There was a hint of this in yesterday’s post but 50 is clearly a number on my mind…
Today is Wednesday 2nd January 2019 but I’m writing this on December 27th 2018. My 50th Christmas is over. My 50th New Year is about to take place. Christmas 2018 was a quiet one, probably the quietest of the 50. New Year will be, I suspect, equally ‘understated’. I’ve never felt comfortable celebrating things. My three big cycling achievements of the last ten years – arriving in Brindisi, Cape St. Vincent and Nordkapp in 2010, 2013 and 2015 respectively at the end of my three long, continental cycles – were never celebrated. Marked, yes, but not celebrated with anything other than modest feelings of self-satisfaction. And always alone. June 2019 will mark my 50th birthday. Once again, I don’t think I’ll be celebrating.
When I switched on the TV this morning, one of the BBC’s science correspondents Pallab Ghosh was giving a run-down of what had happened in 2018 in the scientific world. This included David Attenborough appearing in a re-run of the speech he gave at the Katowice Climate Change Conference earlier in December. Sir David was 50 on May 8th 1976. I was 6 years old at the time. I’d only just started school. By the summer of 1976, Attenborough had achieved much in his life. Far more than me in my first 50 years. Probably you too. He had explored the continents and brought his stories back to our TVs throughout the 1950s and 1960s and by the mid-70s was still in full swing. I’m not sure if a 6 year-old me had any idea of who David Attenborough was but if was, I can only have ever been exposed to a very small fraction of his prodigious output despite there being some illustrious names on the list including Zoo Quest and The World About Us.
Sir David probably did celebrate his 50th birthday. He was able to look back upon what he had achieved with pride although I dare say he didn’t spend too much time pondering over past exploits. He doesn’t come across as that kind of person at all. I also suspect that he doesn’t take the time to read through his filmography as listed on Wikipedia. But I suggest that you pause reading this and follow that link. Scroll from the top of the page until you get to 1976, the year in which his series of programmes called ‘The Explorers‘ was broadcast, the year in which he headed off, perhaps, to his local curry house to celebrate his 50th birthday. Impressive, no?
You’ve probably already done so, but if you didn’t, keep scrolling down the page; through the remainder of the 1970s, onto the 1980s and 90s, into the 21st Century, the ‘noughties’ and through the final few years to 2019. I haven’t counted the entries but I’m guessing that at least two-thirds – perhaps more – of Attenborough’s contributions to the public understanding of the natural world via his television programmes have come in the decades since he became 50. The list includes his iconic ‘Life‘ trilogy (Life on Earth, The Living Planet and The Trails of Life), Blue Planet (I and II) and Planet Earth (I and II). Since becoming eligible to draw his state pension in 1991 he is listed as a writer, presenter or narrator of 76 programmes or series of programmes. If you still need to be impressed, you’ll note from the scroll bar on the right of your browser that you haven’t yet arrived at the half-way point of the page. His list of ‘other programmes‘ is a lifetime of achievement in itself.
Sir David Attenborough is clearly an exceptional person. He’s also a very good example for all of us that as our own half century approaches, perhaps we should not be thinking about winding down but cranking things up…