Bill Oddie Unplucked (Bloomsbury Nature Writing)By Bill Oddie | Bloomsbury | 2015 | Hardcover | 224 Pages | ISBN 9781472915313

Publisher’s View: Bill Oddie has been the voice and face of birding broadcasting for more than three decades. Those of a certain age will fondly remember Bill as the shortest and hairiest of the trio of The Goodies, a popular and long-running comedy series that followed hot on the heels of Monty Python. After those heady days, Bill reinvented himself as the face (and voice) of mainstream birdwatching in Britain. He fronted television and radio programmes and wrote widely in the press on subjects close to his heart. Never one to shirk controversy, Bill’s writings were always informative and entertaining.In this new book, Bill has compiled and expanded a collection of his recent published musings about birds and birdwatching, and the wildlife he has been fortunate to see on his many travels over the years.

The collection covers a wide array of subjects, from a less than satisfactory press trip to the Galapgaos in the 1980s and recent disagreements with his London neighbours over the noisy squadrons of parakeets over their respective gardens, to encounters with Orcas in Argentina and Iceland, and with an invisible Tiger in India. Writing in his witty and inimitable style, Bill is sure to entertain and enthrall his many fans with this new book of thoughts and opinions on the world of natural history. The book is illustrated throughout with Bill’s charming and comic line drawings.

The Author Former Goodie Bill Oddie, OBE has presented natural-history programmes for the BBC for well over 10 years, some of them serious and some of them silly. This column may well be a bit of both.

Fatbirder View Every year Bill Oddie is kind enough to come to our stand at the British Bird fair as he is a Patron of our charity ‘Birding For All’. Generously he has donated books and sketches for our raffle, which, despite having top class binoculars as prizes, it is his sketches that most people most want! This is a measure of the affection in which birders, young and old hold him.Most people will now know that he has had a life long struggle with bi-polar disorder. In the intro to his latest volume he acknowledges that these mood swings may be why his seen less on TV these days… much to many people’s displeasure.

Apart from his comedy years he is best known for his appearances on the ‘Spring Watch’ or ‘Autumn Watch’ programmes on BBC. I admit to not being a regular viewer… mostly because I’ve not enjoyed some of the silly rivalries (real or invented) and hidden games played by presenters that I think disrespects the audience. But I have seen Bill presenting wildlife in Video and TV in a fluid, natural and entertaining way. He is able to do this simply because he is so steeped in wildlife lore and has spent a lifetime studying and enjoying the wild world. I still recall, every time I’m by a summer reedbed, his way of separating reed and sedge warbler song.The lesson here is that, left to get on with it, speaking to camera without someone’s restricted script he seamlessly imparts that knowledge store in a way that neither patronises nor bewilders with science.

Picking up his ‘unplucked’ book I immediately felt empathy with one whose written pieces so often have to be shrunk to fit a column or article. I know how disciplined you have to be to say in 650 words what you’d like to say in 1500! I also envy his chance to expand back to the original text before his built in blue pencil was employed.Now here is a confession… sometimes I skim read books sent to me to review or dip in and out sampling style and content like a wine buyer at a tasting. Every now and then I enjoy the writing so much I read a book cover to cover and a very select few get taken down from the shelves again purely for pleasure. Well Bill, this one is not just a keeper, nor merely read from cover to cover, but one I will surely return to!

Unplucked is a great title… I’d say his publisher has been untypically restrained and let his natural flow have its head. Maybe it will lead some executive producer somewhere to think how these skills could once again be aired to great effect… on a subject of Mr Oddie’s choosing. A bit of unplugged and unplucked TV natural history. I sincerely hope so.


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