I always loved nature as a kid. Whether marveling at rock pools with my dad or collecting caterpillars with my granda, I was permanently wide-eyed and probably a bit grubby. And it wasn’t just animals. I was still beaming when planting seeds or identifying flowers. The Observer’s books of birds and of wild flowers were well thumbed, with all that knowledge filed away in my brain for future school projects or a chance to confidently put my hand up to answer another question and lose another friend.
My strongest memories are of nature. The day my family went to Farway Country Park, got lost as someone had turned the signs around, and waited in the rain while my dad went off to track down the car. He came back late as he’d rescued a deer from some barbed wire on the way. What a hero.
Or the time my mam said yes when I asked if I could breed frogs (I’ve realised since that they do most of it without our help). This was the first time I’d heard the word “brainwave”, when my mam announced we should have a pond. Some kids wanted to go on holiday to America or be a princess. I was happy stealing sticklebacks from the local pond to plop into my modest watering hole. I remember twirling in my older sister’s bedroom telling her about how I was breeding frogs now. She didn’t understand how amazing it was so I likened it to her getting all of Lady Diana’s clothes. Then she understood.
Or the time I planted seeds for lupins in our garden, went into the garage for the watering can, came back through and couldn’t remember where I’d planted them. They never did come up.
Then I did GCSEs, A-levels, college, first job, second job, fell in love, got married, third job, fourth job, started writing, divorced, comedy, fell in love, more comedy, bought a house. During the past 24 years I have barely thought about wildlife, apart from when killing a spider or running from a wasp.
But I moved to the countryside and, while happily not in the middle of nowhere (chocolate can be purchased after a 15-minute walk), I am in amongst it. And the seven-year-old in me skips with delight when I see any birds or animals in the garden. Or spy new flowers bursting through. I have a greenhouse and just ate the first courgette I’ve grown from seed. I came into the house holding it aloft singing that well-loved Christmas carol The First Courgette.
Our most recent visitors were a group (gang, I like to think) of a dozen partridges who had clearly lost their way and ran around the garden close together like a group of old ladies who are late for church. As my fella said, “Isn’t it great when you see a new animal in the garden for the first time?” Like the frog I thought was a jumping leaf, the stoat (which is the best in my accent), the hare who stopped for a photo and the buzzard that I saw without witnesses or glasses. Might not have been a buzzard.
So I truly delight in watching The Great British Year and Autumnwatch. I’m learning again and taking it all in like that grubby seven-year-old. And I have a newly bought bird book that I can be tested on any time you like. I am opening my eyes again. And loving it.
In a whirl with wi-fi
I can’t watch Strictly when on tour. Hotel wi-fi isn’t good enough for dancing on iPlayer. It’s all a bit fast and everyone's faceless, which freaks me out no end.
The Sarah Millican Television Programme is on Tuesday BBC2 at 9.30pm. Sarah’s stand-up DVD, Thoroughly Modern Millican Live, is available at radiotimes.com/dvdshop