I spent the weekend at the inaugural Pensthorpe Bird and Wildlife Fair, a new and local, nature event that took place in a wonderful setting. Pensthorpe is a lovely place and most birders tend to overlook it as it’s assumed it’s just a wildfowl collection and a visitor attraction. Yes, Pensthorpe has an extensive range of captive ducks and geese, a highly-acclaimed children’s play area and attractive gardens. However, at either end of the site are two scrapes, old and new, and both are brilliant for wild birds.
I’d been asked to speak on both days of the event and Deb, who owns Pensthorpe, is a patron of my book, so of course I was eager to be involved. On the Saturday I was in the main marquee, sandwiched between Bill Oddie and Mike Dilger and on the Sunday, I was in the Garden Room. Both days seemed well attended and whilst the Birdfair at Rutland has its grandeur and reputation, Pensthorpe had a much more chilled and family-oriented vibe going on.
That vibe suits me better and actually, the Rutland Bird Fair was just too much for me. It hit me like a sensory maelstrom of posing and posturing, where every face and name of nature, birdwatching and social media seemed intent on being the centre of attention. I’m working so hard on reducing that from my own presentation and it felt itchy and hot, to be submerged in it for the short time I stayed there. Anyway.
Saturday beheld some brilliant birds but also a learning curve. I met a friend at the fair, who also came and supported me during the talk. The first thing he and I did was go and have a look at two summer-plumaged Red Knot (viewed from behind the pie van – a first) that were present on a tiny rocky island on ‘Old Squaw’ lake. Brick-breasted and delightfully tiny, these two birds were glorious to behold and a new one for our recording area for me. As was the beautiful Sanderling that we went and saw on the old scrape after my talk finished – especially as with my scope, we could share it with other people who were visiting the hide.
So the learning curve. Well. On the Saturday, my talk was between two ‘celebrities’ in Bill Oddie and Mike Dilger and the marquee was full to overflowing for each of them – when for mine, it really wasn’t. This hit me, even though it shouldn’t, but a couple of people made some exceptionally valid points. First, my partner told me that the reality is that I’m still a ‘nobody’ in these circles, to a lot of people. Whilst that may sound harsh, she’s absolutely spot-on, I’m not a celebrity, and once again I was succumbing to my own delusions of grandeur.
The other person was one of the organisers of the event, who I’m close to. He said that I needed to stop beating myself up about it and that the people that were there were really engaged. Suddenly a lightbulb clicked in my brain, the 5-6 people that came up to me afterwards and shared their own personal stories, well they were willing to share those stories because I had shared mine. That’s such an incredibly powerful thing to be part of – it really is. Furthermore, my great Aunty and Uncle and a distant cousin were there too. Family. I had family and also my two friends there, supporting me, as well as a crowd of people who really cared. That’s special.
The Sunday was even more of an epiphany. My partner and daughter came too and suddenly all the associated shit and feelings didn’t matter anymore, only they did. The garden room was smaller, more intimate – more me. Friends and familiar faces were there again and to top it off, my Mum, Stepdad and beloved Grandad came to support me too. My Grandad is a huge part of the Bird Therapy story. He’s in the talks, the book, my mind – everything. For him to be there watching me was simply the best thing. At time I get that I was just talking to him, celebrating him, it was magic.
I’ve pondered and reflected so much on the weekend since and all the head-crushing bullshit that comes with thinking you’re something special and realising you’re not, has floated away on a cloud of ‘who cares?’ It’s so liberating to realise what really matters to you and actually, I’m incredibly lucky that this isn’t my life and my career, it’s something I can share and a way of helping people, but that’s what it is. It isn’t everything.