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.


Monday, 4 February 2019

Plans for 2019

Soo... 2019. How did that happen?!

As I've already mentioned (here), 2018 was a good year. About a year ago I wrote about my plans for the year ahead (click here). I didn't really stick too closely to those, but it gave me some targets and set me up at the beginning of the year to try and use the time wisely. So this is take 2 - another years worth of plans to be changed as needed, but to set the tone for the year.

Before I get into the exciting plans, something I would like to plan on is putting more conservation themed content into my pictures and blog posts - it's there in my day to day life, but perhaps because it is such a big part of my routine I often end up writing about other things. To me 'adventure' is really just a way to increase my enthusiasm and experience of the natural world around me, and a desire to conserve it is the natural result. I can't visit a mountain or a river or a wetland and appreciate it's natural beauty, or harshness, or diversity without in turn thinking "other people need to see / learn about / experience this for themselves" and "I need to make sure this is looked after". So I need to reflect that more in what I am sharing. A bit more of that sort of thing later on.

Adventure plans then. Pretty tame compared to many peoples; no international travel, no really high cost, long duration trips, just old school, relatively low cost, low complexity fun.
- March (probably) will contain a 'boys adventure' with my brothers, all 6 of them (including my brother-in-law) to mid Wales. To replace in part our delayed Three Peaks attempt last year. Mid Wales is an area I visited often last year, and an area I will keeping going back to - I love it over there.
- April: Extended family reunion in southern Scotland. We try to hold these every other year, and I've been looking forward to this since the last one finished!
- May: Re-scheduled family trip to the Isle of Skye. When we looked into it for last summer we were put off by all the accounts of how touristy it gets in the peak season. I am very excited about this, it will be my first trip to the Isle of Skye and will tick off a bucket list destination for me.
- June: Hopefully the full Hadrian's Wall path. 85 ish miles across the UK from coast to coast. This is another 'wanted-to-do-it-for-years' item. I haven't really looked into the plans for this yet, so I will need to figure out the specifics but I am looking forward to making it work somehow.
- Maybe another Snowdonia trip at some point later in the year, but that is TBC.

Is that it? I think it is at present. There are gaps through the year which can be filled with other bits and pieces. 'Micro-adventures' will be sprinkled throughout. Beach trips with the children, early morning wanderings round Cannock Chase before work, family walks, cycling to work instead of driving, sledging (if we get any decent snow), maybe even canoeing to work once or twice, plenty of options. In many ways these smaller, day to day 'adventures' will be more important. I fully subscribe to the thinking of Alastair Humphreys (look him up if you've never heard of him) that living adventurously is more about little things on a regular basis, than one off big trips or exotic travel. But also because these will be where my children learn about living adventurously, and appreciating the beautiful world around them. Those trips are where that desire to protect what they have come to appreciate, which stems from a love of what they have seen, will develop.

There is learning to be done too.
- I'm hoping to do some more water based stuff this year, possibly a canoeing / kayaking course of some sort to increase my current (very low) skill level to match my (pretty high) enthusiasm level.
- I have shelves of books to read which I would like to make more time for this year, leaving Youtube and social media behind for a bit and focusing on more tangible 'content' (does anyone else not like that word very much?). I'll try and increase the number of 'The Best Book' reviews I post on here.
- I'd like to do more with my website, share more through it, expand it a bit, make more use of it generally.

There is also the back ground stuff. For example, the home office (not THAT Home Office you understand) and / or Man Cave which I have been talking about since we moved into our current home nearly 7 years ago. This year needs to be the year that I make some progress on that. Rhino, my adventure wagon and workhorse needs a little bit of TLC - on an adventure trip last year I managed to kill the alternator with ( I assume) some water which was a little on the deep side for him. He is fixed, but I need to make sure that doesn't happen again - I will write about the story of that at some point.
In fact, he really needs to feature on this blog more often than he currently does.

Finally, I would really like to be a bit more proactive on getting these messages out to people. I don't really know how that is going to take shape yet, but I need to pull my finger out and figure it out this year. Maybe offering to talk in schools or help out on Duke of Edinburgh Awards or something like that. Who knows.

In any event, I intend it to be a full year, and going by the fact that a whole month of it has already passed me by that side of things is well on track