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Three hours of a master at work
on 21 October 2009
Things like these short talks make you realise just how lucky we are to have the BBC. For all its faults, the Beeb gave us David Attenborough and that alone is worth a lifetime's licence fee. These marvelous 10 minute nuggets began life on Radio 4, and were available as free podcast downloads for anyone organized enough to do downloads every week for the entire summer. I wasn't so I'm extremely pleased to be able to have the complete set - and without the annoying "This is a download from the BBC. For more informantion..." intro that appears at the start of the Beeb's podcasts.
Attenborough's voice has been part of my life almost as long as I can remember watching television. He could probably be reading the phone book and it would still have the effect of lowering my blood preasure. The fact that he isn't reading the phone book, but fascinating and engaging pieces on topics as diverse as celocanths and bower birds, just makes these three discs the perfect way to wind down on the journey home from work. I said pieces because they are part essay, part enclopeadia entry, part travelogue, and part autobiography all wrapped up in a delivery like a story told by a favourite and respected uncle.
What you get are three CDs with a total of 20 nine-and-a-half-minute talks: Sloth, Monstrous Flowers, Platypus, Giant Birds, Songsters, Bower Birds, Dragons, Archaeopteryx, Salamander, Birds of Paradise, The Serpent's Stare, Faking Fossils, Coelacanth, Dodo, Tracks, Bird's-nest Soup, Adam's Face, Amber, Large Blue, and Collecting. My personal favourites are "Bower Birds", "Archaeopteryx", and "Tracks" but they are all excellent. My daughter was particularly taken with "Salamander" to the extent that I am dreading her Christmas list.
Given that most information that is presented to children today seems to be big on whizz-bang interactive fun but very light on content, the fact that these CDs are, in effect, just an old man talking for ten minutes straight and yet my six year old asks to listen to them in the car, makes you realise how good they are. Truly wonderful.
PS 21/2/2011: Note that this set is the first series of Life Stories. The BBC has just begun broadcasting a new series of "Life Stories by David Attenborough" talks and these are not included on these discs, but are now available here David Attenborough's New Life Stories.