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What I read in September 2018 (Part 1)

A Sky Full of Birds: In search of Britain’s Great Bird Gatherings by Matt Merritt

I think it is true to say that I have always been interested in birds. I am not a twitcher or even a regular bird-spotter, but when there are birds about I listen to them, watch them and try to identify them. In the first interview I ever had (for a posh school, which fortunately did not offer me a scholarship place) my reply that I watched birds in my back garden, did not seem to satisfy the panel. There was a pyracanthus with berries outside our living room window and blackbirds regularly nested in it and in the hawthorn hedge. Starlings flocked to the lawn. Sparrows and occasionally other birds were also to be seen. My mother waged war against the wood pigeons as she tried to protect her vegetable crops!

A Sky Full of Birds is another library book, which appealed to me for its subject matter and for having been short-listed for the Wainwright Golden Beer Book Prize. Chris Packham’s endorsement, “Prose from a poet” proved to be correct. (I must remember to look at his A People’s Manifesto for Wildlife)

I found this book well-written and easy to read. I learned a lot more about birds and their habits. I recommended it to hubby, who agrees. My only disappointment with the book is that it does not have any direct link with the area where I live now, although I am within easy reach of an RSPB reserve (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) and on a migration route for geese. The geographical area covered is mainly on the east side of the country. The Wirral and York are the nearest places to here as the crow flies!

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What I read in August 2018 (Part 2)

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald is a book I borrowed from the library. I had seen a lot of posts about it on social media around the time it was published. Reading library books often means that I am behind the latest trends!

I found this prize-winning book well-written and very interesting. Apart from being autobiographical and about falconry, it is a book about grief and about TH White both as an author and a person. I read several of his books in my youth and have reread The Once and Future King as an adult. I liked some of his books very much, while others left me feeling that I had missed something. Learning about his struggles helped me to understand how his writing could vary so much.

Eye Can Write: A memoir of a child’s silent soul emerging by Jonathan Bryan

I was having a conversation with a small group of people, when one of them put a book into my hand without saying anything. I had heard of the book and thought I’d like to read it. It didn’t take long, because the print was a good size and the story was gripping. It is a truly inspirational book. I recommended it to hubby, who was more reluctant to read it because of the subject-matter. However, he is also finding it very interesting. Profits from the book go to a charity (Teach us too) to help youngsters with special needs to access a proper education. This book could be described as an antidote to Me Before You, which I wrote about in my previous post in this series.

Cousins by Salley Vickers is a book I found in the library. I have enjoyed other books by this author. I hadn’t heard about her latest titles. Strangely Cousins has some back-stories, which are similar to some in my own family. Also there are aspects of the story, which are not dissimilar to some other books I read recently. It was a good read. (I have read at least 6 of Salley Vickers’ books and am looking out for the ones I have missed.)

The Novel Habits of Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith was a book I bought second-hand at a coffee morning. Readers of this blog may remember that I have read many other books by this prolific author. I particularly like the Isabel Dalhousie series, to which this belongs. It is set in Edinburgh and I was part way through it when Hubby and I travelled to Edinburgh for a day. As I read the rest later, I could envisage some of the places where it was set. Recognising a place adds to the enjoyment in my opinion. It was a light-hearted read after some more serious books. As usual all the loose ends were tied up satisfactorily, while leaving scope for the story to continue unfolding.

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A visit to The Lost Words exhibition

As the date for The Lost Words exhibition to close was approaching I realised that it would be possible to visit it in a single day travelling by train and bus. The internet is a wonderful tool for discovering and planning. I booked advance tickets including plusbus, collected them from a machine, set my alarm for an early start and off we went.

My research fell down a little over the location of bus stops, but we still managed to arrive at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh in the morning. There were other people travelling on the same bus to the gardens. Fortunately one of them knew the way!

Inverleith House

Inverleith House

Entry to the gardens is free, as for The Lost Words exhibition. We found Inverleith House with the help of maps in the gardens and arrived there at the same time as a group of primary school children. (The summer holidays start and end earlier in Scotland than in England for reasons connected with the Scottish potato harvest in earlier times.)

We followed the youngsters in and were impressed by their enthusiasm. However we chose a different route around the exhibition so that we could enjoy it more quietly! In fact we went round some of it twice.

The rooms were empty apart from the exhibition on the walls. Jackie Morris’s beautiful artwork was displayed alongside Robert Macfarlane’s acrostic poems. There were other items of interest, such as an enclosed nature table a bird’s nest and egg, another representing the artist’s workspace and yet another with the writer’s notebook showing his work in progress. Relevant items from the Royal Botanic Garden’s archive were also on display.

There were families and individuals visiting the exhibition. The artwork was presumably the originals from which the book was made. The paintings of the absences did not have the scattered letters across them, which are in the book. I didn’t realise the difference until the following day, when I was describing the exhibition to someone, who hadn’t heard about it. (Yes, there still are people, who have not heard of The Lost Words!)

The book is beautiful, but some of the paintings are interrupted by the fold between facing pages. It was lovely to see them as complete pictures in frames and to be able to admire them from a distance or have a closer look.

I am amazed that many of my friends and acquaintances do not seem to have heard of The Lost Words.

One who has, alerted me to other spin-offs from the dictionary, which replaced nature words with technical ones. Malcolm Guite wrote a sonnet. He also has a list of all the old words omitted from the dictionary in order to make room for modern ones.

Many but not all of the missing words are included in The Lost Words. My post about the book may be found here.