What I read in January 2020 (Part 2)

I am reviewing three books in this post. The first two are library books and the last two are nonfiction.

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris is a stand-alone novel about the same family as Chocolat. I have read three of the set of four related books. I really enjoyed this one. The story is told in an ingenious way. There is much insight and wisdom into the protagonists, their motives and the people and events, which have formed their characters. The unfolding story did not leave any of them unchanged.

The Seafarers A journey among birds by Stephen Rutt has some similarities with Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness. Both authors found that birds improved their mental health.

All the birds in The Seafarers are ones, which spend most of their time at sea. Although I have lived within sight of the sea for longer than I care to say here, my knowledge of these birds is patchy. To read the book properly and learn more from it, I should have had a bird book within reach. I found the parts about places I have visited such as Northumberland more interesting than those about places I had to look up on maps. I did find it interesting to have a map of some of the Scottish isles handy to follow the route, which the author described. It was perhaps a case of it being easier to learn from a better informed knowledge base. There is a lot of interesting information in this book but my lack of knowledge made it difficult for me to read. Had I not had to return it within a reasonable length of time, I might have decided to do more reading alongside it. As it was I kept it for six weeks, reading three fiction books in parallel as light relief.

An Island Parish A Summer on Scilly by Nigel Farrell was a book I found in a second-hand book sale. I remember watching the television series about a Roman Catholic priest on a Scottish island and a vicar on the Falkland Islands. For some reason I had missed the programmes about the Scilly Isles. Nigel Farrell was the director of a series on Scilly. This nonfiction book is written in a way, which made me want to keep dipping into it and reading a bit more. It is mainly about people, the vicar arriving in a new post, islanders beginning new ventures, people on short-term postings and visitors. It was written over a decade ago, being published in paperback in 2008. There were a few times I’d have liked to read bits out to hubby. I didn’t because he intends to read it too. There was nothing in the text to indicate that the author had learned he was terminally ill during his time on Scilly. I discovered that while researching the links for this review.

What I read in September 2019 (Part 3)

Many thanks to those readers, who voted in my recent poll. The results were two thirds in favour of preserving the status quo (links rather than full details). That will save me some work!

One book review appears in this post.

Bird Therapy by Joe Harkness

I have been following Joe Harkness @BirdTherapy on Twitter for some time, so when I found his book in the library I borrowed it. Interestingly the sticker inside did not have the name of the branch, but “Housebound service”.

Bird Therapy is well-written and Jo Brown has illustrated it beautifully. The forward by Chris Packham claims that this book will save lives. Joe Harkness found that bird-watching was the best thing he could do as he recovered from a breakdown. The book describes the places he visited and the birds he saw. There is human interest as well. For anyone suffering from stress, this book could help them find a connection with the natural world and ways of dealing with anxiety and depression or other mental health problems.

Independent evidence for the health benefits of being outside and taking time to observe wildlife has been collected together in the notes at the back of the book. A survey was conducted online of people with and without mental health problems who enjoy bird-watching.

I recognised at least one name from my Twitter contacts in the list of people who helped bring this crowd-funded book to publication.

Due to other commitments I wasn’t able to start reading the book as soon as I borrowed it. Not long before I began to read it I had spent time in a bird-hide at a National Trust property. I had experienced the excitement of seeing a nuthatch collect a hazel nut from just outside the window (and the reaction of a young man, who also noticed it) and a woodpecker on a feeder as well as watching more species of tits and finches than we see from home. The descriptions in the book echoed my experience. Bird-watching can be very relaxing. This book deserves to be widely read. It has great potential to save lives, but only if people read it and act on its advice!


Another train journey

Last Saturday I decided at the last minute that I would go to the writing group I joined in 2014.  I had wondered whether it was worth the effort.  We meet in alternate months.  I checked the weather forecast and it was going to be warmer by 1°C and sunnier than here.

Last time I went I made notes in a small notebook on the outward journey and later used them to write a poem.  This time I realised I only had my diary and a posh notebook with me.  I noted down the birds I saw on a spare page in my diary.

The notebooks I mentioned

The notebooks I mentioned

It was high tide.  There was a large group of cormorants, which I was not quick enough to snap.  Later a group of birds on the shore included cormorants, oyster catchers and gulls.  They looked to have sorted themselves out into breeds!

Some of the berries I had noticed in November were still on the bushes.  This time I didn’t see any herons.

I took a few photos from the window of the train, having in mind the Daily Post photo challenge – Optimistic.  I was optimistic travelling and even more optimistic taking photos through the dirty windows of a moving train!

There were many people travelling to a football match.  The platforms looked busy, but the train did not become too crowded, although it was only two coaches.

Some of my photos may be seen on Sue’s words and pictures.  I also took a photo from the Castle View Restaurant in a department store, where I ate a sandwich and drank tea.

Can you see the castle?

Can you see the castle?

As well as travelling on the train I also have to catch a bus to reach the house where we meet.  I was eating a bar of chocolate as I boarded it.  Then I remembered that bus companies do not allow eating or drinking.  I hastily hid it in my bag, without thinking of the consequences.  (The following day I emptied my bag and had to clean away crumbs of chocolate.)

The meeting was enjoyable and interesting.  Our homework had been to write about red sky.  One person had written a children’s book and illustrated it.  We had at least two poems written by members and several pieces of prose.  We heard about South Africa, India and Switzerland as well as Bible lands.   We also talked about books we had read.

On my way to catch the bus home I was treated to a murmuration of starlings, which I saw twice in the sky above the busy road.  It was dark by the time I reached the station, which sounded like a roost for birds.  I did see one pigeon on a platform.

Some of the passengers had been to the match and were discussing it and the wider politics of football.

My walk home from the station was in pouring rain.

Three days later part of the railway line I had travelled on was closed due to a landslide in a storm.  It reopened in a couple of days.  It is easy to take the infrastructure for granted. The mechanical diggers that we have today make work easier than when the railways were constructed.  Even so people have to work in all weathers (and at night) to repair and maintain the railways, roads and power lines.