Sir David Attenborough’s 50th Birthday: Sunrise Or Sunset?

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 50thย 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…


John Cairnsย –ย The Bodleian Libraries


Categories: Adventure

2 replies »

  1. The beauty of cycling Andrew is you can keep going. I’ve loved all kinds of sport but at 67 years my rugby/football days are behind me. Although I did play for my University seconds in my early 40s as a mature student.
    I’m a great believer that we should not let age restrict us. There are many stories of older people doing exciting things well into their 80s and 90s.

    I’ve not achieved anything like you in terms of cycling adventures but I’m intending to. Family commitments have limited things a bit but I’m hoping I’ve got a few years before I need the electric bike.

    Thank you for this site and the always interesting articles. Hopefully 2019 will be a good one for cycling if not for anything else. We’ll look back though and hopefully the turmoil we are going through will be over.

    Anyway, the start of a new year always allows us time to set new goals and look forward with some optimism.

    Have a nice 2019 and enjoy your 50th in anyway you like.

    Best wishes

  2. Thank you for that, it certainly gave me food for thought. I have done a bit of cycling myself in the past and promised myself to cycle through France when I retire. Two years before retirement I had to have a heart bypass which set me back a bit. I am now 67 and although I might not take on France I do fancy the east coast of England. Now how does one kick himself up the backside? Good luck, Peter

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