I often have days which fall way outside of most people’s definition of work (which usually seems to involve elements of effort, discipline, and keeping your nose on the grindstone*). Last Wednesday was another one of those days where I go somewhere fascinating and get to see it through the eyes of probably the best person in the world to show it to me (and then people pay me!) …
The London Wetland Centre is a great place to visit in anyone’s book. Well worth the entrance fee – which I don’t have to pay twice over (once for being a member of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, and once because my visits are ‘work’). Visiting on the first proper day of spring when there was coat-shedding warmth in the air was even better. Best of all, I got to wander round on a personal tour with Idris Bhatti, the guy in charge of the captive ducks and geese.
The birds were at their dandyish and coquettish best, in their finest finery and clearly up for some action. Some had been through that stage and were settling down to the responsibilities of nest building, home and territory protection etc.. Idris pointed out a number of females who were ‘heavy’ and, as is often the way when real experts show me stuff, I couldn’t see what he was seeing. As he talked about the beautiful birds it was clear that he knew not only each species but often the individuals really well. His knowledge and enthusiasm transformed my understanding.
I can now write about these birds with increased passion and conviction, I have that sense of connection that enables storytellers to ‘own’ their story. For interpretive writers as well as our visitors, I believe it is vital to ‘be there’, to take time to let the site speak to you before you presume to speak for it.
(*have you ever stopped to think what that would really be like? Urrgh – extremely nasty!)