Thursday, 29 October 2009

Extraordinary Ends

There have been some great documentaries on TV lately. Michelle Hussein presented one about Ghandi, a three-parter that was quite riveting, throwing an initially sceptical light on the ‘father of modern India’; last night began a new Andrew Marr series, The Making of Modern Britain, and then there has been the wonderful David Attenborough series, Life, which has taken over my Monday nights. All of them remind me to stop being so self obsessed about my own little world because they make me feel a part of something much, much bigger: the universal fight to survive and flourish.

Life has particular resonance for me as I write about motherhood and survival in my memoir. I have written elsewhere that there is nothing I wouldn't have done to help my baby live. It was pure instinct; I didn't question it until later. It is so insightful to watch this fight through the lens of mothers in nature, and witness the lengths they will go to in order to protect their young and increase their offsprings’ chances of survival. I was struck by two creatures in particular: a sprawling octopus lumbering across the sea floor, looking for a cave in which her eggs could safely hatch, and the strawberry frog who meticulously places one tadpole at a time in a watery bromeliad cradle high above the ground, well away from her usual home.

The strawberry frog climbs up and down every day to feed its young, which doesn’t sound all that difficult until you realise the frog is only about a centimetre long in adulthood. She seeks out food and does this mammoth trek daily for a month until the tadpoles turn into little froglets; after which, mum takes them home. This total dedication to increasing their life chances is amazing, but what really blows my mind is the octopus. She lays her eggs and nurtures them with her own body’s resources. When their time comes to hatch, she makes the ultimate sacrifice: she dies. Now you’d think that was a pretty stupid thing to do, just when the tiny wee babies are about to enter the world. But she’s hedged her bets. She’s let loose about 100,000 little octopi.

(Online snapshots taken from's iplayer here:)

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