|Before meeting Sir David Attenborough: Kew's Herbarium was our HQ for the day. Here we're being shown how specimens are collected in the wild|
I sat there for 10 minutes emitting feeble cries of Wow!, until NAH asked me what on earth was the matter. Naturally he thought I was joking until I showed him the email. After all, the chance to meet a childhood hero, someone who's shaped the key choices I've made in my life doesn't happen everyday.
The result of my day at Kew was published yesterday over on the Guardian Gardening Blog (welcome if you've come over from there), but of course I have a lot more to tell you about the day itself.
|One of the plants featured in the programme. Darwin predicted the orchid was pollinated by a moth, but it wasn't proved until after his death. The moth has a tongue at least one foot long.|
I had to suppress lots of giggles because we were referred by the names of the organisations we were representing, so I was called The Guardian for the day. About 12 journalists attended including the BBC, The Sun, TV Choice, and a couple of geeky gadget types. That was another source of quiet amusement because the questions we asked definitely reflected who we were representing. I just concentrated on sating my overactive curiosity ;)
I also chatted over lunch to one of the scientists featured in the programme, Carlos Magdalena, who has saved the world's smallest water lily from extinction. We also talked about how DNA testing is re-writing the plant kingdom's classification and its latin names. I was moaning about it from a gardener's viewpoint, but it affects him so much more in his everyday work. Sometimes the re-classification result is a complete surprise, but Carlos admitted that when they looked more closely, the taxonomic clues were often there to be seen.
|Sir David Attenborough with the series producer, Anthony Geffen. They've collaborated on quite a few series previously and both care deeply about the quality of the programmes they put together. For me this was a moment when dreams come true :)|
Then it was time to meet the great man himself. Some of the journalists - like the BBC - got him to themselves, I was in a group with 4 others for a round table style interview. I felt most unprofessional when everyone else whipped out their mini recorders to hoover up everything that was said. I concentrated on the conversation, my notebook and pulling out key quotes. I like to think it made the writing process afterwards much quicker - it's much easier to look though notes than going backwards and forwards through a recording.
We talked about whether 3D is the future of TV. David Attenborough thinks the way it's watched (with those dark glasses) means it will only ever be a family event. I was also concerned at how limited the audience for the series will be because it's on a Sky channel with a relatively small subscription base. I learnt it's being shown on HD as well as 3D there - using the results of just one of the two cameras which filmed the series for the 2D version. However, availability across many media platforms IS the future with this kind of series: there will be an IMAX version (60 cinemas worldwide), there's the book, a DVD and an app of course, and 10 million people will see an extract on their Nintendo games machines.
I was pleased Sir David became most animated with my questions and I also made him laugh a couple of times. Filming starts on his next 3D series soon, in the Galapagos Islands (lucky man). He described how unwieldy the cameras are in the field - taking up to 4 people to hold them - which means a lot of the wildlife simply won't perform in front of them. I quipped that most of the programme will be about the giant tortoises. "You're absolutely right" he said "and believe me you have to be most careful if you're camping in a brightly coloured tent, because they can get very frisky!"
It was such an amazing day and one I'll cherish for a very long time. I also had time to gallop around Kew Gardens afterwards, but that's a story for another time.