A Night Out

So, I did it, I booked a night out, on my own.

I was scrolling through Facebook – as you do – a friend of mine called it the ‘scroll hole’ – we all do it. We waste so much time scrolling, scrolling, ooh that looks intere.., scrolling, scrolling, it’s the equivalent of opening the fridge or the food cupboard and just standing there looking, hoping for inspiration or maybe a hand to come out with a plate full of delicious food.

You get the odd morsel, something that interests you for a minute, but then on you go, scrolling, there could be someone sat next to you waiting for a conversation but you still scroll.

Except this particular time there was something that interested me – A Wild Night Out With Chris Packham and Paul Goldstein. An evening of talking, photos and conservation. How could I resist. It had been a couple of weeks since I’d been finished with so I was in need of something to look forward to, something to cheer me up. So I followed the link and booked it. Just like that! Go me!! But not only that, I went and booked a hotel for the night too! In London! Kensington to be precise. I went into work the next day and booked the following day off. I didn’t really need to book the hotel but I didn’t fancy travelling the tubes and trains late at night on my own. I’m not saying I couldn’t do it if I had to, but why not make a night of it.

After I booked it I put it to the back of my mind and had some other trips in between – you may have read about them.

But then the day arrived. I was a little nervous, I don’t know why, I guess it was another unknown. I was finishing work at 3pm to get into London for registration at 6.30pm and the talk would begin at 7.15pm.

I was in plenty of time to check into my hotel beforehand. It was a Best Western and I have never been in such a ‘cute’ room! And by cute I mean tiny! I will probably have bruises to prove it, between the bed, bathroom door, stool and the tv on the wall I think I had all parts of my body covered! All I can say is the people who designed it must have used a tape measure with only millimetres on it!

But, it would do the job and actually it was quite nice, the shower was one of those ‘rain’ ones – very nice!

The venue, Kensington Town Hall was only a 10 minute walk away. Before I had left, my eldest son insisted I download the tube app and the Uber app. He told me to get a taxi, not walk and stay away from the parks – I’m not sure what he thought I was doing!😃

But I opted to walk, it was quite a busy street and it really wasn’t far.

I found it. Love Google Maps. I went in, had my name ticked off the list and was told there was champagne on the right as you go in.

Now I had no clue what to expect. There really wasn’t much given away in the details on Facebook. I had to assume I was dressed right, just a jumper and jeans – and I was. Everyone just looked normal, standing around, chatting. There were some other people on their own so I didn’t feel too out of place. You seem to go into a mode when you’re in a situation like that. You find things to look at, just wander and keep sipping your drink. I saw quite a few people with what was obviously a bag with something inside it that was being handed out somewhere. I couldn’t see where so I asked another lady where she had got hers from, she told me, I got mine. Inside was a holiday brochure by Exodus Travel, I got it out and started perusing through it. WOW there were some fantastic holidays in there, ranging from around £1,100 to £24,000!!! In a brochure like that I look at the prices first before I fall in love with the holiday – saves too much disappointment that way. I simply Have to go on one of these holidays – simples.

After a while I realised people had started to move into the auditorium so I made my way in too. I opted to sit on an aisle seat on the left, I figured I could see everything that I needed to see, plus Chris Packham was at the front on the left.

After a little while it began.

Paul Goldstein talked first and started showing his photos and talking about them. Chris Packham would occasionally add a comment or two and you soon began to realise they had a special relationship, a kind of love hate thing going on but with a huge respect for each other. Between them they had us in stitches, man it felt good to laugh.

The photos were just, well, they were perfect – to us – to them, they were very critical of their own and also each other’s.

In between the gorgeous ones we were shown one of a poacher/Hunter/ barbarian with a tiger draped around his neck – his kill. Bastard. It just incensed Paul Goldstein and no doubt pretty much everyone in the audience. How? Why? It’s sickening. Paul said it was probably worth around £20 – £30,000 but alive it would be worth £80,000+ because of the revenue it would bring into the country (India). They need to be educated. Paul would like to do a lot more to the guy who killed it, but who wouldn’t?

He finished his section by showing us 10 photos that Chris had sent to him to be ‘marked’ – hilarious!! They were quite scathing, of course they were utterly beautiful photos but I guess they are always striving for a better one.

It was time for an interval, where soft drinks and wine were served in the foyer and books were for sale – of which I bought Chris Packham’s Fingers in the Sparkle Jar, which was already signed. During this time they were signing their books at the front of the auditorium. I went and sat back down, wondering if I should go and join the queue. I started chatting to the lady next to me, who was also on her own, about the book and about the photos we had seen and photography. I told her my phone was my camera, that was my limit and I was quite happy with that. I could never hope to take the quality of photos they had taken, the lady said the same, she would have loved to take photos like that. I mentioned to her that maybe I should go and join the queue, she said why not! It’s a now or never moment and she was right. So I did. But before I got to the front they started turning people away! They wanted to start the second half which was Chris’s presentation, so I made my disappointed way back to my seat, cursing myself for dithering. That’s not the new me! Go for it! That’s the new me!

Anyway, we all settled down again to listen to Chris and to see the photos he had taken. Telling us how he had got the shot, how long he had waited. One time standing in a river for so long waiting for the perfect Damsel Fly shot that his partner had to pull him out and help him walk because he had gone so cold. Such was his dedication. His shots were different to Pauls, taken locally, not on safaris, in his garden and wherever he could find the time.

He told us about how he goes to Gambia every year with his partner and step daughter where for the last few days he goes to a sewage plant, where the trucks come and empty their ‘loads’ of human excrement. He takes photos there, in that environment. He takes amazing photos there. He has the place to himself – shocker – and takes photos of Stilt birds, wading in the ‘water’. Quite incredible shots. He lays down on the ‘shit’ line as he called it and just takes the photos that have us taking sharp intakes of breath. He sets some of his shots up, lays gravel between him and the birds, if there’s a tuft of grass in the way he’s got a spade in the managers office that he uses to tidy it up a bit – just to get the shot. He uses the reflections of the brightly coloured trucks to add an extra something.

They were stunning. Beautiful. Dreamy. Perfect.

He is a harsh critic of himself as was Paul but that’s what keeps them going.

He went on to talk about conservation. We are systematically destroying habitats. Homes. Lives. Something has to be done about it. He is very passionate when it comes to injustice and conservation, having been arrested and in trouble a few times. But he believes it has to be done. Politicians won’t do anything, they just say the words they think people need to hear but have no actions to back them up. It takes people like Chris Packham and Paul Goldstein to highlight the plight.

We need to back them.

We are going to lose our wonderful world and the incredible animals on it.

After he had finished they held an auction. Various lots, canvases of their photos going for £500, binoculars, a couple of holidays on safari in Africa and India, one of them going for £10,000!! They made over £30,000 for a charity called Female Genital Mutilation – quite disturbing – but a very worthy cause.

It finally came to an end. Some people had already left, I imagine because of catching trains – I was really glad I was staying.

Luckily for me Chris stayed to sign some more books, so I joined the smaller queue again and this time I managed to meet him and he put my name in the front of my book and I had my photo taken with him. He is a really lovely guy. Funny. Inspiring. Humble. Talented and passionate about the natural world.

I am so so glad I went. I will be looking out for more events like it – oh and watch this space, you never know, I might make it onto one of those holidays!! Fingers crossed and a lot of positive thinking required!!

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