at him shortsightedly as he slipped the thing into a brown paper bag – how kind, I thought. When I got home, I realised why – the darn thing was full of naked men…

You are thinking, she is older than I thought, complaining about naked men! And in any case, is it not practically law that charity calendars nowadays must feature naked people? (Thank you very much indeed, Calendar Girls). You are thinking of bronzed and buff young chaps, no doubt, which would be slightly off the mark. The photograph of them playing snooker is particularly disturbing, partly because I think someone has used Photoshop to remove one of the balls (the blue, I think).

Well, all this got me a-thinking. Species extinction is a fairly sexy topic, there are millions around the world trying to save tigers and pandas and suchlike. But what about the poor, unsexy ones – the ones that have ended up at life’s metaphorical snooker table? Like the poor freshwater pearl mussel, large numbers of which were wiped out at Ennerdale in Cumbria this year.

The charity Buglife mourned these long-lived creatures (they live 150 years, so are even older than me!), saying: “The bloated corpses of animals born when Charles Darwin was alive have been floating out of their beds and (are) being swept into the Irish Sea.” Everyone else, I suspect, was looking up recipes for moules marinere… Yet these little creatures are on the list of the world’s 365 most endangered species, along with the tiger.

The UK is the lucky home to a host of rare bivalves, including the depressed river mussel – one supposes the poor beast’s unfortunate name probably doesn’t endear it to folks who would rather see it on a bed of rocket with a white wine sauce. Such creatures also suffer the very real problem of poaching, which has been happening (in both senses of the word) to Roman snails. These sadly tasty little chaps are being hoicked out of their native woodlands and sold to restaurants despite the fact that they are rare and protected in the UK, and doubtless will get even rarer if the poachers get their way.

In some places, local activists are doing their best – a news story this summer recounted one snail vigilante’s story of catching a poacher red-handed with his slimy swag. ‘“I said ‘you’re breaking the law’ and he said ‘so what?’ the good chap recalls. “I grabbed hold of the bag and wouldn’t let go; he had two choices, he could go but the snails stayed.”

It warms the cockles of my crusty old heart to know they are out there, people who see beyond the unglamorous surface to the worthwhile cause. It’s good to know, if only because it puts me in with a fighting chance of preservation. But I bet these poor creatures would be faring a lot better on the world stage if they just looked a tad sexier. I envisage a charity calendar – all I need is a dozen celebrities prepared to have their vital assets covered in various assorted slugs, snails and mussels… Anyone?

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