Friday 11th November
Having just taken you down the by-ways of nineteen seventies television, how about coming bang up to date with the wonderful ‘Frozen Planet’? I have always loved Natural History programs, and nobody does it better than the BBC. In fact I think that ITV have stopped altogether – maybe they think there is enough wild life on X factor already. Well, if the audience figures are anything to go by then watching poor innocent lambs being torn apart before our very eyes by ravenous vultures is as popular as ever. I have only dallied once, when, out of sheer boredom, and maybe a modicum of curiosity at what all the fuss was about, I watched a few minutes of X factor; and a few minutes was enough. Maybe it says a lot about our society that this sort of thing is so successful, at least I suppose it might be considered one step up from Big Brother.
As a child I used to love those Disney wild-life films, you know, the ones about a bear family in Yellowstone Park, or prairie dogs or the mountain lion jumping from rock to rock. Then we had the wonderful Life on Earth and all the other Life ones which followed, all beautifully filmed and sound-tracked by what was at the time, a relatively youthful David Attenborough. What is it about his voice, with those slightly arched and old-fashioned middle class tones that we find so reassuring and attractive? He is, by all accounts, quite curmudgeonly and very right wing in real life; none of that stops him from being able to talk with what seems such intimate knowledge and enthrallment about the natural world, and the dangers which mankind is threatening it with. So, a long quiet love affair, shared by millions I am sure, and possibly we were always a bit afraid that the current series might be his last. Someone once reviewed the Rolling Stones (no, I do not like them at all and never have done) that one went to watch them not to see how good they were, but just to see if they were still alive. But David Attenborough just seems to get better and better; nowadays he doesn’t walk through caves where millions of fruit bats are roosting and, incidentally, defecating on his head, and he doesn’t sit in a forest glade with silver-backed gorillas’ any more, in fact one fears that never more will we see him in those baggy khaki shorts and safari shirts. He just narrates, and brings to life the spectacular photography, and what photography, slow motion and time-lapsed ice crystals forming or melting, and the beautiful underwater ice sculptures are just incredible. My only small gripe is the bit tacked on the end where they show you how they filmed it, this takes away some of the romance I feel.
Maybe in a hundred years time, we will have begun to properly explore Antartica, if the technology has improved significantly; though in all likelihood we will destroy more than we manage to preserve. It used to be a real rarity for anyone to reach either pole, and it was only a hundred years ago since Amundsen beat Scott by days to the South Pole, but now our modern-day adventurers’ Polar achievements are hardly even newsworthy, but I was dismayed when this past summer they managed to take a ship right around the Arctic circle, now ice-free because of global warming. The most sobering thought is that this program may be obsolete at some time in the future, as our Frozen Planet becomes even more of a rarity.