Animal magic: Why I’m spellbound by Seven Worlds: One Planet

From wildlife in South America to new lambs in Creggs, our columnist is transfixed by some animal magic…


Almost ten weeks into lockdown, and one of my greatest discoveries (so far) is a man who is 94-four-years old, who has – obviously – been around for a long, long time, and is a world renowned figure, but it’s only now that he has truly managed to capture my imagination. The man I speak of is Sir David Attenborough, an English broadcaster and historian, but it is his amazing wildlife series Seven Worlds: One Planet, that has absolutely kept me spellbound on each of the last three Sunday evenings. I genuinely can’t wait to see the remaining four programmes in the series.

So far we have been treated to the unbelievable wildlife of South America, where we see some extraordinary fish jump several feet out of the water to pick berries off the trees on the river bank, and where a puma mum gets seriously injured as she hunts guanaco to feed her hungry cubs; the guanaco is two and a half times as heavy as the puma and is over two metres tall, and on her first two attempts the mother is unsuccessful, and gets badly cut and injured in the process. When, on her third attempt, she manages to make a kill, she (while still badly injured) has to drag the massive dead weight of the guanaco more than a kilometre across rough, unforgiving terrain to where her starving cubs are waiting for a much-needed feed. The meal that she manages to provide will only last three to four days and then she will have to do it all again, still injured, weak, and herself in danger of falling prey to some other predators.

We saw walruses in large numbers, weighing up to two tons, falling hundreds of feet from huge cliffs to their deaths, where they became instant dinners for waiting polar bears. There was amazing footage of beaches, which were literally covered in sea lions, sometimes up to a hundred thousand of them, and penguins having to walk on the backs of the sea lions – and in other cases, angry polar bears – to get to the sea.

So far we have visited Antarctica, Asia, and South America, and the different wildlife on view is almost beyond belief. The camerawork is extraordinary, and all I can say is, if you haven’t seen any episode so far, tune in to RTÉ 1 next Sunday evening at 6.30 pm and I guarantee that you will see stuff you never knew existed.


Our new neighbours…


It’s Monday morning as I write this piece and myself and my little Jack Russell, Hope, have been on our daily walk around the lovely country roads of Lenamarla. I have often told you before of the wonderful flowers, plants, birds and trees that are to be found on our rural route. Primroses, bluebells, violets, rockets and wild roses are among the flowers that populate the hedges, while there is an amazing array of all kinds of plants growing everywhere.

My wife, Carol, works in Ardcarne Garden Centre, and she often wonders how all this stuff grows on the side of the road, without any care being taken of them; no fertiliser, no sprays or any food, and yet, every year they come back in all their glory and make our walk a complete and utter joy.

This year, however, we have a new addition: one of the farmers on the route has a pair of pet lambs and by now, they are totally at home with human contact. Every time we walk by they come running to the gate, showing absolutely no fear of either Carol or me, or of Hope the dog. They nearly have the chat, and it shows that all animals (if trained to get used to people early enough) can be almost humanised.

This pair of lambs are, presumably, expecting a drop of milk when we pass, and I’m sure by now they must think we are miserable gits. Remarkably, it doesn’t stop them from coming to see us whenever we pass, and I look forward every day to stopping to say hello. It’s a strange world.


I’ve finally nailed it…


Back in 1955, as a very shy four-year-old gasun, I headed off to the national school in Creggs, where I developed the habit of chewing on the corners of all my schoolbooks.

My teacher, Julia Crean, a wonderful woman, managed to wean me from the books, but of course I then took up the equally bad habit of chewing my fingernails. And from that day to this almost, I have continued to do so, with the result that (needless to say) I have never had a nail on any finger. I say ‘almost’ because Covid-19 dictated that I was not to touch my face with my hand, and as a consequence I now have a full hand of perfectly manicured nails, and am driving my family mad as I pare and file them and clean under them – and generally look after them. And the truth is that I hate them; they stick into my other fingers, are in the way when I try to pick anything up off the table or the floor, are very strange to feel, and are a real nuisance, but sad to say they are here to stay as I would feel too guilty if I was ever to get rid of them again. And so, I can say that one good thing (or can I?) came out of Covid-19: my new nails. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a manicure!


Another top

sporting moment…


On to my top ten sporting memories, and remarkably, 21 years ago today (I am now finishing this column on Tuesday) my fourth event took place in the Nou Camp in Barcelona, when my beloved Manchester United came back from the dead to beat Bayern Munich 2-1 in the 1999 Champions League final.

United, who were without two of their most influential players – Paul Scholes and team captain, Roy Keane – trailed from the sixth minute and were still a goal down as the game went into injury-time. The Munich fans were already celebrating, when in the 91st minute United won a corner. David Beckham floated it in, and after a bit of bouncy ball, Teddy Sheringham put it in the net.

Everyone expected extra-time, but there was still a twist in the tale; thirty seconds after the kick-off, United won another corner, Beckham again floated it in, Sheringham headed it across the goal, and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer stuck out his foot and put the ball in the roof of the net. Even though the game restarted, Bayern were so distraught that they could barely play and they never looked as if they could possibly get a last-second equaliser –  and so probably our greatest ever victory was sealed.

The Bayern ribbons, which had already been put on the cup, had to be taken off and replaced by the red of United, and the whole place went mad. What a night, what a memory, and well worth a place in my top ten.


Saying farewell to

a great local lady


Finally for this week, from joy to sadness, as last Friday we said goodbye to a great local lady, Colette Hanley, who died after a brave battle with illness.

Colette was one of the ‘auld stock, married to Noel, and mother to five children, and was one of the nicest and most upbeat people you would ever meet. She will be greatly missed. She was sister to the late Bernadette, my next-door neighbour for many years, and was my brother Duff’s mother-in-law, so I used to regard her as almost family. She always had a warm welcome for everyone, wherever you might meet.

Sadly her funeral was another that fell victim to the new Covid rules, and once again all we could do was line the roadside and try to pay our respects in that way. However, despite everything, a huge crowd gathered, in proper social distancing, to pay tribute to such a lovely woman. To Noel, and her family and friends, I express my deepest sympathy. Colette truly was a stalwart of our community, and supported everything that happened in the area. May she rest in peace.


‘Till next week,

bye for now