Charming tale of the bushbaby off to make his fortune… in bananas: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews the weekend’s TV
Big Little Journeys
Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker
For bushbabies, the streets of South Africa’s cities are paved with gold. Better still, it’s the golden yellow of bananas.
Animal-loving locals leave slices of the ripe fruit in heaps on feeding tables so the wide-eyed raiders can feast. In the capital Pretoria, there’s so much free banana on offer that the resident bushbabies weigh 25 per cent more than their cousins in the forest.
Like an African version of that fable about the country mouse and the town mouse, the lifestyles of rural and urban bushbabies couldn’t be more different, as we discovered in the charming wildlife documentary Big Little Journeys (BBC2).
Life is harsh, out in the wilds. Food is so scarce that mothers chase their babies out of the nest as soon as they’re old enough to fend for themselves, and the youngsters might have to travel 10 or 20 miles in search of their own territory.
Like an African version of that fable about the country mouse and the town mouse, the lifestyles of rural and urban bushbabies couldn’t be more different. Pictured, a bushbaby on Big Little Journeys
In the capital Pretoria, there’s so much free banana on offer that the resident bushbabies weigh 25 per cent more than their cousins in the forest
Cameras followed one young male, a sort of bushbaby Dick Whittington, as he trekked off in search of his fortune.
At first, he lived on droplets of tree sap. Later, as he reached the suburbs, there were tasty moths and midges clustering around electric lights.
But the real riches came as he ventured into denser human habitations.
Food was so plentiful that other bushbabies welcomed him, gave him a good grooming and even showed him where the juiciest pickings were to be had… inside the grounds of Pretoria zoo.
By now, the story was less like a panto and more of a Disney cartoon. Where else would you see animals trying to break into a zoo?
Bushbabies are nocturnal, and capable of leaping 30 times their own body length in a single bound.
Armed with exceptional low-light tech, the camera crews had to be agile and alert to keep up.
But the really impressive camera work came in the programme’s other narrative thread, following a turtle hatchling in Canada’s Algonquin woods as it stumbled its way to a freshwater lake.
A long-nosed lens like a mechanical anteater trundled after the little reptile.
Moving at a quarter of a mile per hour, she was unlikely to give film-makers the slip but, being smaller than a leaf, she did tend to disappear into the undergrowth.
The images were so sharp and vivid that, as I watched, I began to feel I’d shrunk to the size of an insect. This was less Dick Whittington, more Alice In Wonderland.
Every time narrator Aaron Pierre switched from one story to another, we were left with a cliffhanger.
I was sitting on my fingers as Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker (Ch4) returned
There’s an alarming lack of protective equipment on show — most of the time, people are not wearing gloves or goggles, let alone heavy-duty arm and leg coverings
The scariest came at the start, as the turtle trudged across the tarmac of a main road, with truck wheels repeatedly missing her by inches.
For the film crew, the urge to pick her up and carry her to safety must have been almost overwhelming. I watched through my fingers.
I was sitting on my fingers as Handmade: Britain’s Best Woodworker (Ch4) returned.
Every time one of the amateur carpenters lowered a whirring buzzsaw onto a plank, I expected to see someone lose half a hand.
There’s an alarming lack of protective equipment on show — most of the time, people are not wearing gloves or goggles, let alone heavy-duty arm and leg coverings. Several contestants were simply in short sleeves and aprons.
That seems reckless, but then it’s a dictum in my family that no DIY job is finished until someone draws blood. This includes changing a fuse.
Handmade has a similar format to Bake Off, but the editing is much choppier. The camera never stays on one person for more than a few seconds.
The reason is obvious: sawdust is much less enticing than cake.
Fab finale of the weekend: The Horrible Histories team created a hilarious fantasy fairytale sitcom with Yonderland, and topped that with the blissfully clever Ghosts (BBC1). Now that’s about to end… what will they do to delight us next?
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