Sunday, 8 May 2016

The trials of life...

On the bookcase in our living room is an old book; not as old as some of my more recently purchased books going, in a few cases, back to the 18th century, but old in the sense that I have had it for as long as I can remember. It's David Attenborough's The Trials of Life. It's a BBC hardback, and on the dust jacket I can still see the scars it has borne over the years from the days when I used it as a thing to lean on when drawing castles and cathedrals or writing nonsense stories based on Tolkien as a boy. But I have read it too, not for a very long span of years, but I remember clearly from the chapter "Living Together" Attenborough's description of large animals:
"Most large animals, in fact, are not the single individuals they seem to be. They are walking menageries, whole communities of different species which, in their various ways, are committed by evolution, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, to live together."
That contrasts most sharply with his vivid description of a fight between two grizzly bears over a small carcass in the next chapter, but his mastery of narrative is clearly inspired by Cranmer, very grand, very English. I think he is wonderful, probably the last good thing about the BBC. It's his 90th birthday to-day and I wish him many happy returns, and thank him very sincerely for his fascinating life, and contribution to our understanding of nature, bringing small miracles of life to people like me, who otherwise would not see, still less know of, them.

Magna Opera Domini!

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