Two of the highlights of my television-watching year are Springwatch and Autumnwatch on the BBC. These annually-broadcast, live series follow the fortunes of many different species of British wildlife (the majority of which are also native to this area of Europe) through the turbulent changes of spring and autumn. Up until this year, they’ve always been hosted by Kate Humble and the inimitable Bill Oddie: a charming curmudgeon and a keen amateur naturalist. So I was surprised this May to tune in to the first episode to hear that, due to health issues, Bill Oddie would not be presenting this year. He had been replaced by Chris Packham. Packham did a fine job; he’s just as keen and knowledgable when it comes to nature, and he has his own brand of charming eccentricity, but I still missed Bill.
I was saddened but not surprised to read that his absence was a result of clinical depression, which he’s apparently been dealing with most of his life. This debilitating disorder has affected the lives of many of the highly intelligent and sensitive people in my ken, and Mr. Oddie is clearly both intelligent and sensitive.
Bill Oddie is not a bad birdwatcher. He is, in fact, an excellent birdwatcher. But like a bad birdwatcher, he appreciates the beauty of the everyday. Here’s my favorite Bill Oddie moment, and one of my favorite videos ever. It’s truly magical, and worth a viewing even if you’re not that interested in birds. And Mr. Oddie, wherever you are, I wish you all the best. I hope you’re on the road to recovery soon.