LOOKING through this interactive page into your minds, I can discern that, if you could have one wish for Christmas, it would be: the ability to talk to the animals.

But what would we say to them? “Sorry” would be a start. And what would they say to us? “Stoap hittin’ us”, probably.

I know they just love me for the food I put out, but my robins and blackbirds communicate with me, sometimes chirping a lot of gibberish in my face, sometimes opening their beaks rhythmically in sign language that says: “Feed us, Robert, for to us you are like a god.” Shucks. Thanks, fellas. One of the robins came into the living room recently, sat on the television and gave me a look that said: “What’s oan the telly, Rab? Ha-ha!”

I talk to the birds of course, in a mixture of googoo-gaga and northern dialect, which might be translated as: “What have you been up to? Are you here? Do you want food?”

Birds (among themselves; never to my face): “Jeezo. Listen to this idiot. ‘Do we want food?’ Naw. We want a jigsaw puzzle and a power drill.”

Perhaps we’ve nothing meaningful to say to each other. We just stick to our own. Humans slate each other online. Birds communicate among themselves: warning chirps, cheeps of pleasure, songs to attract a mate (Dreaming of You, Never Going to Give You Up, I Just Called to Say I Love You).

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To birds, talk is cheep. But the big news this week concerned two other species that talk: whales and … lentils. And the whales, or at least one whale, was talking to us, or at least to scientists from the SETI Institute. If you’re familiar with the California-based Institute, you’ll know its main purpose is to speak to extra-terrestrials from ooter space.

However, they figured it might be a start to try communicating with some of the creatures here on planet Earth. Accordingly, they’ve had a 20-minute conversation in Alaska with a 38-year-old humpback whale called Twain.

The scientists began by broadcasting a type of greeting call called a “whup/throp” through underwater speakers. Hearing this, Twain made straight for the boffins’ boat and responded with a greeting call in return.

After this, things went … swimmingly. True, there wasn’t much of substance – “Cauld again, eh?” “Aye” – but there was definitely interactive communication, with Twain changing the frequency of her calls in response to the scientists doing so. Lead scientist Dr Brenda McCowan said it was “the first such communicative exchange between humans and humpback whales”, with Twain’s replies motivated by excitement, the possibility of bonding, or even agitation. Aw, here we go. Give it a few days and it’ll be like a human discussion forum. Scientists: “We’ve telt ye before: ye’re no’ a fish, ye’re a mammal.” Twain: “How? I swim aboot in the water, don’t I?” Meanwhile, Italian scientists from the National Library of Frascati found that lentils talk to each other by sending out – you guessed it – a weak dribble of protons. Exactly. In other words, they emit particles of light, and these are not random: the pulse-style beasties are responding to each other. It was yon Dr Dolittle who opined: “If I could talk to the animals … what a lovely place the world would be.” Yes, but lentils? Still, I’m guessing we could learn something from all species: as long as we keep it civil.

In which respect, maybe we can learn to talk to each other courteously first. What’s that you say? “Shut up, you.” Naw, you shut up. I’m away to talk to the birds.

Social distancing
More communication controversy: your correspondent has been rumbled as … a social media “voyeur”. Those of us who browse but never comment are, it says here, probably suffering from a social anxiety disorder.

Researchers at the Central China Normal University, never to be confused with the Central China Peculiar University, found that people who access platforms “passively” do so because they’re afraid of putting themselves out there. And who can blame them? I couldn’t imagine anything worse than a Twitter or X spat. Even on discussion forums, exchanges of opinion quickly escalate.

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Fans of the same football club end up threatening each other. Rare orchid enthusiasts start off best of pals. By page 11, they’re writing: “I will kill you and all your family and pets if you persist in saying Dendrophylax lindenii grows anywhere other than wetlands.”

Regular service
As is traditional at this time of year, the postal service is getting it in the neck. Complaints abound about the price of stamps and of cards arriving yonks after they were posted.

Appropriately enough, I suspect poor service is a postcode lottery. Where I live, on one o’ yon Hebrides, all our stuff arrives pretty much on time. Our posties, couriers and indeed our binmen are all fantastic. They’re as regular as clockwork, and I suspect it’s because, unlike in the city, it’s the same regular faces we see delivering the goods.

Regularity is the key to order, harmony and comfort. You read it here first. Stay regular, folks.

A doctor who can save lives
Watching festive episodes of Dr Who could reduce your chance of dying. An important study published in the British Medical Journal found six or seven fewer deaths per 10,000 citizens in the year following a Christmas episode of the controversial space-time show. Top commentators suspect it’s to do with his ability to reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.

The Herald: Dr WhoDr Who (Image: BBC)

Bunker hanker
A firm making nuclear bunkers is experiencing a boom. Lincolnshire Nuclear Fallout Shelters says it’s getting three or four inquiries a week, and not from nutters but professional people wanting to protect their families if the balloon goes bang. After which, they’ll emerge into a wasteland with no internet. Life won’t be worth living.

Chips are down
Recently, we wondered if chips counted as vegetables. Now we learn the answer is: no. The Dietary Guidelines For Americans advisory committee want tatties reclassified as “starchy non-veg” because they contribute to obesity. In response, outraged tattie fans vowed to eat more roasters at Chrimbo.

Greeting meeting
Meeting aliens could cause us “massive anxiety”, according to Germany’s Institute for Frontier Areas of Psychology and Mental Health. It might even make us question reality. What about the effect on the aliens of meeting us? Poor things’ll probably get their tentacles in a right twist.

How you sign off emails reveals a lot about you, says US writer Kelly Landry. “Thanks” means you’re desperate. “Best” shows confidence. Then there’s the vexed question of X, often used by people of dubious morals. “Cheers” indicates an adventurous spirit. In which spirit, we say toodle-pip, readers. And have a good one. X.