Magazine article The Spectator

Special Effects

Magazine article The Spectator

Special Effects

Article excerpt

There is no end to the programmes about the land we live in: we have had portraits of Britain, the Britain we built, the coast of Britain, and journeys around Britain. There seems no aspect of the country that's not been covered. The Beeb must be desperate.

How about Underground Britain, Around Britain on a Milk Float, or Excitable Foreigners Praise Britain? I offer all those ideas free to whoever becomes the new controller of BBC1.

In the meantime we have Alan Titchmarsh presenting Nature of Britain (BBC1, Wednesday), and it must be the most patriotic programme the Beeb has made in decades. I was whisked back to my childhood, when my primary school teacher, Miss Holt, told us that Britain was the finest country in the world in every respect, including the weather.

I will say straightaway that the images were as wonderful as you might expect, best of all the seven million starlings wheeling through the sky. But I somehow knew that Titchmarsh would begin with 'This precious stone set in a silver sea, this other Eden . . . ' because it was going to be that kind of show.

Then he, too, was off down memory lane eulogising 'frogspawn in jamjars, turning into tadpoles!' If he'd wiped away a tear and mentioned 'jumpers for goalposts' I wouldn't have been surprised. In fact, the whole programme had the air of being a comedy spoof. All we needed was Tom Baker intoning 'Britain, Britain, Britain!' as he does in Little Britain. Or Paul Whitehouse telling us, 'Britain. In't it brilliant?' Titchmarsh's theme was that Britain was 'special', a word he must have used a dozen times. Our wildlife and our countryside were 'truly special'. Our unique mixture of wildlife is found nowhere else in the world, we learnt, and there was nowhere else in the world which could match the splendour of a British spring. Even our seas are so stuffed with nutrients and other good things that they are 'among the most productive on earth'. Our wildlife put the rest to shame.

Forget elephants and kangaroos. Two hares fighting created 'a magic, natural moment, to treasure for ever'. Grass is not just grass, but 'a lush carpet that makes our land so green and pleasant'. This was the Franklin Mint school of scriptwriting.

'Far from complaining about the rain, we should take pride in it, because it too goes a long way to making Britain special. …

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