Fingers in the sparkle jar

Chris Packham (Ebury Press)

Chris Packham - Fingers in the Sparkle JarThe subject of this book, namely Chris Packham, has been in the press a lot recently due to his views on hunting and the impact hunting is having on our wildlife. What this book proves, is that these views are built on a passion that has been with him since he was a child.

I have read a lot of autobiographies and have to say this is the strangest one I have come across. You not only get an insight into Chris’s life from his viewpoint, you are also given the perspective of random people experiencing snapshots of his eccentricities. The cast of onlookers includes: the old woman given a detailed introduction to the subtleties of falconry; the Usherette who receives an impromptu lesson in dinosaurs; the old soldier catching a ghostly glimpse of the boy on the hillock at dusk; and the ice-cream man bemused by the contents of jars and matchboxes.

The book revolves around Chris’s relationship with an erroneously acquired kestrel; his obsession for collecting anything relating to wildlife, alive or not; and his struggle to fit in a world that seems so alien to him. The result will puzzle, amuse, sadden and anger you in equal measures. If, like me, you grew up loving wildlife in a time when it was seen as odd, even abnormal, to do so, you will empathise with Chris’s plight. One thing’s for sure, once you start reading this book, you will get drawn in and will not want to put it down until you have finished it.

Its quirky style means this is not your usual autobiography, but its openness and honesty does a better job than most at giving you an insight into its author.

Allan Archer – talk: Wildlife

September 2016