Attenborough’s eye


We are looking at something that probably not one of us has ever seen before. We are staring in perfect colour close-up at the slow, rhythmic uncoiling of a slimy proboscis. But what are we to make of the strange and oddly beautiful sight before our eyes? The camera pulls back a fraction. The answer is revealed. We are looking at a snail. A familiar garden snail. And as our recognition dawns, the background music, a gently impelling blend of harps and violins, fades slightly, and we hear the characteristic hushed intensity of one of the most famous voices in the world. “We don’t often see a snail that way”, says David Attenborough. “And that’s because we’ve only recently had the tiny lenses and electronic cameras we need to explain this miniature world.”

We are entering, burrowing into, the first part of Attenborough’s most recent BBC series, Life in the Undergrowth: by the time the five episodes are over another four hours of screen time will have been added to the ninety or so hours of extraordinary television footage that he and his various teams have compiled for television viewers over the last 30 years.

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