A discussion about bovine lactation on the Archers, between father and daughter duo David and Pip no longer feels as uncomfortable and irrelevant as it once might have*. Unless you thought you were listening to 6 Music**.
We have fast become a nation of enthusiastic, native animal fanciers. I myself have been to more bird of prey sanctuaries than Partridge- and it’s becoming a problem. From the voting in of the robin as our National Bird (a. it’s incredible that so many people care and b. it’s disappointing that the owl has to settle for second place), to the continuing success of Springwatch, it seems that the UK thirsts for something else to engage with, alongside current affairs, kale and bombastic HBO dramas. We need Michaela Stracham standing in the twilight in a quilted gilet talking us through a Bristol pigeon family’s nest building. LIVE. This stuff cannot be pre-recorded; yesterday’s twigs are compost in the visceral world of nature and we must admire it as it happens, otherwise our lives will cease to hold meaning. And I imagine Michaela equally needs that long-awaited loft conversion her years out in the TV wilderness have until now so cruelly denied her.
Photo: Sophie Alderson 2015
In the same week in which I watched- enthralled and horrified- the Game of Thrones season finale present a teenage girl stabbing a violent paedophile’s eyeballs out with a dagger and shoving them down his throat, slashing him to death as she shouted her own name (and that was a moment of light relief), I also tuned in to Radio 4’s Sunday Magazine Programme in time to catch Paddy O’Connell narrate an audio clip of mating hedgehogs:
“This is actually the sound of hedgehogs mating: at least, I think you can hear one of them. (Snuffling sounds). Then the recording comes to an end, and they’re left in bliss.”
I don’t know about other listeners, but I was left wondering whether Paddy O’Connell had accidentally identified a single hedgehog caught in an onanistic act; the “bliss” a bizarre, extra narrative flourish that he added in to disguise the grubby truth. Great radio.
And let’s not forget the frenzy of accolades the BBC’s The Canal Trip received, for its two hour, real-time footage of a barge travelling at 4mph along the Kennet and Avon canal with only the occasional chirp of birds or slosh of water for sound. The words “hypnotic” and “dreamlike” were rightly applied by many; my friend and I were in a state of unbridled rapture as we luxuriated in its bucolic anti-TV-ness. We repeatedly discussed just how relaxed we were over the top of nearly all of it; at times I was barely even watching the television I was so beside myself on Twitter about it. Presumably students all over the country have been watching this on repeat at 5am after Gatecrasher, hugging each other and weeping about dead family pets. The promise of similar ‘Scandinavian programming’ is exciting; particularly the real-time Potter’s Wheel which is apparently coming. God I hope Demi or Whoopi’s on board now we’ve lost Patrick.
I am enjoying our genuine national interest in hitherto uncelebrated wildlife, in a positive way that Watership Down could never truly offer. Because all the children were crying.
Personally, I would like to see a glorious amalgamation of the above: a two hour, real time live broadcast of Chris Packham silently feeding and bathing a group of owls in a student house at 4am, with only the sound of a single masturbating hedgehog in the background for accompaniment.
*I felt really uncomfortable.
**I knew it wasn’t 6 Music.