Friday, March 01, 2013

The power of the penguin

We were watching the penguins the other night. Not literally, you understand. The weather outside may be frightful, but as far as can be ascertained the real things haven't migrated quite this far north.

No, this was the TV programme. By turns happy, tragic, thrilling, heart-stopping – a bit like Strictly Come Dancing but with even more feathers. And in the Antarctic.

Not that we watch Strictly. Re-runs of Time Team are more our scene. Postholes win prizes and all that.

Where were we? Oh yes. Penguins.

Cute little dudes who make you happy to shell out for your TV licence. (Shell out? Get it? Sorry.)

Other penguins
As soon as you start watching, you're drawn into the drama. A huddle of fledgling Emperor Penguins is under attack by Percy the Predatory Petrel. Help is at hand, though, in the shape of Adélie the Rescue Penguin, who hustles off Percy and saves the day.

But then Adélie's penguin pals turn up and start bullying the poor little chicks, pushing them into the icy ocean before they're ready to get their feathers wet. Mix in some jaunty background music and these penguins are more animated than a Pingu, more human than a meerkat.

The hushed tones of David Tennant add a touch of class to the welter of Attenborough-esque anthropomorphism. "Gripped by a collective urge," he intones, "they start to move as one."

A bit like the conga at Mrs D's birthday party last year. But imbued with rather more style and grace.

We know all about collective urges in our house. Last weekend we had a collective urge to forget the capital of Finland. Some odd synchronicity caused us to lose the same brain cell at the same time, and probably in the same place as the car keys.

Back to the penguins.

Safe from the predations of Percy, the Emperor chicks swim away to spend their formative years at sea, as the soundtrack waxes Wagnerian.

But in a final touch of bathos, we track back to PenguinCam, the show's unsung star. The real-live penguins attack the intruding automaton. It teeters, it totters, it wobbles. And they pull its head off.

Such is life.

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