A.M.A.N.D.A. August ’12

I don’t get out much. That’s not a complaint simply a consequence of rural living and middle-aged indifference. So when I was alerted to the upcoming opening of the 2020VISION exhibition in Edinburgh, it was gladrags and mascara time for me!

Breakfast time came and went. Lunchtime came and went. It was a busy, busy day. But tea…tea was something I could catch up with during the ‘nibbles’ session that all these events provide. “A glass of wine madam?” Now I’m old enough to know that an empty stomach and alcohol only leads down one road, but before I knew it, there was a glass in my hand and I’d set off.

The location was stunning, the exhibition well received, the speeches inspiring and I have to say, the serving staff were VERY efficient. “Another wine madam?” And so many people I hadn’t seen for ages. “Another glass madam?” And the music was so uplifting. “A top up madam?” Oh what a wonderful evening. And then, a burning sensation in my back: Pete’s eyes. OK, I knew I was tipsy but his glare suggested something on an altogether different level.

Do you remember the Dick Emery show? Do you remember the old woman who used to smirk and utter the words “Oh you are awful but I like you” before pushing some unfortunate soul into a ditch? Well according to Pete (and he claims to have witnesses who will testify at my trial) that’s who I resembled. As many of you know, he’s prone to embellishment but he might have a point!

So here I was, 130 miles from home and with Pete staying in Edinburgh for the night, my taxi driver was tapping his fingers waiting for me to stop blethering (have you noticed how it takes an hour to leave a party when you’ve had a few?) My driver in this case was Andy Parkinson, one of the 2020VISION photographers and guide (the very next day) for our Shetland tour. Pete got weary of glaring and Andy replaced him. “Are we going yet Amanda?” Can we get off now Amanda?” “It’s a long journey and I’m up early Amanda.”

A quick stop at the services and a bag full of munchies later, I was feeling much better and Andy and I enjoyed the journey up the A9 having a good old blether. For the record, I dropped him at the airport nice and early and felt fine!

So the moral of the story? Do you know what? Stuff the morals, we all had a great time and the fact that I don’t get out much made it even better! “One for the road madam?”

“Actually no, I’ve probably had enough now thank you.”

A good kick up the backside.

Look I don’t want to sound like a martyr but I’ve been very busy these last years. And? Well, with some things I’ve taken my eye off the ball, my foot off the pedal, my mind off the prize. Enter stage left, Mr Andrew Parkinson.

I’ve known Andy for a few years and always respected his no-nonsense approach to wildlife photography. I also like the fact he thinks – far too much as it turns out! I recently spent a couple of weeks guiding with him on two of our Winter Wildlife tours (I’d been trying to recruit him as a tour leader for some time but he has over-inflated ideas about his financial worth) and he took the opportunity to remind me of some home truths – more than once. Trouble is, you can get too close to things to see them clearly and hands up, that’s what I’ve done with some of the feeding stations around our base, in particular our red squirrel sites.

So what’s the problem? Well nothing really but let’s face it, a red squirrel sat on a mossy stump has kind of been done. 5 years ago it was fine; today…well you have to move on and that’s what Andy politely pointed out (actually his rather dictatorial tone was far from polite as I recall). Andy’s fresh eyes and fresh ideas have given me a new perspective, a new energy and we’re embarking on a number of improvements to provide visiting guests with new opportunities. These flying/running/jumping squirrels are just the beginning.

So thanks to Andy (and it has to be said other guests too) for making some very helpful and constructive suggestions. We’ve always made a big play on our tours about the opportunity to learn from each other – and here’s a case in point. A good kick up the backside is what I needed and I feel so much better for it!

You can learn more about the enigmatic – and rather rude – Andy Parkinson by listening to my One 2 One interview with him here.