David’s Daily Digital Dollop: Dollop 155 – Some Springwatch anecdotes

Download the audio version of today’s Dollop here

The majority of yesterday’s Dollop was very hastily written, and was frantically typed up on my laptop, precariously perched on my knee as I sat on the dodgy swivel chair with the wheel missing in the BBC Springwatch production studio.

After we’d recorded our show, we went to the pub with the Springwatch team, as we did the week before. The recording didn’t finish until just before 10, and so we didn’t get to the pub until 1030. I still hadn’t finished the Dollop, and the fact that I’d been typing it whilst spinning and wobbling around on a broken swivel chair, meant that I had made loads of typos. It was standing room only in the pub, so I had to be very anti-social and sit on a bench outside the pub with my laptop.

I sat there for about an hour, and in that time a couple of people from the production team came out to bring me beer, which while very kind of them, resulted in making me feel guilty and rather stupid for not joining them in the pub. But, as I warned you at the start of this project, I have the kind of obsessive personality that means I would rather sit in the cold and the dark on a bench, ignoring my friends in the pub, than allow this consecutive daily blogging challenge to fail. Nearly half way through!

I was also feeling a bit self-conscious. Because we’d come to Springwatch straight from the project we’ve been working on this week, I had my big bag with me which contained all the bits of equipment I needed. I probably looked to people like a very eccentric homeless person, sitting on a bench outside a pub, with all my worldly possessions in a bag by my feet, drinking beer that was being brought to me by benevolent and sympathetic customers, while I typed on a laptop computer, which, because I am blind, didn’t have the monitor turned on. So it would have looked to people as if I was typing on a laptop that wasn’t even switched on. Perhaps people assumed I was a struggling writer, who was struggling so much that he didn’t have a home and spent his days sitting on a bench outside a pub, hoping that someone would buy him a beer out of sympathy, while he drunkenly typed on a broken laptop, perhaps too drunk to even realise it wasn’t switched on or working.

Eventually, I got the Dollop uploaded, and made my way back into the pub. But the pub was so packed that I couldn’t get through or work out where anyone was. Fortunately, Someone came to my rescue and guided me through. It was quite a long walk into the room where my fellow Young’uns and the Springwatch team were sitting, so I had quite a long chat, consisting of trivial small talk, with the person guiding me. It was only after she’d gone that I discovered that my rescuer had been Michaela Strachan, who we’d not met on the Springwatch Unsprung set, because she only does the main Springwatch programme. So I had a five minute bout of small talk, and walked hand in hand with Michaela Strachan, without having any idea who she was.

I did however speak to her for another five minutes later that evening, and she asked me what I was doing outside, by myself, on the bench with my laptop, so I told her about the Dollop. I drunkenly told her that she should give it a listen or a read, and, presumably just humouring me, she said that she would. So, just in case she is reading or listening, hello, I hope you’re enjoying this, you are very welcome. Feel free by the way, Michaela, to send me an ASMR audio comment, maybe comprising you imparting wildlife facts in a sensual whisper. Feel free also if you want to get Chris Packham involved too.

Upon being ushered into the TV studio, I was immediately set upon by a couple of people, one of whom, a woman, whispered something to me, and then began to stroke my face with a soft brush. In fact, it was kind of like a physical manifestation of my sensually whispering feathered friend on the ASMR podcast we listened to on Dollop 150. The other person was a man, who was pulling up the front of my shirt, and fondling my lower back. I thought the BBC were trying to stamp out the whole molestation in the studio thing, yet here I was being touched up by two people in full view of everyone else. But I soon realised that the whispering woman stroking my face was actually applying makeup, which needs to be added so that the cameras pick faces up properly. The man with one hand up the front of my shirt, and the other hand grappling around the back of my trousers, was attaching a mic to me, the wire of which went up the inside of my shirt in order to be inconspicuous on the cameras, and a small power unit was being attached to the inside of the back of my trousers. The reason for their whispering was because Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan were just metres away finishing off that day’s live broadcast of Springwatch. Both the man’s and woman’s hands were rather cold, and so the viewers of yesterday’s Springwatch were very nearly treated to me shouting out in shock, possibly exclaiming something profane, but fortunately I managed to stop myself reacting to the sudden surprise of cold hands being thrust onto my skin.

The whole TV studio experience was quite odd for me. I didn’t really feel able to say anything, as I didn’t know where the camera was pointing and who it was focused on. There were cameras darting around the place, and people with cameras shuffling low down on the floor. There was a point when I was going to say something, but this was when Chris Packham was at the other side of the studio looking at Sean’s drawing that he’d been challenged to do by the Springwatch team, and I wasn’t sure whether if I said something, it might have resulted in a mad scrum of cameramen to have to come quickly crawling along the floor in order to get me in the shot and properly focus on my face. The other two could see where the cameras were pointing and react accordingly. It’s also very fast paced, and there isn’t really the time or opportunities for interjection, especially from someone who doesn’t have a clue where to face, so I left it to the other two who did a fine job without me, and it was a really good interview with Packham.

I found the whole studio applause thing a bit weird. As I mentioned yesterday, the audience were made to practise their applause beforehand, and coached about how to do it properly. During the show, there is someone who directs the audience when to applaude. The opening music will play, and he’ll count the audience down from ten, and then they applaud. It almost makes the act of applauding seem a bit ridiculous and redundant, as surely the idea of applause is to denote audience appreciation? But in this case the audience were being told how to applaud, when to applaud and for how long; Yes, he was even directing the length of the applause, and the audience were instructed to stop when he gave the sign. It basically makes the applause meaningless in any real sense, and it’s simply just a studio gimmick. At least they didn’t tell the audience when and where to laugh, and didn’t coached them beforehand about the sign given to indicate a hahaha laugh, as opposed to heeheehee or hohoho. It wasn’t quite that regimented.

I also found it a bit odd when it came to some of the things the audience were being instructed to applaud; the kinds of things that don’t really warrant applause. The audience were directed to applaud things like the various little videos, such as the video near the start, where they reviewed what had been on the show during that week. It didn’t seem like the kind of thing that you would naturally applaud. When you watch the TV at home, or go to the cinema, no one gets the urge to applaud the ”previously” section, but for some reason, the audience in the studio are instructed to applaud every little incidental thing.

Before we sang our song, Chris Packham read an extract from a World War I soldier’s diary, which inspired our song, Lapwings. It’s a very moving an evocative entry which reads:

“Following the geese, came a couple of lapwings, and then about half a dozen more. It was the call of spring. In a few hours time those same lapwings might be wheeling over English fields. I watched them go by, in scattered pairs, small parties, and larger flocks. All were journeying in the same direction. My thoughts went with them, to the level fens of East Anglia, and the North country mosses that I knew so well. I was still watching the lapwings passing when the relieving sentry appeared. It seemed barely possible that two hours could have slipped by so quickly. Back once more in the dugout, I dozed off to sleep. My dreams were of English fields, horses at work ploughing, and the spring cries of the Peawits.”

When we perform this song at gigs, we read this extract out before hand, and there’s never applause, because applause is an odd and inappropriate response. Often the audience respond to it with a plaintive sigh, and sometimes there are tears; it’s quite an emotional moment. But, in the peculiar TV studio environment, when Packham had finished beautifully reading the diary entry, the director immediately indicated for the audience to applaud, and they duly did, which doesn’t at all fit with the mood of the piece. But this is a world where everything, from a short introductory video clips montage to the musings of a dead soldier, fearing for his life and desperately longing for home, is met with the exact same response: effusive applause.

But regardless, it was a great opportunity for us, and we had a great time with the Springwatch team, both in the studio, and especially afterwards in the pub, or at least once I’d eventually joined them after an hour of being anti-social and sitting by myself on a bench outside the pub. And thus, hear ends today’s Dollop. Cue applause.

You can watch the show here


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2 thoughts on “David’s Daily Digital Dollop: Dollop 155 – Some Springwatch anecdotes

  1. Very witty, David (as usual). My wife, Jane and I had wondered how your usual exceedingly quick wit and spontaneity we’re going to cope with a live studio environment, so that explains your unusual lack of input. Shame. Keep up the great work y’all though

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