My Penguin, my love
I'm often asked how I think of something new to write about week in, week out, for years on end. I'll admit, it's not always easy. Often I'll look back on the week that was me and be quite amazed by the sheer amount of nothingness that happened (or, rather, didn't).Life brings dizzy heights and melancholy lows to all of us on occasion, but as a rule it is the humdrum that dominates. That is why sometimes we have to learn to see the magical in the mundane. It's how I manage to make Tuesday at 8.30pm the occasional highlight of my week. Unless you're inclined (as I am) to be a little bit geeky, I don't expect you to understand why the BBC documentary programme 'Penguins - Spy in the Huddle' (aired on TV One) was the highlight of my week. I was so determined not to forget the show was on that I set two alarms in my phone and made sure the popcorn and cup of tea were ready five minutes before the curtain lifted. And I wasn't disappointed. Even if you're not mildly obsessed with penguins like I am, it was impossible not to be impressed with the unprecedented access afforded by the placement of 50 animatronic cameras right inside three bustling penguin colonies. The penguin cams were so lifelike that one smitten suitor even tried to seduce an especially life-like camera, until he was caught red-handed by his mate, who promptly tried to teach the camera a lesson for creeping on her turf. For an entire year, often in total isolation in freezing Antarctica or the blistering heat of the Peruvian desert, dedicated camera crews captured more than 1,000 hours of footage to reveal the lives, loves and losses of one of the world's best-loved little creatures. To the bewilderment of my boyfriend (who has grown weary of listening to me wax lyrical about the various cinematic glorious of the BBC's nature series and now opts to read a book on Tuesday nights) I was so enthralled by the documentary that at times I was laughing out loud, cheering on the Rockhopper penguins as they battled their way from sea to land and almost crying in despair as a lone Emperor gets left behind in a blizzard. I'm not sure why it is that wildlife documentaries capture my imagination and generate emotion in a way that stories about my own species seldom can. Perhaps it is because when we look closely at nature, the similarities between humans and all the other creatures that walk this planet with us is revealed. From the outside looking in, humans and penguins might seem to have very little in common, but when you find a way to observe them in unrestricted detail, you learn that - at heart - they strive for the same simple things that we do; companionship, parenthood, a comfortable place to call home and safety from the things that threaten them. There is a global collegiality to be derived from learning about how animals tick, and although our intellect may have pushed us to the top of the pile, it is valuable sometimes to be reminded just how complicated and clever other species can be. Unlike humans, you'll never find a penguin who will abuse it's young, cheat on it's partner (penguins mate for life) or not come home after a trip away - even if it is for five months at a time. Nature documentaries may not be the coolest thing to watch on TV, but they are life-affirming food for the soul and a feast for the eye. Which is more than you can say for X Factor or Neighbours At War.