...I glance at my reading pile and see that there is a bit of an unintentional cover image theme going on.
It might be something as simple as colours seeming to co-ordinate or, as in more recently, with the images blending, because suddenly I had a little parliament of owls sitting right next to me with a hawk looking on...
I have no idea who might be worsted in a real-life confrontation.
The journal had been sitting on my shelves unwritten in for ages. To be honest the cover spooked me everso slightly but each time I opened it to make a start I kept thinking, 'Well no, maybe not...save it for something really good,'
...do you all have this bother with new notebooks?
I am right back in Blue Class with Miss Butteriss who dished out new exercise books from her secret stationery cupboard as if they were the Crown Jewels. There would be a little ceremony of presentation in front of the class followed by a stern exhortation to 'Write Neatly,' and not let things get scrappy, as they inevitably had towards the end of the previous one. I would sit there poised ready to make that first mark and it would feel like a new beginning, a new me who would never fail to do my neatest Marion Richardson writing, loops were a sin, I would NEVER do a loop ever, and I would perfect that funny lower case 'r' and that funny 's', and the book would come back with a red star and 'Well Done.'
Sadly all going to pot by about page six by which time 'See Me,' would start to appear. 'See Me,' struck the fear of God into me at the age of seven.
But this new notebook beckoned, and since I finally grew up on my sixtieth birthday and decided no more marginalia in books if I could possibly help it, Moleskine Cahier Journals have become my new best friends. This one is a bit different, hardback, more owl than mole, a gift from The American Museum of Natural History, and that owl does actually remind me of Miss Butteriss just a little, but I decided it would be perfect for notes on all those psychogeography books I read. I have a notebook for Kindle reads, one for Great War reads, one for General Fiction reads...it is getting ridiculous, but it works and I love them.
So snuggling up next to Miss Butteriss is Meadowland - The Private Life of an English Field by John Lewis-Stempel. Month by month the book records the sights, sounds and secrets of an ancient meadow on John's farm...
'I can only tell you how it felt. How it was to work and watch a field and be connected to everything that was in it, and ever had been. To rationalize it ...is pointless. The Romantic poet William Wordsworth was not always the most reliable recorder of the British countryside, but this he got right:
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous form of things
We murder to dissect.
And I think I understood that...sometimes looking at things so closely, as I do so often here, risks the death of them in the imagination. I hope I don't do it too often, John Lewis-Stempel most certainly doesn't, describing in honeyed prose so much that I recognise from my perambulations around what we fondly call Rocky's Field behind our house...
I am reading Meadowland month by month, having plunged into the book midway through and starting with June, because I just couldn't wait until January.
Described as 'a love song to the land' following in the tradition of Jeffries, Richard Mabey and Roger Deakin might seem slightly hyperbolic, but I am in agreement. I have always loved Roger Deakin and have just finished Home Country by Richard Mabey...any book that leaves me with a sense of wanting to get out there and look at it all for myself anew, as does Meadowland, is a winner. John Lewis-Stempel blends careful observation with history and fact, but this is not nostalgia, this is 21st century reality too...the vet comes to do the TB testing on the cattle 'dressed like a forensic scientist at the scene of a crime.'
Now to H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald.
I had read so much about this one, the book seems to be achieving cult status for its account of the author's rearing of a hawk to a backdrop of mourning the sudden and unexpected death of her father, whilst also following the life of auther T.H.White and his own unsuccessful and fairly traumatic attempts at falconry, as recounted in The Goshawk.
And for some reason I just wasn't seeing the beauty in H is for Hawk that everyone else seemed to and so I have paused at the halfway point.
Firstly it is very intense reading, both emotionally and physically, which was leaving me feeling slightly claustrophobic in the midst of this wonderful outdoor summer we have enjoyed. Much time is initially spent sitting in a room day and night with the hawk tethered to its perch to break it in, to acclimatise it to human company and create a food-dependency (meat chunks and day old chicks) before it can be set to flight... and to be honest lily-livered me was finding it all a bit upsetting. Falconry is an ancient art and its history involved and fascinating and Helen Macdonald weaves this in too; we regularly see the local falconer outside Tavistock Market, surrounded by raptors and selling his tuition days, and we are accustomed to nature red in tooth and claw here, but I was obviously in the wrong reading mood so I have set the book aside and will definitely come back to it at a later date.
If any of you have read H is for Hawk I would love to know your thoughts, and of course we always love a good natter about stationery don't we...