Tuesday, February 26, 2013
"PENGUINS," noted David Tennant. "Behind their feisty charm lies an amazing character." If only the same could have been said of James Corden at the Brits.
Over the past few weeks we've watched these birds, as Tennant noted, 'bring up their chicks against extraordinary odds'. Despite which they've done a much better job than Gail Platt. "This," he said, "is the story of nature's most devoted parents." Certainly it made a nice change from those misery memoirs you see in WHSmith.
However, the average penguin parent shares a common difficulty – 'it's difficult to find their own chick among the crowd'. To combat this, revealed Tennant, 'each uses a distinctive nine note call the chick can recognise'. I use a similar technique with my kids when it's time to leave an indoor play centre.
This week's installment caught up with the chicks in the later stages of development. "The human equivalent of teenagers," we heard, "they have appetites to match." Although their surroundings preclude them from slamming doors and storming off to their bedrooms. "To feed these ever-hungry mouths," said Tennant, "a stream of overworked penguins depart for the sea." It seems humans have more in common with penguins than could be imagined.
While they're away, offspring are preyed upon by petrels (a seabird) and vampire bats. The good news is supermarkets have yet to start using them in ready meals. Some penguins require more sustenance than others. "This one's as big as his mother," noted Tennant of one outsized chick. "He's eating five kilos of fish in a session."
It's like a child's birthday party – there's always one kid who scoffs all the pizza. Eventually, parents stop feeding them and hunger forces them to move to the sea. "Youngsters are nervous," we were told, "they've never left the colony before." It's like when you send them to the off-licence for the first time.
The programme captured the landmark moment they entered the waves. "The drop below is four metres," said Tennant. "It's the biggest step they'll ever take." It's a nature programme, mate, not Splash! "The penguins will never look back," he added, "this is where they're meant to be."
It's a word of warning for those thinking of ordering one for the swimming pool. "Their success," he added, "is due to the extraordinary devotion of their parents." Certainly it made a very good case for extended maternity/paternity leave.
Most of all, Penguins: Spy In The Huddle, proved one thing. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, when a man is tired of penguins, he is tired of life.