Thursday, 14 February 2019

The Best Books: John Lister-Kaye - Song of the Rolling Earth

Image result for song of the rolling earth cover imageOK, so I will start this review by being honest - I finished this book over 6 months ago and forgot to write about it at the time. Now, I can't remember quite as much about it, which puts a bit of a damper on writing a review about it. But, one thing I remember very clearly is that you should read it. Anyone who has any interest at all in natural history, British wildlife, Scotland - including its cultural history, conservation, success stories, family life, adventure, wilderness or the peace and tranquillity of wild places will enjoy this book. Especially Scotland.

I remember that it doesn't read as if he set out to write a book, rather that he spent a long time living life to the full and in looking back realised that other people may find it interesting. And I for one certainly did. I liked it enough that I immediately bought another of his books and will continue to add his works to my collection as pocket money, shelf space and the seemingly never-dwindling back log of books to read permits.

I had long been aware of the Aigas Field Centre, though pretty sure I've been mispronouncing it the entire time, so thought when I first heard of this book that it would be an interesting read. But it is so much more than simply the story of how the Field Centre came to be - it is the story of someone who had a dream and, having worked their socks off for it, achieved it and a whole lot more besides. And for that I commend Sir John.

One story which I remember more clearly than many of the others which have faded (this is certainly a book I would read again to sharpen those memories) is the account of a boat trip down a river with his young daughter where they came face to face with an otter while resting on the bank - what a experience. I took it as a reminder to me that the ideas and plans I have for my daughter (and son when he is a bit older) to join in my 'adventuring' and ongoing learning about the natural world and its pleasures and intricacies don't have to be pie-in-the-sky. They really can happen and they really can make a difference - I just have to make the effort to get them off the ground.

Reading Song of the Rolling Earth while waiting in
my tent for dinner to cook on Vatersay in the Outer
Hebrides, Scotland. 
While I have taken many things away from this book - an even greater love of Scotland, an admiration of Sir John and the power of working towards your dreams despite opposition and discouragement, an increased sense of humility that I have been born in an age and in a place where I really have had it easy to name just a few examples - perhaps the greatest lesson I will cling to is that dreams come true in Scotland... and perhaps other places too.

I'm glad I got to read at least a portion of this book while in Scotland myself. Walking and wild camping around an Island in the Outer Hebrides which still hosts the crofts and small rural communities which are described to some extent in the book. That trip was in itself a dream come true for me. A dream probably 15 years in the making and it lived up to the expectation and anticipation that had been accumulating over that time.

In conclusion I would propose that the "Song of the Rolling Earth" Sir John describes throughout this book is the soundtrack of dreamers. OK, that was a bit flowery, just read the book already.


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