Thursday, 29 December 2011

I stole a pen

I stole a pen once, in India. I didn’t mean to. Among my numerous wonderful jobs is leading wildlife-watching holidays for Naturetrek. This was the end of a peerless holiday called A Wildlife Cruise on the Brahmaputra and I was marshalling my group through passport control at Kolkata airport. When I had shown almost everyone which form to fill, and how, I realised I had not filled it myself. Nor did I have a pen with which to do so. I turned to the last clients remaining with me, legally in India, and sheepishly craved a pen of them. The husband handed me a handsome chrome affair and I promised to restore it to him in the departure lounge.

Passports, tickets, security, phew. Of course the pen slipped my mind. It wasn’t until I reached Norfolk that I realised I had filched it. Immediately I sent off a shamefaced email, apologising for my crime. By return I received a charming note, giving me the pen, but asking me to use it to write, really write. ‘You should,’ he said.

These words, then, are for the pen’s rightful owner. They are also for the countless other people with whom it has been my privilege to share wildlife and wild places for as long as I can remember. For my family and the teachers at school who nurtured my enthusiasm. For the lifelong friends with whom I still regularly raise binoculars. For the experts who have poured their knowledge and excitement into me, in every country in which it has been my joy to live and work. For the clients who travel with me, and for the many people who attend the Norfolk Wildlife Trust workshops I lead. Thank you all, for loving wildlife.

In a funny sort of way it’s for a puffin too. But that’s another story.

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