Apologies, not much updates of late. Life has seem to snowball into a growing checklists of To Do’s as all the Hihis have decided to synchronise shag. To top it off, the boss’s arriving tomorrow which means the past week has been a ‘mare of paperwork catch up, tidying data and extensive “lab” hours. I had to practically beg Dave the ranger to let me download an episode of Radiolab on (Great podcast!) the fast DoC internet so I wouldn’t drive myself mental shoving tiny sample numbers into 100+ eppendorf tubes of avian matter till 11. Oh and gettin’ bollockings for not doing dishes…. when all I want to do is sit down with a beer and watch The Thick of It (Great tv show!) But aaaanyway, we all have lives to moan about.
Back in the days however, of late mornings and fishing evenings, where lunch was had at a leisurely and communal pace, we met an dashing young herpetologist (amphibian reptile expert, not the STD) who wanted to know if we had seen tuatara, a strange lizard like creature that hasn’t changed for millions of years. As people started swearing upon their sightings like UFO spotters, I noticed an older looking gentleman standing behind him, shifting uncomfortably and paying undue attention to the “CLEAN THE BUNKHOUSE” notices on the board. He looked distinctly familiar… those kindly eyes, the reserved smile. Something’s not quite right though, it’s as if he’s missing…a big horny green parrot on the top of his head…
It couldn’t be. Will’s English and he would know, but he seemed to be more interested in the young herpetologist. However Will suddenly whips round and whispers not so discreetly, “Is that MARK CAWARDINE?” I swear I saw the older man stiffen up a bit, but I shrug helplessly. Will proceeds to answer himself, “No. It’s definitely not him. I’ve met him before. And I know for a fact, the lady presenter from the Really Wild Show right? He’s f-” right then the man looks over and we quickly hide behind our avocado and bacon sandwiches.
I wasn’t convinced, so I did what everyone does when in doubt. I Googled. Turns out it was Mark Cawardine. Esteemed conservationist, nature presenter and journalist. Of course, what he’ll always be remembered for is the video of him being shagged by a Kakapo, a very rare NZ parrot. If you haven’t seen it, I insist you search it up on youtube this instant.
He apparently happened to be on this island to take photos of tuataras for an article. Will and I spent an afternoon plotting and scheming on how to ‘accidentally’ encounter him while we were at ‘work’. Unfortunately being not-so-important people on this island, he got squirreled away for a private dinner with the upper echelons of the Tiri hierarchy. Right, so much for inspiring young conservationists eh? I’m off to work for an oil company, in bitter protest.
However next day as I was doing my feeder rounds, I bumped into Mark and taking photos of my beloved Hihis. I couldn’t think of anything smart to say, instead I unsuccesfully tried to peer over the top of his turtleneck sweater to see if I could spot the love scars from his dalliance with the Kakapo. I suppose I could have asked him about state of conservation but frankly we all know the answer to that, so all that floated to my mind was Will’s previous ponderance about Mark the day before, a strange connection between Terry Pratchett (who Will loves) and the late Douglas Adams who was Mark’s good friend. So instead of engaging in lively discussion deserving of like minded conservationistas, I just burst out with:
“My room mate wants to know if you read Terry Pratchett.”
“Do you read Terry Pratchett?”
“I have read his books…What a weird question!”
I grimaced and gave him a tell-me-about-it expression.
“Tell him yes. Yes I do.”
Happy with that answer I bounded back to report to Will whose life was definitely enriched by it. Despite this insight into Mr. Cawardine’s reading habits, I was still frustrated at not having gotten away with anything substantial from this rare celebrity vagrant on our island who was leaving that very day. I mean we didn’t even have proof that we met this guy.
So in a last ditch attempt, I left a note by his doorstep:
“Dear Mark, I’m not sure if Will and I will bump into you again on Tiri. Our ornithological masters demand our servitude. Missing out on a chat with you is a damn shame for us conservation-keen young ‘uns who you’re a bit of a hero to. Ach. If we don’t cross paths again on Tiri, would you mind autographing some books for us? We don’t actually have any proper books. But Will has this one Terry Pratchett book (not why he wanted to know if you read T.P. (or watch the Wire). That will remain a mystery) and I have a Kindle. You can sign the BACK of it and you will have your name on the 90+ books I have in it (the closest appropriate one about cannibal sailors and a komodo dragon.) [note: Mark has done a documentary about komodo dragons. I’m not crazy.]
A big fat thank you for your efforts!
p.s It would make a great Xmas present for Will as I am too skint on my volunteer lack-of-wage to afford one
pp/s Hope you got some good HIhi shots. They are proper sexy birds.
.. and placed my kindle and Will’s Terry Pratchett book beneathe the note at Mark’s doorstep and headed back home to wait.
Awhile later, Will comes into the room with a dazed smile on his face and an autographed copy of Snuff by Terry Pratchett (not autographed by Terry Pratchett) and my autographed Kindle in his hands. He had just been chopping up avocados in the kitchen when Mark Cawardine walks in and goes “You’re Will?” Will raises his head from his chopping and just about keels over. Cawardine in the Kitchen! Mark hands over books, and Will at this point had to incoherently stutter out his logic behind his TP question. Mark was friends with Douglas Adams who Will felt had similar style of writing to Terry Pratchett who he was thinking of because it just came out in the news that alzheimic Mr. Pratchett was starting the process assisted suicide. Although then Will glumly admits that he just made it sound like Mark Cawardine had Alzheimers and wanted to take his own life.
Pleased as punch, I ran out just to catch Mark walking away in the distance. I raced across the paddock, like an enlightened lover at the final scene of a romantic comedy, yelling out “MARK MARK.. WAIT!” As he turned round, I screeched to a halt with a big grin on my face, “THANK YOU!” He winked at me, like the man that he was, and strolled off into the sunset.
When I went back, Will insisted we still didn’t have definitive proof of his presence. Take a photo! he cries. I flat out refuse at this point, having pretty much stalked the poor man, requesting a photo would be tacky, if not a little creepy. “Use your long lens”. My what? “Your long lens. You didn’t just buy that lens to take photos of bloody BIRDS.”
So I scramble to whip out my obnoxious and invasively long zoom lens, and proceeded to capture this last glimpse of Mark Cawardine in the distance with the dashing young herpetologist. No, definitely not creepy at all.