The Heeding by Rob Cowen

HEED

Orgin: Middle English Heden, Old English hedan, Old Saxon Hadian

Verb:

  1. To mind, to regard, to take note of, to attend to; to observe.
  2. to pay attention, care
  3. To guard, protect

Noun:

  1. Paying particular notice or careful attention tp advice or warning.

The Heeding is another of the longlist books for the Wainwright prize and is the second book of Poetry I have reviewed in the 13 years of doing this blog, it isn’t that I don’t like poetry but maybe I don’t sit and dole I had here and read Rob Cowen collection. He is a poet based in North Yorkshire, which I passed through quickly yesterday on my way up to the Northumberland where we are on Holiday and when I arrived I sat and read this collection of 35 poems that followed a year like another book win the collection it was written during the lockdown year and sees row Observations of this unique year and how it changed the world for tat one moment of time and both Nature and also the Nature of people. The book is also accompanied by a wonderful collection of bold and eye-catching illustrations from  Nick Hayes.

NOISES Off

Indigo sky pressing down like debt.

All cars quietened; nothing stirs.

Late spring status, abandoned, wrecked.

Hell of a thing to be afraid of air

Of touch of family. Of friends. Of work

To not leave home for four days straight.

This is the opening verse of Noise off

I’m never overly sure how to describe a collection of poems but in this one, I just decided I would mention a few of the poems and how I as a reader connected to them. First is the second poem which is called Noises off and is about the new silence of Lockdown we all remember the clarity of sound we all got during the day when there is no cars, no planes in the sky factories are silent the world but also a world of new fears and worries is as it once captured here b Rob and his words far better than I can. Then we have starling which is an ode to that little coal-black bird ( which seemed apt as I am staying in a former colliery village at the moment) this described maybe seeing afresh this little bird which is yes noisy and often in loud groups but when you actually look at this little bird it is so beautiful with as Rob puts it the iridescent purples, greens and blues, the rare hues of petrol on water when describing its feathers. I loved those images and yes they are as soon as I read those words I saw them I was also reminded that I want to see the murmurations (the patterns in a flight of starling of which a large roost near to me is meant to be a place to see this wonder of nature.

We forget that you one shimmered through the frozen air; ripple bird.

Shape-shifter, dusk dancer. Murmurer, sh=ky writer,

Endlessly becoming in the darkening Gold;

Animals, patterns, waves.

And how e wonderstruck, witnessed a nightly unity against death

The second verse of the poem starling mentions their flight of them in groups and the patterns and shapes they make which is so eye-catching and one of the true wonders of Nature.

Well I just mentioned two from this collection in depth the collection is bookended with two poems called the duel about hawks hunting and Hawks reoccur in another Poem that I loved about seeing them in flight whilst driving and Like Rob how often does this happen on a motorway I always nearly crash and often think which bird it was I know Kestrels well as I have seen so many of the years but as for other hawks and how to know which is which glimpsed against the sky I am never quite sure. He also shows how he was touched by ovoid from his personal experience to that off the loss of those around him near and also faces in a crowd like a man at his allotment. Rob captures those mad twelve months in these 35 poems with a poet’s eye that ability t see beyond to describe and in a time like that is what is needed in a time of Madness and the uncertain nature of the world we need a poet to be are guide to cross the river of covid to make sense of the currents and eddies of that river to show us what we missed those little moments in that time like a collection of items which ties into the start of the book which sees Rob describe his desktop and the collection of items he has a stone, musket ball an otter print. Well, this is his desktop of that year his collection of items picked up along that year. Do you think poets can be beacons in dark times to guide the world around us?

Winstons score – + A, a stunning collection that captures in Amber a once-in-a-lifetime year of wonder and fear.

 

 

12 Birds to save your life by Charlie Corbett

 

12 Birds to save your life by Charlie Corbett

British Nature writing

Source – Library book

I take another step along the path of the Wainwright longlist books. It is strange I picked a book last month of my Trio of books that I had enjoyed was a memoir about grief this is another book around Grief. Charlie Corbett is a writer and a farmer that has spent his time between the Wessex Downs and Isle of Mull( you couldn’t get two places further apart in the Uk.he lives with his wife on the downs with his sons and a field full of skylarks which is one of the 12 birds of the book where he uses his love of birds and mixes into a memoir of Birds and the death and how his family coped when their Mother died and how birds have been viewed through time and he mixes them up this is his life in a hard time.

Peewits (otherwise known as lapwings or green plovers) are, in fact, a bird of the coast – a wader – but they breed up on hills during the spring and summer. And if you scan the sky in February, you might see great flocks of peewits circling up above looking for suitable places to nest. I almost drove off the side of the motorway when I saw such a sight not that long ago (once you develop a love for birds, almost crashing cars will become a common occurrence, I’m afraid)

I used to see these on a drive between towns growing up a bird we see a lot less of these days.

The book uses twelve birds native to the UK, which are common bar two of them which are harder to see the sections combine Charlie’s family life at what is one of the hardest times in people’s lives and that is the loss of a parent the effect on the wider family and how the sight of the birds and connections about myths and legends around the birds and how they have seen them over time. He also has a comic touch to describe some birds and their wider family-like calling a Jackdaw like the Danny deviate of the crow world. Then at the end of each section a guide to how to see each bird and how common they are and also it highlights how some birds over time have drastically declined those so common and still common mare getting less so like the little sparrow. It shows how we have to feed and make sure our gardens make birds welcome.

And if Danny DeVito had an extrovert cousin who liked to dress in Paris clothes, then that would be the Jay. The Jay is another characterful member of the Corvid clan. Though instead of the usual sombre black ensemble, the Jay sports a pink suit, bright white shirt with dazzling electric blue wingtips and a snappy black moustache under the beak. You’ll certainly hear a jay before you see one(its Latin name is Garrulous Glandarius). If you are walking through woodland, your ears will be assaulted by a shattering shriek, just as you remark to your walking companion, ” What the hell was that bloody awful noise?”, you’ll see this pinky-blue-white blur fly past with a kind of lazy undulation lollo. Yet despite its shouty call and garish costumes, the jay is, in fact, really rather a shy creature.It lives in woodland and really ventures out.

I loved this description of a jay in the section about Magpies.

I loved this as many of you know I love books that connect objects to things to memories it has always been something that has driven me as a reward this was one of the books that really jumped out at me of the Wainwright longlist. especially as I have always had a love of birds but also the myths and legends around birds which is something I have always loved. I often look for a robin when a bird is meant to be the soul visiting you at my mum’s grave site. They are one of the birds Charlie talks about. Then he talks about Kingfisher a bird I had on my wall as a kid one of the birds I love to see as you only ever see a brilliant blue flash as they so often disappear so quickly. He also has anBarn Owl which made me think of My work Owl there is a Tawny owl I have seen a few times it sites of a post at the back of work and I see it there and think I have seen a couple of things it has killed on the gardens at work. I think it is great as the first time I saw it a patient showed it me it made their day, especially showing me. Have you a favourite book that deals with Grief and its effect on a family?

Winstons score – B solid book around birds and grief and how they enter our lives their but sometimes we notice them more.

Goshawk Summer by James Aldred

Goshawk Summer by James Alfred

English Nature writing

Source – Personal copy

I decide to have this break and read some Nature writing which happened to be exactly the same time as we got the Wainwright Nature writing longlist for 2022. So I then decided to get all the books which I was so lucky to have found most of them on the Library system so Had to order to collect most of them as they are coming from all over Derbyshire. I am going today ( well actually yesterday !! as I wrote this yesterday) to pick up the first lot of books. But the two books I couldn’t get I ordered and they arrived before the weekend so I managed to squeeze in this book over the weekend James Aldred is an Award-winning wildlife documentary maker. He had just finished one project in Africa when he was hired to film some Goshawks in the New forest this is around the time of the first lockdowns in the Uk and he is able to go to the forest every day and to film the Goshawks during a summer that is like no other that has been for many a year and maybe won’t happen again. SO we see his observations of the forest and Goshawks.

Friday 10 April

The country’s been in lockdown for two weeks. I take our three boys into the empty landscape of the valley opposite for some decompression. They’ve been bouncing off the walls at home and it’s good to feel the stride of open ground. They bring their bows and shoot arrows high into the sky above the wide rhyme-locked levels. It’s a good way to let off steam for an hour or so. crossing one of the many small bridges. I glance down to see the five-toed pads of a dog otter imprinted in the soft mud.

I loved as he takes the kids out which many parents did he still sees the nature around him.

He has just returned to the Uk as we see Lockdown is happening and has just been given the job to sit in a Hide to film over the summer. In the New forest. We see as he travels back and forth to film in a world that is now quiet and how strange it is with nothing around that is usually the traffic on the roads, Planes in the sky all have vanished overnight and a new world of silence and quiet. As he settles deep in the forest in his Hide says how much he likes being in a hide hidden and watching whatever he is there to film. He grew up in the New Forest and is amazed when he sees the car parks fill as everyone went back into nature as he heads into the hide and watches this Family of Goshawks sit on the Eggs and then as the chick grows(there is an insight into how they choose which chick lives) we see the environment the bio system of the world of the Goshawks the world of the forest the squirrels which is the main diet of the Goshawks, other birds he sees he compares the other Raptures and places The Goshawks alongside them and how it all interconnects. All this is against the backdrop of the Pandemic and lockdown. I hope to capture the film he made of this Goshawk pair and the New forest in this time which is a time we may never see again.

Friday 8 may

A dry start. The forest leaves hang with mist, but the sky is clear and the 4 a.m. journey to goshawks is sublime. The full moon hangs huge and heavy above dark spires of conifer- a Spielberg backdrop in need of a flying silhouette. The road through Whitemoor glade is a bright bridge of silver and I turn of my lights to follow, rolling slowly forward as the trees eventually rise up to swallow the moon. As I re-enter the darkness a tawny owl is perched on a sign next to the road. It ignores me and remains poised with head tilted forward, listening to something in the leaf litter. I switch off the engine in their hope of watching it hunt, but it seems to notice me for the first time and flies off into the shadows.

his early morning walk to the hide deep in the woods.

I do wonder if in years to come we will get a series of books that will be described as Covoid lit or lockdown Lit. This time saw the best and worst of people but also as we see in James’s eyes it gave nature a small window away from the chaos of the world and  Pollution lessen as the cars on the road stop, I remember the driving to work myself in this time when some days I wouldn’t see a single car and also it was amazing hearing and see birds more than before. He captures this Goshawk couple in an extraordinary time this is a story of them but also has the reflections of the year which for James himself was a sad year With the loss of his father. I enjoyed the insight into a bird I haven’t seen it made me want to see a Goshawk at some point. Do you think there will be a section around ovoid and Lockdown in years to come or is it too early to tell? This was the first book I have read from this year’s Wainwright nature writing longlist.

Winston’s score – B a man in the woods captures a year like no other.

The Military Orchid by Joceyln Brooke

The Military Orchid by Jocelyn Brooke

English Nature writing

Source – personal copy

Well, I read Copsford last week and was bowled over by it and love the actual book itself it was a nicely presented work from the publisher Little Toller which until I brought that book I had never heard of so I went and had a look at there backlist of Nature writing classics and I choose two more to read and this is the first of those two books I selected Orchid Military which is the first of a trilogy by the English Writer Jocelyn  Brooke He was one of those old English characters he was in the military and had run away as a kid and then dropped out of Oxford before he joined the military in the medieval core this is also where he started to write and also discover the Orchid of the title of the book and also sent him what would be a google rabbit hole but then was discovering book after book and a journey of finding Orchids and the hunt for that one mystery Orchid.

Poor colonel Mackenzies! His book was not the best of introductions to its subject. Yet he was a true ochidomane, and I salute him across the years. I imagine him living in comfortable retirement in Surrey, in a red house with a drive and spiky gates, among pine trees; pottering on the downs above Betchworth and Shere but not often venturing further afield. Probably he did possess a copy of Bentham and Hooker, but he could have seldom have looked at it. It is a pleasing thought that another retired officer, colonel Godfrey, has written the standard Monograph on the British Orchidaceae (He also lives in Surrey)

His intro was the Colonel’s book on Orchids

The book opens as we see via a Mr Bundock how the young Jocelyn was drawn into Orchid and the first orchid he discovered was the Lizard Orchid this is the time he got one of the first of many books about the Orchids of Britain this was the colonel Mackenzie Orchids of Britain that was an example of a book that was written by the amateur nature writer. . But this book is where he discovers the Military Orchid ( `orchis Militaris). Which is the one orchid we see him hunting to discover if this very rare orchid is even confirmed as the book unwinds we Follow Jocelyn in the English countryside where we meet a cast of characters that are from a bygone age where the countryside is a mixture of snobs and those old country figures ( this remind me of living in Northumberland in my teens and the characters I used to pick up for my job in a day centre which had a number of character that reminds me of those that Jocelyn crossed. He also spends time abroad in his army career this is a mix of his military life and his growing love of Nature and Orchids as he gets more and more Orchid. books and he tells us about the writers on the whole a collection of amateurs like himself. We see if Evers gets to find this orchid and if it is even real.

Les seuls Vrais Paraadis, said Proust, sont les paradis qu’on la perdus: and conversely, the only genuine infernos, perhaps, are those which are yet to come. After the post-Munch period, with its atmosphere of slowly gathering crisis, the outbreak of war itself was like a sudden Holiday, bringing a sense of release, almost of relief: the kind of relief which an invalid feels when a definite disease has declared itself, replacing the vague, indefinable mails by a set of recognisable physical symptoms

I love this Proust quote(a little jealous I never got past the first books of Proust)

This was just what I need it is one of those books that is written by someone with a passion for their subject which for Brooke is Orchids alongside his growing up and witnessing Both wars and the inter war years and his Military career and home life. He mixes a comical view of the time of the world around him. Add to this is the wonderful Orchid pictures we get that illustrate a lot of the plants that we have read about. This is a mix of styles Memoir, Satire and military history during and after world wars it is also a quest work his ask is the Military Orchid you can see as the years go by and he hasn’t seen this rarely record Orchid does it even exist. It has a bit of Waugh, a bit of Edith Holden and added to that is his Quest it is a sort of Holy grail search for his beloved Orchid.He wrote a number of other books after this book, I will be looking out for the other two books in this collection of the collected trilogy as the other two books are meant to be as good as this one is. Have you read any books by Brooke? do you like memoirs that combine a love of Nature?

 

Winstons score – A two wars and the inter war years are a hunt for a mythical Orchid. Sees a man grow and discover a passion.

Copsford by Walter J. C. Murray

Copsford by Walter J. C. Murray

British Nature writing

Source – personal copy

I have decided a couple of years ago that every time I go and put flowers and visit where we scattered my mum’s ash which is about an hours drive from where I live in Derbyshire .I would by some nature writing my Mom and my Granddad who are also scattered on the same site in Macclesfield in Cheshire with were great nature lovers my granddad had a love of birds and birdwatching he paid for my old YOC membership growing up (the youth section of the (RSPB). So there is a mid-size Waterstones there which is slightly big than the one we have here so I went to the nature section and had a look round and actually had another book in my hand when this one caught my eye with its Black white cover which by the sheer tone of the photo you could tell it was an old print. The book was written by Walter Murray he was from Sussex and had been living in London in a third-floor flat when he decided he want to do a Thoreau (as in Walden) and he decide to return to Sussex and rent a heap the hep on the cover a cottage called cops ford and try and make a living of the land grow and drying herbs and making a simpler life.He had a lifelong love of nature and took photos of Nature the photos in this book are from the original book when it came out in 1948( The Copsford year was in the 20s though)

“No one ain’t lived in Copsford for more ‘an twenty year’ he protested “Its do be out of repair like’

“You’m best go an’ ; ave a look around first,’ he suggested. Then returning to the familiar rut, ‘Ice going ‘ ploughin’ in the ten-acre.’

He readjusted his hat and began to harness his two horses. He was happy again, so I set off across the field to inspect Copsford, this cottage “sech a mile from nowhere” where no one wanted to live.

He goes to look at cops ford after the farmer warns how it is derelict.

I am drawn to the idea of living away from it all one of the things I want to do in the future is go back to Northumberland and live in a small village. So the book opens when he decides to leave his third floor flat and his life in London and with his Dog floss his sheepdog. The farmer iS taken back when he asks if he can take on Copsford the cottage had been empty for decades and was broken down as you can see ion the cover also it is full of rats. So the opening few chapters we see him first trying to get at least one room liveable as he then tries to get rid of the rats from the property all this as he is having to fetch water and live by candlelight as he also reconnects with his childhood sweetheart a music teacher, this is about the time in the mid-twenties when Murray became a teacher and eventually a headmaster at his own school. What fools is his upon and downs as he Lears to live on the land and also at the end chapter sees him comparing what he made to how he lived in London to the money earned for rent and living costs in Copsford.

If the herb is taken too late from the drying-room, and this quite frequently happens when a spell of dry weather suddenly succeeds a long damp, blowdrying period, the plant is so brittle that it crumbles to dust. The rosette of pale green leaves of cleavers is so slight that there is always some loss of herb at the bagging-up time, but that is better than mould. Other herbs, if allowed to become to dry, just cannot be handled; they smash and crumble and fall away into useless fragments, Others again – a few – one never seems to be able to dry enough; they always feel moist or oily to the touch, no matter how many days they hang on the line

He learns how to dry the herbs he is wanting to harvest dry and sell

 

 

I said in the intro I called this a Thoreau he did similar when he went to live next to Walden lake it was a way to escape the pressure of the present and this is similar he just wants to capture the countryside and live on the land with his dog Floss and he does what he does is also start to notice the seasons and the world around him as he struggles to collect and work at his plan to gather and forage for Herbs to dry and sell. Then there is also the budding romance between him and his childhood sweetheart who lives near Copsford. The cottage itself becomes a character in the book, even more, when he decides to stay in the winter as he said it was the last gift it gave him. This book is timely there seems to be a movement toward a simple life post-Lockdown people have reconnected with nature and want a simpler life it’s strange that the Similar events in the 70s with strikes and cost of living crisis lead to the likes of the Good Life. I think we all love a bit of the countryside I know I love the mix of that and going to the city or a large town. This was republished just before the lockdown and maybe should be read if you like a year of nature-type books or want to see how the simpler life was never to simple even 100 years ago. Maybe it is the prototype Cottagecore book if you want to be present and live in the moment and be sustainable this is the book for you. Also, it has his wonderfully evocative pictures to bring to life the text and the year he spent there. Have you a favourite back-to-nature book?

Winstons score – +A just loved slipping into his year in copsford.

 

The young pretender by Michael Arditti

The young pretender by Michael Arditti

English historical fiction

Source – review copy

It was nice to be sent a new book from arcadia books which was a publisher I had reviewed books over the years and had sadly after its founder Gary’s death nearly vanished to it has been taken as an imprint by Quercus. I don’t read many historical fiction books but this one appealed as it has a number of themes I like people trying to make a come back. I also like the thought of the way actors travelled back in the day with touring companies crossing the country. it reminded me it has been a number of years since I last went to the theatre to see something. The book follows the comeback of the child actor Master Betty as he returned to the stage at the age of 20 after he was lauded at the age of 13 and was called the infant Garrick. But after a scandal, he disappears and now a man is trying to return.

It is not yet nine months since he died, so I realise that my sentiments may be coloured by my loss, but I doubt that even at the height of my fame,Papa was proud of me. He may been proud that others were proud of me, but that’s not the same. Poets Lauded me as Albion’s favourite snout, if I were his it was only because I lacked brother. Even when dukes and duchesses crowded my dressing room, he railed that he had exchanged the honourable life of a gentleman for that of a fair-keeper

After his father’s death, he looks back at his father the line about a brother touched me so sad!!

Netty had been on the boards since he was little and had played a lot of the major roles in Shakespeare plays and when he was Hamlet at Covent garden William Pitt had let parliament go early so they could go and watch him. We meet him as now a young man who is trying to regain fame but he also maybe wants to be seen as a man, not the boy that left the stage 6 years earlier now a taller fat man is trying to reclaim what he once was for himself not for his father. What we see in the theatre world in regency times where plays just happened here and then the actors don’t have much time to learn the plays and the world just seems very chaotic at times and unprofessional. We see as we follow him how the young boy was taught the stage trade by another actor Mr Hough when he was a boy. But this was what would now be called grooming in the way it happened and the abuse the young boy suffered. but when we see him remember his former glory the bad bits tend to be rosier and you get the sense of the horrors he saw as a child.

I think that Papa met him at the race. There was a course at Downpatrick, which he frequented, especially after the factory closed. It was his habit to bring people Springhill- people who in the old days… no matter! Mr Hough was there with several players from Belfast. Papa invited them to dine with us on their way back to the city. After showing his cups – she a=glances at the cabinet in which the fencing trophies of Papa’s youth are proudly displayed – “He must have remarked that he has a son with a zeal for drama, at which the players, knowing what was required them, called on you to recite, I sought to prevent it -”

“Mama”

How Mr Hough his teacher which came to teach but also abused the young actor as well

I loved the way we saw Betty trying to relaunch himself to be taken seriously but most of those around him still view him as the young boy he was many years ago. I loved the way he described his career and how he had been here there and everywhere as a  young boy, but then you think how his father maybe used his fame and overworked also such a young boy in an adult world wasn’t ever great for the young Betty and we see how the scars wear on the young man. This is a story that has echoes with the present with the ME too mob=vement and we think of things like how so many child actors I grew up watching went off the rails and suffered due to pressure of fame at a young age.  Arditti conjures up those actors going here and there chasing the jobs and performance in regency Britain so well the description of his fame at the time he conjures up the chaos behind the stage around the country and a time when going to see a play was the most important entertain for most in the country. Have you a favourite historic novel set in Regency times. Any other books around this time?

Winstons score – B a book that shows metoo has always been there and the follies of being a child star

The New Men by CP Snow

The New Men by CP Snow

English fiction

Source personal copy

it is the 1954 club this week I have a pile of books I hope to get over the week but I start with this from the writer CP Snow I had long wanted to start his stranger and brother series of which this is one so when it was announced the 1954 club I looked at the various list around the net and discovered that this was on the list of books published that year. I looked at the book blurb and yes it is part of the series but seemed to be a self constant story. CP snow was a writer that tried to connect as he called it the two cultures of Art and science here is a book that is an example maybe of that idea as it is about science in a way as it follows two brothers as they are involved with the search for atomic fission which is what powers Nuclear power but also is used in atomic weapons. a group of scientist from Cambridge try and make the discover in the early 40s

Martin gave a friendly, sarcastic smile. I went on. He met each point on the plane of reason. He had reckoned them out himself; np one insured more carefully against the future. I was telling him nothing he did not know. I became angry gain.

“She’s pretty shallow, you know. I expect her loves are too”

Martin didn’t reply.

“She’s bright, but she’s not very clever”

“That doesn’t matter to me” He said

“You’d find her boring in time.”

I”I couldn’t have done less so up to now”said Martin

The book like the others in the series revolves around the life and times of the Elliot brothers here we see them get the chance to be involved int he search for Atomic fission. The book opens as the two brother meet and Martin has a new lady friend he introduces Lewis to his new lady friend but when Lewis dismisses this lady as unsuitable and says his brother will bore of her over time the two fall out. Then Martin as he says in the meeting with Lewis is starting to look at fission and he is called to a group in a small village called Barofrd near Warwick to study and try and perfect the research. in what is called Project Mr Toad as the group splits up into a couple of teams doing slightly different things he decides to try and reconcile with his brother and get him to join him at Barford.What follows is the journey in try to discover but also a side story of maybe someone spying. As part of the project connects with Nuclear weapons.The story is about the morals of what they did as well as s=what different characters in the book around the brothers see as the moral rights and wrongs

Though Hector Ross had left me in suspense about his intention, I did worry much. Despite our mutual dislike I trusted his mind, and for a strong mind there was only one way to open,

Thus Luke, in the midst of disapproval, got all he asked for, and went back to playing his piano. There was months to get through before the pile was refitted. He and Martin had set themselves for another wait.

It was during this wait I had my first intimation of a different kind of secret. one of the security branches had begun asking questions. They had some evidence( so it seemed though the muffled hints) that there might be a leaked

The later part of the book follows this revelation around the brother and the project

Now this is part of a series and in the middle of the series it seems but for me it did work as a standalone story of the two brothers and there journey from initially falling out the both getting involved in Mr toad as the project is called (I just loved the fact the project was called mr toad). Snow used a mixture of real facts around the discovery of fission.He also question the outcome of some of the research which lead to the Atomic bomb in a small part. Snow worked in the government around the time the part involving government officials and parts of the government feels very real in the way he portray it. The project is set in  Barford is an actual village in warship in fact I was very near it this weekend when I was away but didn’t get chance to pop and take a pic of the village sign. The rest of the series is around Lewis Elliot. I will hopefully read the other in the series. I chose this as my first for Club1954 as it  made me finally get to snow and this series I had listen to him on Desert Island disc when he was on in the in 1975 here is a link to that episode. I felt I had to read him and also the idea of science and art working closer together appeals to me and I’m sure he’d liked books like Benjamin Labatut  When we cease to understand the world a recent book (see what I’ve done there manager o link to a book in translation). Have you read anything from CP Snow ?

Winstons score – A a lost gem of English lit

Vesper flights by Helen Macdonald

Vesper Flights by Helen Macdonald

Nature writing

Source – Personal copy

I said to myself at the start of this year I need to add a couple of non-fiction books here and there which is something in all the time I have blogged has been thin on the ground I always see other Bloggers and Vloggers mention different non-fiction books and think I should read some of the books they have mentioned and I have always been a fan of nature writing but had only reviewed one book a year in the woods in my time blogging I had read a couple of other books A roger Deakin being one but not reviewed any of them anyway the second book from Helen Macdonald I brought last year when we visited were we scattered my mum’s ashes in Cheshire (which is an odd connection given the cover could be Jodrell Bank the radio telescope that dominates The area of Cheshire I grew up so the Linocut cover caught my eye). So I brought it last summer and the other memory of that day was a squirrel that was so tame it stood a mere couple of feet away as I place some flowers near when we scattered my mum’s ashes.

This creature was not what I expected, despite its slap of familiarity. It had the forward-meancing shoulder of a Baboon and the brute strtength and black hide of a bear. But it was not really anything like a bear, and what surprised me most of all was that it was nothing like a pig. As the beast trotted up to us, a miracle pf muscle and bristle and heft, I turned to the boy, and said, surprised, “It’s nothing like a pig!” With great satisfactionhe grinned and sad “No they’re really not.”

The meeting of a wild boar in the woods when it was reintroduced to the UK

 

I was immediately grabbed by her writing when Helen Macdonald talked of this collection as being like a Wunderkammern ( a box of curiosities ) this collection of Nature writing. that we get insight into how she first wanted to be a naturist the opening story talks of Nest and egg collection which Naturists used to do in the past but now seems so out date to the modern Naturist. I was reminded of Gald Durrel and his Amateur Naturalist series and book I loved when I was younger the way he collect things like Nest and eggs. Then we see how the reintroduction of Wild Boars makes walking in the wood different these days !! ( this also remind me of the film Beast of the southern wilds which had a recurring motif of an ancient giant Boar running ). An essay that touched me was her connection with a boy that Autism a touching tale of when they met. Then a tale of old Field guides which mention an old guide written about seeing birds through your opera glasses Elsewhere we see the effects of building on birds and An essay about Ants. Hares are the subject of another essay I was reminded of Moring in  Northumberland where I see the Rabbits and hares out in force near Alnwick Castle in the fields around as I walked my first dog.

The process of indentifying aniumals in this way has a fascinating history, for field guides have closely tracked changes in the ways we interact with nature. Untilthe earlyyear of the twentieth century, bird guides, for example, mostly came in two kinds. Some moralised, anthropomphic life hiostories, like Florence merra’s 1889 Birds through an opera-glass, which describes the bluebirdas having a “model temper” while the catbird possessed a “lazy self indulgence”. “If he were a man,” she wrote of the latter “you feel confident that he would sit in short sleeves at home and go oin the street wthout a collar.” The other kind was the technical volume for ornithological collectors.

Old field guide this made me smile with the description of  the old guide looking through Opera glasses.

I think you can guess from my description how much I loved this book I love books that make you think of your own experiences and I have always loved Nature I used to love walking in the Northumberland countryside and now these days in the Peaks I think it was Durrell’s book that opens my eyes and that is the beauty of a book like this is that it reminds you to appreciate the world around us and it also reminds us how fragile the world around is us is and how much effect we can have on the world around us. If you like nature writing I would say pick this up it left me wanting to read more from Helen Macdonald and also wanting to go out and observe the world around us again afresh. Have any of you read her Memoir H is for Hawk?

Winstons score – +A, A gem and uplifting read for a dull January day !!

Beard’s Roman Women by Anthony Burgess

Beard’s Roman Women by Anthony Burgess

English Fiction

Source – Personal copy

I haven’t talked about how Anthony Burgess is one of my all-time favorite writers, so when I looked at the list of books for club 1976.  was happy when I saw this book which I had brought when it came out two years ago as part of the University of Manchester Irwell edition of some of Burgess works that had fallen out of print or as in the case of Puma was part of another novel that Burgess had wanted to publish as a separate work. Anyway, this book was one of the books from Burgess that had fallen out of print this new edition is the first to include the pictures that David Robinson had taken around Rome to highlight the text supernatural parts of the book the original edition had them but in black and white not like color here. The book also has a number of Autobiographical elements that parallel Burgess’s own life.

She died in an English March. He should known, those quiet years in Londin when he was earning their living as a writer of scripts for radio, television and cinem, what her trouble was. He had even written a television play in which one of his characters, a writer of scripts for radio, television and cinema, died of cirrhosis. From those years in Brunei on, when he had woirked for Radio Brunei, it never seemed to him that either of them drank excessively. In the tropics, surely you sweated all that gin out before it got anywhere near the liver.

His own wife died due to Alcoholism they had both lived in Brunei as well.

The book opens with the main character in the book Ronald Beard as we see him with his wife dying. When his wife finally passes away, he decides to head and pursue a job as a screenwriter in Hollywood as he has been hired by a studio exec to write a Musical based on the time Shelley and Lord Byron spent in Geneva. A time that changed both the writers forever as they see a big Hollywood star playing Bryon he heads to Rome as he tries to wor on the musical he is drinking but soon after he arrives in Rome he falls for a woman this is maybe like the drinking a way of avoiding the grief but his wife is still there as we see he is haunted by her as he tries to get on with his new life bu the past keeps creeping in did she die?  As he thinks of there past and figures from his past in the far east crop up. So why did he run off to Rome. Then mix in the atmospheric pictures from Robinson which lifts Beard’s journey of the page.

In Geneva Mary and Percy and his limping lordship(come in perhaps on that Limp) looked up at the statue of John calvin. “The monster that created a monster,” said Byron, handsomely bitter,”A clockwork toy called Predestinate man, wound up by god and arribitrarlly set by him on a path leading to salvation or preditio. No choice is the matter, no freedom in the scheme. How I hate Jack calvin and how I hate  John Knox. i was brought up, ye ken, changing to stage scotch, “on the pestilential puritanism of that woman loather ”

His work on the musical he was sent to work on

 

Now, this has large chunks of Burgess world he loved Rome Which like Dublin he was more drawn to as a capital city than London. He was a catholic so felt closer to these two cities. Like his character Beard Burgess had lost his wife, he also married an Italian woman.  Then there is a shared history in Brunei where Burgess had also worked he also did write a screenplay for Tv about Shelley and Lord Byron that is included in the appendix to the book the book has these elements but Beard isn’t Burgess he used his life as a setting and biography for the story. There is a supernatural element to the book I was reminded at times of the scenes from Don’t look know where we see the image of the lost child in the canal in Venice here we see Beard’s wife there in the background the pictures conjure up the feeling of loss and mystery. The book of its time a world has now gone screenwriters writing musicals about Byron for a Hollywood studio now !! if only lol. If like me you are a huge Burgess fan this is one to read if you like Rome it is partly set there and lots of pictures around Rome. Have you a favorite book from Burgess I have reviewed four other books by him which include two other books from the Irwell series of books. A little late for club 1976

Winstons score – A for me I loved it but I love his writing so much this had lots of his life story in it !

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Beowulf A New Translation by Maria Dahvana Headley

Classic Epic poetry

Original title – Beowulf

Source – review copy

I haven’t reviewed a lot of poetry over the years of the blog which is strange as I have a lot of poetry on my shelves that I tend to dip in and out of so when I was given the chance to read a reworking of the great Anglo Saxon Poem Beowulf. In the acknowledgments for the book Maria said she came up with the idea of translating Beowulf when she was up for a world fantasy prize for her acclaimed book The Mere Wife how she had used a translation of Beowulf in the research for the book and was asked in the Q & A when her translation would be out she decided to pick up the Baton. As for me, I did read the Seamus Heaney about the time it came out as there was such acclaim for that book as it made the poem more accessible but I always feel language moves and there is always room for new angles at old works if it brings something new to the table. as Borges said in his poem about his thought on translating Beowulf.

Poem Written in a Copy of Beowulf

At various times, I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study, while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.

Used up by the years, my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history. Borges

The opening of Beowulf in the new translation!

Bro! Tell me we still know how to speak of kings! in the days

Everyone knew what men were: brave, bold, glory-bound.Only stories now, but I’ll sound the Spear-Danes song hoarded for hugry times

Their first father was a foundling: Scyld Scefing.

He spent his youth fists up, browbeating every barstool-brother, bonfiring his enemies. That man began in the waves, a baby in a basket.

but he bootstrapped his way into a kingdom, trading loneliness for luxury. Whether they thought kneeling necessary or no, everyone from head to tail of the whale-road bent down:

There’s a king, there’s his crown!

Thats a good King

The opening 11 lines of Beowulf !!

 

Beowulf follows the hero of the Title as he heads from Anglo Saxon England (Although England is never mentioned in the text as Q (Arthur Quiller-Couch) pointed out in a lecture in his work “On the art of writing”. he travels to help the king of the Dane who has lost many of his best men to the monster Grendel. he offers his help to kill Grendel and creature that has been terrorizing the kingdom since the creature is meant to be descended from Cain a nod to biblical connection in the origin of the book. They celebrate when Beowulf kills him with his own hands and then on the next night they are attacked by Grendel mother as Beowulf isn’t there but when he arrives back there follows a great battle Beowulf returns home and is made king of his own land only many years later to die fighting a dragon now this is the story but what Maria has done is made it easier to get into with the use of street terms and add a little more flow to the prose.

 

Hidden by fog,grendel roved the moors, God-cursed

Grudge worsening. He knew who hunted:

wine-drunk, mead-met men, and he oined

for his prey. Under storms clouds, he stalked them,

in his usual anguish, feeling a forbidden hearth,

that gulded hall stop the hill, gleaming still,

through years of bloodshed.This was not

the first time he’d hunted in Hrothgar’s hall,

butnever before nor later had he such hard luck.

no one worthyhad historically lain in wait

10 lines from early on in the book just show you how the book pops.

Christopher Hitchens said in his review of Harry Potter many years ok said it would spark a revival of anglo Saxon works like Beowulf as it has since the likes of Tolkien and C S lewis been interwoven with the world of fantasy as well. With dragons, quests warriors it has a link to Fantasy and also back to greek epics but what Maria has done is make it also sound modern with her use of street slang with words like Bro. She has also made it bloody it’s almost as though it has mixed a Nordic noir with an episode of Vikings and has also made the female characters appear a little more than I remembered in the Heaney translation. This is a great new version of the book if you haven’t read it this may be the edition for you if you like a=fantasy or greek epics this is the bridge between those works a cornerstone of English literature given a new breath of life for a new generation !!

Previous Older Entries

September 2022
M T W T F S S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Archives

%d bloggers like this: