You met on The Really Wild Show in 1992. First impressions?
Chris Packham That we were very different but equally enthusiastic and that she was very friendly.
Michaela Strachan First impression was, wow look at that hair! Chris’s hair was peroxide blonde and sticking up. He was obviously very bright and had quite a lot of attitude in 1992. I actually thought he’d hate me. I was a boppy, cheerful Kylie Minogue fan. He was a tortured, complex Smiths fan! Despite that, I quickly realised Chris had a wicked sense of quirky humour and we instantly got on.
Has the other improved with the passage of years?
CP She will say that I’ve mellowed but it’s not true. I just know she doesn’t like my angry side! She has consolidated all her strengths to become a remarkable woman who I hold in great regard.
MS Well, his hair has changed! He has a much better wardrobe too. We’ve both mellowed. When we were younger there were a few party nights. Although I still like a glass of chardonnay after filming, I haven’t seen Chris have anything other than a hot chocolate in recent years!
What’s the most “really wild” thing you’ve done together?
CP I couldn’t reveal that. We were real party animals in the 90s and didn’t have a stop button.
MS We filmed great white sharks together in South Africa. I remember he made me get in the cage while he took photos, hardly gallant. So I guess my part was “really wild”, his was “really tame”.
Describe each other’s most irritating habit?
CP She sometimes takes too long to see the ill in people, she wants bad people to be good.
MS Just before a live show, Chris will suddenly go off on a random story! They’re counting us down to go live, I’m trying to concentrate and get myself composed and Chris is waffling on. He gets the whole crew laughing and then seconds later we’re live and with ease he segues into, “Hello, and welcome to Autumnwatch…” It’s only so irritating because I can’t do it.
And their most attractive trait?
CP Her unwavering optimism and joie de vivre.
MS Definitely his sense of humour. It’s usually intelligent humour. The other amazing thing about Chris is his knowledge, not just about wildlife but all sorts of other random things like collectors’ chairs!
Tell us one secret the other would be embarrassed to be made public?
CP Umm, she once shot a panda… Just kidding!
MS Whenever we filmed in hot countries, Chris would always wear shorts that were exactly the same length, and socks that he wore at exactly the same height on his legs. In his underwear he looked completely ridiculous. Not that I’ve seen him in his underwear often, but occasionally when he’s had to change into long trousers I have been treated to a flash of the rather weird-looking tan marks! He also used to play a mad game called bonnet surfing which was pretty outrageous, but I’m far too loyal to give the details…
Who has most influenced you?
CP My secondary school biology teacher John Buckley. He set me on the road to science and pragmatism.
MS My mum. I know that’s a bit predictable, but I adore my mum and she’s been a major influence in my life, always there, always positive, she always listens and gives advice. She’s everything a mother should be!
The book you return to most often is…
CP The English Dictionary, words make my world more complete and colourful. My favourite words are wasp, destroy and strumpet.
MS For this show it’s my British bird books. We often feature birds that I’m not that familiar with, so I have to gen up.
Are you optimistic or pessimistic about British wildlife?
CP Realistic – it’s in a dangerous mess and we must sort it out now.
MS Both! Optimistic because so many people love their British wildlife. But what makes me pessimistic is the way we sometimes solve wildlife/people conflict in the UK. We live on an increasingly crowded island and the battle for wild areas is constant. I get exasperated by killing wildlife for sport, it seems so absurd when there are so many other sports people can do where nothing gets hurt.
What’s one thing we can all do to protect wildlife in our own neighbourhood?
CP Get engaged, be empowered to make a difference: they are your trees, your birds, your butterflies… look after them.
MS Be tolerant and respect the wildlife that shares your neighbourhood. Don’t presume someone else is always going to make a difference, make that difference yourself. gets hurt.
You’re stranded on a desert island. Which luxury would you take?
CP My poodles Itchy and Scratchy. Who else will chase the coconuts?
MS A friend of mine told me I should say an audience! Cheeky friend…
Who’s most likely to survive?
CP Me, I don’t need all the witchcraft mixes that she drinks and eats to stay healthy!
MS Definitely me. The only real exercise Chris does is walking his poodles. I’ve kept fit my whole life and I know how to cook. Chris knows how to microwave!
Would you eat the other if your life depended on it?
CP Certainly not, she was the one who made me go veggie!
MS Good lord no, I know where he’s been!
Autumnwatch begins on Monday 2nd November at 9pm on BBC2 and continues Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 8pm