When I was young I wanted to be Clint Eastwood. I don’t just mean I liked him and his seemingly never-ending stream of heroic roles. No, I wanted to be him. I’ve wanted to be a few people during my 53 years on this crazy ball of rock. Archie Gemmill, Francis Rossi and one of the Thunderbird pilots – I can’t remember which one. Even in my early thirties when I got into photography, there were a few people I wanted to be – who wouldn’t want to be Vincent Munier? Good looking, charismatic and sickeningly talented. Je ne suis pas digne.
Of course I’m way past such futile yearnings these days but that doesn’t stop me admiring others. To be fair, there aren’t that many; there are lots of people I like (lots more I don’t) but not that many that I hold in such high regard that once upon a time I might wanted to have been them.
I’ve just finished Chris Packham’s memoir, Fingers in the Sparkle Jar. I first chatted to Chris probably a decade ago now and made little of him other than: “seems like a decent sort of bloke.” His book however, has revealed a new facet to the TV frontman we’re all now familiar with: honesty. What an admirable trait that is, especially in a media world, which is notoriously fickle and where superficiality is the norm (any aspiration I had to join its ranks was quickly slammed into reverse when I realised that this was not the place for a working-class blokey who has no time for sycophants).
I don’t want to be Chris Packham. Apart from anything, I prefer AC/DC to The Clash and a Labrador to a poodle, but I do admire him. Wouldn’t it be a better world if we could clone Chris Packham and others like him? Doers. Honest, no-bullshit doers. If an army of Chris’ clones was let loose in the dark, cynical corridors of conservation power, I bet they’d get stuck into the risk-averse, career-motivated, politically-minded establishment that stalls real progress being made in the business of healing a broken natural world. Their intolerance of environmental injustice would inspire and catalyse, I’m sure of that.
There are other Chris Packham’s in the conservation world – mavericks they’re sometimes called – but nowhere near enough. Nowhere near enough.
I wouldn’t say Fingers in the Sparkle Jar was my favourite memoir ever but it’s a fascinating read, written with real passion and real honesty. Might I suggest you buy it but more importantly, take a leaf from it and become a maverick.