I had a plan for today which partially involved being witty and insightful about Elizabeth Bowen, but by this point in the afternoon it’s fair to say that all my plans have come to naught and on the whole the last 24 hours have been a real stinker. In need of a moment of calm I went for a browse round Waterstone’s and things started to look better almost immediately when I spotted Tim Dee’s ‘The Running Sky’.
I’ve been waiting for this book to come out since the spring when I first read about it in a Guardian review of 'Archipelago' (a yearly journal for Islomaniacs). Amazon has been reminding me gently that it’s now available ahead of Thursday’s official publication date but I held back. ‘The Running Sky’ is ostensibly about bird watching, and my interest in it stemmed from an article Dee had written for Archipelago about Shetland. I knew there was to be more in the book, and having flipped through it I had to get it. (Brand new and in hardback as well - fortunately a combination of discounting and loyalty card points saved my budget for the week.)
Once upon a time I was a reasonably keen birdwatcher, Shetland has a lot of them, and as anyone who’s lived near Tern or Skua colonies will appreciate apart from anything else it’s nice to know what’s attacking you. I can’t say that I’ve kept on top of trends in natural history, but as a keen book spotter I have noticed a certain type of nature writing emerge over the last few years. Starting perhaps with Adam Nicholson’s success with ‘Sea Room’ there is a definite type emerging – rugged but sensitive accounts of sleeping under the stars and being at one with nature.
I’m aware that my tone is slightly dismissive, but I do enjoy these books, I was bought up though on the likes of Gavin Maxwell (officer, gentleman explorer, interior decorator). He wrote about the environment around him with the sensibility of a hunter and a farmer, Nicholson in ‘Sea Room’ writes as an owner, the tone is slightly different and more in akin to the countryside I recognised.