I know that autumn can be lovely, season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and all that jazz but, as the sun sinks lower on the horizon and the dew rises in the grass my heart starts to sink. Autumn is the season of daddy-long-legs, the one creature which strikes a morbid fear into my heart. It’s all very well for people to stand in a field as crowds of these long legged, clattering winged horrors rise around them and say, “but they won’t hurt you.” I KNOW THAT, my logical, 21st century brain knows they won’t hurt me but, the problem is, some deep rooted, prehistoric, reptilian brain tells me that all of hells horrors are present in that insect. My week has been one of trauma as I have bravely walked through fields of writhering legs, dodged incoming missiles of belly flopping, high flying cyanide packages, moved silently through the hoards waiting to ambush from the grass. I try to rationalise it, ‘they are only insects,’ ‘there is no danger, they have their place in the world.’ I talk to myself as I walk through the fields. “you’re doing well, look up, don’t look down.” But it is no good, by Wednesday I was reduced to a squealing, hyperventilating mess as I became surrounded by long legged freaky dancers who penned me in, determined to get lost in my hair or stroke my face with their spinderly hands. I must retreat into the office and pray for October or frost or whatever will rid me of this menace.
Buzzard rose above a wood while I was out surveying, calling out its territory and I thought, ‘Why would you not want to see more of that bird in this country? Why would you not want to hear that marvellous cry which touched a nerve inside me? A call which reaches into the wild inside us all, making me want to down tools, shed layers, say ‘bugger it.’ Who are these people, backed up by our present government, who would see that bird eradicated because they take a few blasted pheasants. What’s wrong with these people that they can’t welcome a little wild back into our overly tamed countryside?
How can you not want to visit?
The Peregrine is an anomaly and in today’s profit driven world you can’t imagine a publisher taking a risk on a book in which one anti-social man obsessively follows and documents the everyday life of a bird through a bleak winter. It’s not exactly ‘high concept.’ Thank God though that someone did take the risk as The Peregrine is undoubtedly a masterpiece of nature writing full of vivid descriptions and rich detail which will stay with you long after you have finished.
From the opening pages, The Peregrine describes a landscape known only too well to anyone who dwells by a river estuary. Even though the book is set in Essex(England) the world of mud and water and reflected light will be familiar to many, while the author’s devotional hours of bird watching open the door to reveal the fight for survival that is going on among the birds that inhabit our landscapes.
Unlike many modern nature writers whose books sometimes seem to be more about the writer than the wildlife, the author is conspicuous by his absence. There is no mention of Baker’s outside the birds and this invisibility draws you in. Who exactly was this man who stood for hours everyday in all weathers watching peregrines? Didn’t he have a job? A family? A life? One of the few known facts about Baker is that he was diagnosed with a serious illness just before taking up his mission to pursue peregrines.
The Peregrine is a book which will give readers a new appreciation of the beauty of the estuary landscape and the creatures that live there.
Dear Blog Followers,
I am thinking of changing the name of my blog. Here are the options so far;
Sun dogs (an example of which is included above)
The Wild Life
I would be interested to know what you think and if you have any other suggestions (nice clean ones only please)
Carol (still a nature girl)
the image by the way is from a website called George’s Astronomical Observations, now that title I like.
The clearing is a new online magazine published by Little Toller Books that offers both writers and artists the chance to celebrate the landscape they live in. They welcome up to6 pages of poetry and up to 3500 words of prose which can be either non fiction or fiction. They are also looking for artists and collaborations between writers and artists. New pieces are published every Friday afternoon. Follow them on twitter (@TheClearingMag) or follow the link to find out more at http://theclearingonline.org/about/