The savage allure of a life of true wildness

I am in touch with all that is primal. I bathe in solar heated rainwater. I rarely allow nylon to touch my skin
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The Independent Online

Writing from his cottage somewhere in the English countryside, the well-known naturalist and broadcaster Simon Greenhalge has sent in his first nature notes of the season.

Writing from his cottage somewhere in the English countryside, the well-known naturalist and broadcaster Simon Greenhalge has sent in his first nature notes of the season.

9.30 am. There are no sounds as moving for the professional naturalist as the faint early stirrings of an English summer. First, the unmistakeable "churr" of an Arriflex. Then, as sharp as a wren's beak, the click of a DAT, followed by a low, rumbling complaint and - yes, there it is, over the hedge - the welcome sight of the hooded head of a rifle microphone. Those familiar summer visitors, a crew from the BBC wildlife unit, have arrived!

For those of us literally "in the field", this moment marks the true end of winter. No self-respecting sound technician or cameraman will venture out in the dark months, leaving us country folk to work on traditional winter tasks - correcting book proofs, taking part in TV discussions and filing the odd book review for the TLS.

A hard and lonely winter I have had of it, but soon other migrants will be crowding upon me: a crew from Danish TV, a researcher from The Richard and Judy Show, and interviewer from the Discovery Channel. Soon, just as the extremely rare poacher's orchids that cluster impatiently around my front door turn their faces to the sun, I shall be doing my pieces to camera. Thus the unchanging rhythm of the naturalist's life continues year after year.

10.45 am. I am to be natural, the producer instructs me. But what, in the end, does it mean to be natural? Compared to many, I live a life of true wildness and am in touch with all that is primal. I bathe in rainwater heated by solar energy. I rarely allow acrylic or nylon to touch my skin. I survive throughout the winter on victuals stored, in traditional country manner, in the deep-freeze.

Yet, as the crew, clamber into my Landrover Discovery, the soundman comments that there must be "good money in this nature lark". It is a crass comment (his career in wildlife is over), yet it contains a kernel of truth. Like my forebears, I harvest the land. I gather up, not wheat, but a turbo-charged 4x4 with individualised climate facilities and satnav. Only the crop has changed.

11.35 am. Accompanied by the TV crew, I enter Briarsdale Wood and declaim softly to myself the words of the great 18th-century poet William Cowper, "How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude". The air is thick with birdsong; it seems that nature itself is welcoming me into the wood. To my left, a chiff-chaff chants "Simon! Simon! Simon!" and, from high in the canopy, a cuckoo replies "Greenhalge! Greenhalge!" When a collared dove joins in with a cooing "Naaaature boy! Naaaature boy!", I am unable to keep control and add to the chorus my own heartfelt sobs.

The hopeless incompetents in the crew miss the entire sequence and we have to go for a re-take.

1pm. We adjourn to a local hostelry where I partake of a slightly modified Ploughman's Lunch - "Must be a bloody upmarket ploughman," comments the soon-to-be-fired sound engineer. My entire day is ruined by a casual remark by the producer to the effect that Bill Oddie has heard - claims to have heard - his first nightingale of spring. I allow my feelings to show. "Oddie! Of all people!" I shout. I love writing about hearing my first nightingale. If that absurd little suburbanite has gone public with his, I have missed my chance this year. I bet it was a songthrush with insomnia.

My spirits revive when a woman at the next table asks me for an autograph. It is clear that she is powerfully attracted to me. What is to explain the rough allure of the naturalist? Not the natty green clothes, nor the low microphone voice but, I suspect, our proximity to nature in all its erotic savagery. Like a swift, we fly free, never touching the ground, even, as it were, mating on the wing. "Probably lasts about as long as well," comments the accursed soundman. I shall file a complaint.

4pm. My final piece to camera takes place back at the house. Next month, a crew will return to film housemartins who flock around my cottage. Sometimes it seems as if they fight one another for the opportunity to share this dwelling with me - a case, once again, of wildness attracting wild.

I must remember to put up a net to protect my Sky satellite.

Miles Kington is away

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