Series 4, Episode 45: Walking Tree of Dahomey (with David Attenborough)
LINKMAN Michael Palin
ATTENBOROUGH Michael Palin
The sketch:(Cut to a linkman standing before Stonehenge.)
Linkman: This is Stonehenge … and it’s from here we go to Africa.
(Jeremy Thorpe appears at the edge of shot and waves. Cut to as overgrown, jungleoid a location as Torquay can provide. A very big thick tree in the foreground David Attenborough pushes through jungle towards camera. He has damp sweat patches under his arms which grow perceptibly during the scene. He has two African guides in the background both with saxophones round their neck.)
Attenborough: (slapping the side of a tree) Well here it is at last… the goal of our quest After six months and three days we’ve caught up with the legendary walking tree of Dahomey, Quercus Nicholas Parsonus, resting here for a moment, on its long journey south. It’s almost incredible isn’t it, to think that this huge tree has walked over two thousand miles across this inhospitable terrain to stop here, maybe just to take in water before the two thousand miles on to Cape Town, where it lives. It’s almost unimaginable, I find – the thought of this mighty tree strolling through Nigeria, perhaps swaggering a little as it crosses the border into Zaire, hopping through the tropical rain forests, trying to find a quiet grove where it could jump around on its own, sprinting up to Zambia for the afternoon, then nipping back…
(a native whispers in his ear)
Oh, super … well, I’ve just been told that this is not in fact the legendary walking tree of Dahomey, this is one of Africa’s many stationary trees, Arborus Barnbet Gaseoignus. In fact we’ve just missed the walking tree… it left here at eight o’clock this morning… was heading off in that direction… so we’ll see if we can go and catch it up. Come on boys.
(They move off. At this point we notice that there are two other saxophone-wearing natives, a trumpeter, a trombonist, a double bassist, a guitarist, and finally a man with a drum kit tied to his back. Mix through to them on the move in another pan of the jungle. Sweat is now spraying out from under Attenborough’s armpits as if from a watering can.)
Attenborough: Well, we’re still keeping up with it, but it’s setting a furious pace. Early this morning we thought we’d spotted it, but it turned out to be an Angolan sauntering tree, Amazellus Robin Ray, out walking with a Gambian Sidling Bush…
(Jeremy Thorpe leans in the background and waves to camera)
So on we go … it’s going to be difficult – the walking tree can achieve speeds of up to fifty miles an hour, especially when it’s in a hurry.
(Rupert the bearer points excitedly)
Super! Well, Rupert has spotted something … this could be it… a walking tree on the move…
(they move off, by this time waterspray is gushing out from all over his chest)
But, what Rupert had in fact discovered was something very different…
(He stops him, they kneel down. Cut to their eyeline. In the distance, amongst low bushes and thick undergrowth, six Africans dressed immaculately in cricket gear having a game of cricket. Cut to Attenborough, Rupert and one other bearer watching. Attenborough is looking down at something he is holding. The other two are gazing wide-eyed at the cricketers.)
Attenborough: The Turkish Little Rude Plant.
(he holds up, carefully and wondrously, a plant which has green outer leaves splayed back to reveal a small, accurately sculpted bum)
This remarkably smutty piece of flora was used by the Turks to ram up each other’s…
(Rupert nudges him and points excitedly at the batsmen)
Ah no! In fact it was something even more interesting…
(Attenborough points, apparently at the batsmen, but he has clearly got it wrong again)
Yes, there it was, over the other side of the clearing, the legendary Puking Tree of Mozambique…
(Rupert nudges him again)