Tamsin Constable

What’s the knack?

First it was the curtain rail. I pulled the cord to close the curtains, and one end of the rail simply dropped out of the ceiling. It’s still dangling there. It’s been playing up for months, getting stuck and whatnot. (There was a knack.) Then the rope on the ceiling clothes airer finally wore through, frayed to a thread from years of daily pulleying. A wooden rod fell on my head, followed by a load of wet laundry. I’ve been watching the fray’s progress since summer 2006. Then one of the toilet seat rods came off. This makes thing interesting for those whose feet don’t quite touch the ground yet. (He’s getting the knack.) Yesterday it was the kitchen drawer. After months of screeching its protest as we yanked it open, deaf to its metallic wail (there was a knack, but it was quite violent), it gave up, in one final shower of fine iron filings. And now, disaster, the coffee pot. Once, it was simple: two pieces that screwed together. Hell, it used to have a handle! And a lid! Now, it’s a sensitive, demanding, needy little thing. Its collapsing parts need piecing together with more care than a scorned man. There’s a knack to both. I’m good at the coffee pot.

Now, I know people – not freaks, mind you, but real people, people who’d bleed if you pricked them, which you mustn’t, even if you sometimes feel like you want to – to whom these things would just never happen. So what’s their knack? (And why, come to think of it, are they always so well groomed?)

Fairy lights, Diplodocus and a cat hurl

“Forgive me yawning – I just spent the night in a bear hide.”

“Can I call you back? My son’s spotted a whale shark, and my dive-boat is waiting.”

“Can’t talk now, the chimps have discovered fire!”

Every year, I interview 40 or so wildlife photographers around the world, to write captions for the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year book. (My complimentary copies of Portfolio 18 just came through the door). The photographers get invited, as do I, to a glitzy award-ceremony and exhibition / book launch each year at London’s Natural History Museum. It’s a smart, grand event. The tables are beautifully laid out in the massive main hall, around the 26-metre-long Diplodocus skeleton, which sparkles with fairy lights. When I speak to them beforehand, the photographers are invariably passionate about what they do, and thrilled to win an award in this prestigious competition. So I usually hang up the phone feeling flattish, having heard about exotic places, exciting adventures and close-up wildlife encounters. But cheer up! There’s adventure and wildlife to be found everywhere, right?

“Must dash! A cat just threw up in my yard!”

Fireworks, Obama, and my blog launch

It’s 5 November 2008. The Guy Fawkes rockets pop and whistle through the chill. An apple crumble slowly steams up the cooker. And children puff huddled warmth into their mittens. Over the pond, we hear that Obama cleaned up in the presidential elections. And I’m starting my fresh blog today.

So much to celebrate…