What I read in March 2020 (Part 1)

So far in March I have finished reading two nonfiction books. The first was lent to me by a member of my family; the other came from a second-hand book sale.

Underland: A deep time journey by Robert Macfarlane is a demanding book to read. I began it in January and finished reading it early in March. It is very wide-ranging both in the places described and their geology. Macfarlane has spent time with experts in various fields and had adventures in the landscape above and below ground to provide the content of Underland. His descriptions are vivid. The lessons from history and the warnings about the future do not make for an enjoyable read, rather a disturbing one. It is a book worth reading.

 

The Secret Life of Bletchley Park: The WWII Codebreaking Centre and the Men and Women who worked there by Sinclair McKay is a fascinating account of a bygone pivotal age. It is entertaining and informative with many quotes from people who were involved, some of whom have written their own stories. The timeline of the Second World War runs through the book, which ends with the opening of a museum on the site.

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.

 

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What I read in June 2018 (Part4) The Lost Words

Well, here is the promised post all about a single book!

When an article appeared about a new edition of a children’s dictionary having lost some words about nature to make room for new words about technology, most people were disappointed. One person, who acted on his disappointment, was Robert Macfarlane (mentioned on my blog here).

The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris has been more successful than anyone could have imagined. What has happened around it is now described as a movement. There have been crowd-funded appeals to place the book in every school in various counties around Britain. It has been used in homes for older people. Twitter is full of it. Jackie Morris has developed a new alphabet using otters in various positions to represent the letters. Her artwork has been auctioned to raise money for charities. The price of the book itself includes a donation to Action for Conservation. Another charity it is involved with is the John Muir Trust.

I received a copy of the book as a present, having seen it first at a writers’ conference.

It is a large format book. Each word has its own acrostic. The artwork is wonderful. There are hidden words and absent shapes.

It is a book, which works at many levels. It has inspired more pictures and writing, through its use in schools. There have been exhibitions in London and Edinburgh. It has also inspired a musical spin-off.

I learned that there are alternative spellings for a word, which I’d have spelled with four letters. With three it is a homonym of an animal. I began to write my own verse. Towards the end of June it had four lines. Four days later I added two more.

Lost Animal

In The Lost Words
I found a yak.
It made a racket
Looking for other herds.

Did you ever spy a yak
With a magpie on its back?

If you have read this far, I have an acrostic especially for you.

You
Are
Kind!