I believe I was introduced (in book form) to the much-missed comedic genius of Douglas Adams, author of the "Hitch-hiker's
Guide To The Galaxy" (HHGTTG for short, a trilogy in five parts) and good friend of
Richard Dawkins, some 12 or 13 years ago while on an archaeological dig in Wales, where I was training to not become an archaeologist.
Unbeknownst to me, I had already met Douglas Adams (in televised form) and his HHGTTG on one of the episodes of the Christmas lectures Dawkins gave for the Royal Society in 1990 (which have now been semi-immortalized on DVD). Dawkins had invited Adams to read an excerpt from Part 2, "The Restaurant At The End Of The Universe", to illustrate a point about evolution and the domestication of animals -- I think. At the time, as I recall, all of us in the family watching the lectures on TV were so charmed by Dawkins himself (or, for some, by his shirts) that we rather failed to remember Adams' contribution. Though I have to say that as lasting impressions go, the prize probably goes to the model of Mount Improbable and the poor nautilus that got stranded on a minor peak of the evolutionary landscape.
Some time after discovering the wonder that was, is and always shall be the HHGTTG, I found myself wandering the streets of a Welsh town that was probably not Cardiff, in company of several other disreputable prospective archaeologists, one of whom is now... a rising star on the green blogosphere, I kid you not (I'm personally more of a fan of his travel writing, and I have great hopes for his sci-fi / fantasy, but there you go). Anyway, said gentleman probably doesn't remember the epsiode, but I believe he was the one who first ducked into the second hand bookshop where I found a tattered old copy of "Last Chance To See" by Douglas Adams and biologist Mark Carwardine.
The book, which I originally picked up just because Douglas Adams was on it, was a write-up of a documentary the pair had done with the BBC to highlight the plight of endangered species. It turned out to be hilarious as well as touching and informative, and I read it many times -- to the point that by the time I was in college training to be a biologist, the poor thing was literally falling apart at the seams. Then I lent it out to a fellow student and never saw it again (at this point you may picture, if you will, a little tear of regret plopping sadly onto the keyboard).
Flash forward to last June when I heard that Stephen Fry, whom I adore for many many reasons and who I'm told was also a good friend of Adams', had gone off and done an updated version of "Last Chance To See", a sort of "where are they now?" with the original Mark Carwardine (accept no substitutes). Well, if anyone was going to do justice to Adams' role, so to speak, Stephen Fry would have to be the one. I'm putting the DVD on my Christmas list.
And so it happens that this morning (all terms being relative) I stumble onto a YouTube video of poor Carwardine's uh, encounter with Sirocco the frisky kakapo parrot. I can only imagine how Adams would have written it up but I'm sure he'd have been laughing like a whale. Watch it below and enjoy Stephen Fry's humorous narration!