I’d seen The Blue Planet before I moved to England and was amazed by it, but since my friend A. made me aware of Sir David Attenborough, I’ve been the most faithful fan. I haven’t missed a single episode of Planet Earth, Life in the Undergrowth and Life in Cold Blood.
To watch him kneel or lie in the sand, windswept, donning khakis and a light blue shirt, whispering and pointing to explain to us even the creepiest, crawliest, slimiest creatures with genuine enthusiasm and passion, is simply awe-inspiring. He reminds me that ‘curiosity’, etymologically, is associated with ‘care’.
For two weeks in autumn, I purchased every issue of the Daily Mail (with a slight feeling of guilt, because it’s an appalling newspaper) – and if I couldn’t, for whichever reason, I terrorised E. to do so – to collect single episodes of all the Attenborough series on DVD.
And then, last Wednesday, I had the opportunity, between two meetings in London, to squeeze in a visit to The Queen’s Gallery next to Buckingham Palace to see Amazing Rare Things, the current exhibition of natural drawings from the Royal Collection co-curated by Sir David. Get past the airport-style security and don’t be unnerved by the muffled, repressed atmosphere (I had to sneeze at some point and felt like a terrorist) – and it is quite amazing.
The deep, saturated, velvety red of Maria Sibylla Merian’s Branch of banana tree (Musa paradisiaca) with caterpillar and moth (Automeris liberia), c. 1701-5, still haunts me.