Who knows whether it’s true that the CIA and GCHQ are actually reading my postings but if they are here’s a little secret for them; one of my guilty pleasures is watching the Springwatch programme on the BBC. For the benefit of the guys in Langley, Virginia it’s a close up look at our wldlife in its most fertile season. It’s centred on a Welsh nature reserve and hosted by the dappy trio above and as you’d expect I have some foxy observations about them….
Firstly though can I just say that I really enjoy the film work – especially of the bird life. I’ve always been a bit of a closet RSPBer. Last night they were showing a nest of young chicks just hours from fledging when a bloody grass snake suddenly attacked the nest, grabbed a large chick in its mouth and took off with it causing the other nestlings to abandon the nest in panic. It was the most dramatic and horrific thing I’ve seen on the telly since Phil Harding bent over in his tiny denim shorts on Time Team. In the following sequence the grass snake was filmed escaping a predatory heron by swimming across a lake faster than a startled marlin. I thought grass snakes were supposed to be completely docile and unthreatenning. Jeez I’m going to have nightmares for a week.
Notwithstanding the stirring of my deepest phobias, Springwatch is full of fascinating footage like that. But let’s get back to the presenters because unfortunately they hog more than 80% of the available screentime. Firstly there’s mother hen Michaela Strachan. She’s a perfectly pleasant and engaging presenter and is clearly extremely fond of animals but her task is to replace Kate Humble. That’s Kate who came across a bit like an overly-enthusiastic school prefect but who looked like she’d just stepped out of bed having made love for the last two hours. Now you can all me shallow Paulie but when it comes to sheer womanly screen presence, Kate rocks it. Sorry Michaela.
Next up it’s the Afghan hound puppy Martin Hughes-Games and whilst he’s pleasant, knowledgeable and enthusiastic (again), he has a very annoying feature – his mane of hair. It’s actually been shorn a bit for the current series but for years he’s been going around looking like this:
Now I know you’re thinking it’s all hair envy baldie paulie but come on, the guy’s almost 60 for christ’s sake. No-one wears their hair that long unless you’re the son of God, an Italian porn star or a 6’6′ WWF wrestler. But Martin’s a tiny little fella; the runt of the pack. He’s one of a long line of very tiny men absorbed with their own Warren Beattyesque looks – it’s a compensation thing. But I feel a bit guilty about being so harsh because a) he’s still likeable and b) he’s not waspish Chris Packham the final member of the unholy trinity, who I find about as likeable as anal warts.
Ah Chris Packham where do I start with him? He’s not just an animal fan he’s a bloody nature fascist. He quite openly says he prefers creatures to humans (even to the point of saying he’s never wanted children) and he spouts on endlessly about the harm man is causing to the natural world. Yep it’s a serious point but do ease up on the relentless earnestness Packham. He amuses himself by dropping songtitles from bands he admires into commentary within the programme. It was mildly diverting I guess when he did it in the initial series but after several years of shoehorning songs from the Clash, David Bowie, The Smiths, Manic St Preachers and the Cure it’s all getting to be a bit juvenile and, let’s face it, boring. But of course he thinks he’s offering continuing joy to many millions of followers who hang on his every word as his constant tweets on the subject bear testimony. He just drones on and on and doesn’t know when to stop. His style is quite condescending and the fact that he has a lispy delivery and a distinctive dressing style just makes him look and sound like that very queeny biology teacher from school, who didn’t much like the boys but rather enjoyed humiliating them. A loner at school himself he seems like a very intense, friendless and repressed individual. If someone had told me he was closet gay I’d not have been shocked. But the reality is he lives with his zookeeper girlfriend in a state, seemingly, of mutual animal loving bliss. Interestingly however in a recent Sunday Times interview he declared that the special love of his life was his two poodles who share his bed with him (them?). Here’s a shot from the piece:
Bit weird? I do think he’s odd but who am I to pontificate on other people’s private lives? Let’s be fair and just say they are dog lovers too.
But back to the show and the grating thing about Packham is that he doesn’t so much share his knowledge as lecture everyone. Take a look at the shot below. Here’s the man rather typically wearing a look-at-me-being-quirky hat indoors, pontificating about the bloody weather this time and he’s lecturing not just to the viewing audience but also to his poor co-presenter:
By the look on Michaela’s face I’d hazard that she’s thinking about screaming the same thing as myself….’shut the f**k up you prick!’
Apart from that I think the programme’s great.