The Game Fair was cancelled because of rain and plagues of frogs etc but at the Bird Fair we sweltered in the sun – does that tell us anything about how the weather gods see us? Probably not.
I felt that there were noticeably fewer people than usual around on all three days but Tim Appleton told me that the Sunday attendance was the highest, by quite some way, ever. He should know better than I and he has an honest face.
There were certainly lots and lots of people – and lots and lots of people to whom I wanted to talk. I had some great conversations with old friends and some great ones with new acquaintances. And it was really, really good to meet some of my Twitter followers (@markavery) whom I feel I almost know, but had never clapped eyes on in reality. Thank you to all who introduced themselves.
Now that I am firmly in the ‘old codger who used to work for the RSPB‘ category it struck me that such people could put up a very bad football team. Of the team that could have been fielded at the Bird Fair I am quite sure that Barbara Young (thanks for the ice cream Barbara! (and thanks for buying Fighting for Birds to see what I said about you)) would want to be the manager (and maybe the captain too, it would be difficult to keep her off the pitch). Three other former directors of the RSPB (myself, Mike Hodgson and Alistair Gammell) could mill around rather ineffectually just getting in the way (as we did when employed by the RSPB). Roger Lovegrove, Stephanie Tyler and Steve Sankey could ensure a GB feel to the team but I don’t recall seeing a Northern Ireland ex RSPB staff member – we would lack a George Best. There would be two Ken Smiths to confuse the crowd and the commentator. Roger Buisson would be an interesting selection but might get sent off before the end of play (thanks for buying my book Roger, and your Dad bought one too). Richard Porter would make a perfect centre forward for those high balls coming in from the wing. Peter Holden could encourage young players. Sarah Brennan and Debbie Pain, as evidenced by the way they were popping up everywhere on the Bird Fair pitch, still have the legs to score a few goals so we’d be relying on them to do most of the hard work (nothing changes).
Although happy to be in the old codger category there are some folk at the Bird Fair who started life before I did. Some of them were my heroes in my youth or in later life and it seems odd that they now chat to me as if I were worth talking to rather than treating me as the kid that I obviously still am. I saw and chatted briefly to Ian Newton and Chris Perrins on the Friday and was glad that Ian has actually bought Fighting for Birds and said he turned rapidly to Chapter 11, and amused that Chris admitted to checking the references to himself in Ian’s copy rather than getting one himself – it’ll be in the EGI Library soon Chris! I first saw DIM Wallace‘s artwork in British Birds when I was still a schoolboy, and I don’t know him well, but I was touched by the kind words he gave me when he sought me out for a quick chat. Derek Moore is absolutely great value – he is one of many people whom I wished I saw more often between Bird Fairs as well as at them – well, I suppose it’s up to me to make sure I do.
There were some people at the Bird Fair – I know they were there – whom I missed completely. There were others whom I didn’t see and genuinely seemed to be missing this year but I’ll end with a brief mention of one person whom I’ve never seen at a Bird Fair but of whom we talked, as he passed away on 15 August; Jeffery Boswall. Rob Hume’s reflections on Jeffery are perfectly correct. He was a character in a very good sense of the word. I knew Jeffery when he worked at the RSPB but I also remember him when I was a schoolboy in Bristol and he was making films about wildlife in Argentina and Ethiopia (presumably for the BBC Natural History Unit?). I cannot, of course, really remember anything he said to us but I clearly recall how he made a room full of schoolboys laugh and how he left us all with increased enthusiasm for the natural world.
My enthusiasm for nature remains. While chatting to Andy Clements between Marquees 3 and 4 we kept being distracted by wrens carrying food to a nest and fecal sacs away from it. And a chiffchaff was calling. Nature doesn’t distract us from earning a living – it’s the other way around, but only if you let it happen.