Life on Air
I loved David Attenborough’s LIFE ON AIR: MEMOIRS OF A BROADCASTER and didn’t want to get to the end. It is so very English in its particular kind of charm and reticence and modesty, full of self-deprecating humour. I especially enjoyed the story about two doughty explorers of the 1930s, Bill Tillman and Eric Shipton, who shared a small tent in the Himalayas living off the local food, roasted barley. After a month or so. Shipton is supposed to have said, rather shyly, ‘Now that we know each other pretty well, so you think we might stop calling one another by our surnames.’ To which Tilman replied, ‘Are you suggesting that I should call you Eric? I’m afraid I couldn’t do that. I should feel such a bloody fool.’ Those were the days. Now it is first names at the drop of a hat. A recent exception to this is in my Mandarin class: the Chinese respect for seniority is such is that my Chinese teacher often addresses me as ‘Dr Poulson’.
I also liked the story of the filming of the bat colony in Borneo in a cave with the pile of bat droppings one hundred and fifty feet high, covered in a shimmering carpet of cockcroaches. David Attenborough climbed it to be filmed at the top and, almost overcome by ammonia fumes, explained to camera that some people are afraid of a bat flying into their hair ‘of course there is no danger of that ‘- and he went on to explain about their amazing navigation system. That was as much as he could manage before he choked. The camera was shut down and the next instant a huge bat crashed into his face.
One of the bravest things he did was not in the field at all, in my view. It was giving up a highly paid administrative job as Director of Programmes for the BBC to go back to making wildlife programmes as a freelance.
Regular visitors to this blog (hello, there) will have realised that I’ve settled into a routine of blogging every Monday. Next week is Easter Monday, so it’ll be Tuesday. And in case you’re wondering after last week’s blog, I haven’t found my watch. In fact last week was a series of small mishaps. I had to see the funny side on Wednesday. After a day of nearly going bonkers, trying to sort out problems with my e-mail server, it got to six o’clock and I poured myself a stiffish gin and tonic. I managed to drink about half when my husband tipped the rest down the sink, thinking it was water . . .