Mike Dilger & I in our Clacton dressing roomThe day has come. The day that Mike Dilger (The Dilge) and I were to descend upon the good people of Clacton in Essex to deliver our long awaited talk on our birding lives.
I woke up at 8am - late for me, as I had hoped to head out to The Scrubs for some meditation time before starting my day. So much for that. I put the finishing touches to my RSPB article on the Brighton Starlings and sent it off to the editor, then set about tickling my Conwy piece.
My ex-agent left me a voicemail to wish me a good talk tonight (as he had arranged it) and also mentioned that I may be getting a call from the producer at the Jeremy Vine Show on BBC Radio 2 to get me to come in to chat about feeding garden birds at 1pm. No more than 20 minutes later I received the call from the producer. He asked me to come in and chat live on air for 1.20pm. On an ordinary day that would have been cool, but today was the day that me and The Dilge had ear tagged to do the final rehearsals, view our video clips and put together our powerpoint presentation. Despite that, I agreed to do it, so a car was organised to pick me up.
Meanwhile, I had an email back from the editor of RSPB's Birds saying that he loved my Brighton piece. Nice.
When The Dilge arrived at my house, he wasn't best pleased to learn that I would be breaking off our crucial rehearsal time to do something else. I thought about what he was saying and agreed with him. So I pulled out of it and they got Stephen Moss from the Natural History Unit to step in.
The Dilge and I cracked on. Boy am I glad that we took that extra time as we sure needed it.
We eventually arrived at the theatre at 5.40pm after a traffic-filled 2.5 hour drive across central London and into darkest Essex. For those with poor geography (myself included) Clacton is situated on the coast, lapped by the freezing waters of the cold North Sea.
We were shown to our dressing room where we set about rehearsing our talk again. At 7.30pm we strode onto the stage to face an audience of around 800 mostly elderly members of the local arts and literary society. The talk started smoothly. We got a few laughs and were holding the audience's attention. I was in the middle of a story about when as a kid I watched an animated film called 'The Last Of The Curlews' and how it shaped my future birding life. Meanwhile, Mike had just received a message from the organiser that we had to stop the talk because someone in the crowd was having a heart attack and needed to be carted of to hospital - pronto!
Of course, despite trying to loudly whisper at me to finish, I was in full flow with arms waving and with the crowd listening intently. Once I'd finished, he stepped up and addressed the audience telling them the news. We retired to our dressing room whilst the poor fella (who by now had blue lips and a decidedly grey face) was shipped off to hospital.
After a 25 minute delay we returned to the stage and delivered the remainder of the talk. It was a hit. They loved it. At the end, Mike signed a few copies of his book and I signed a few autographs. Jeez, I feel like a celebrity!
There were plenty of smiles on the drive back as Mike and I planned our world tour!