10TH May 2020
I hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.
The extra time freed up by the lockdown has afforded me some uncharacteristically productive stints of writing on my ‘Darwin book’. In recent weeks, I’ve been exploring, among other topics, beards, the dawn chorus, and birds’ nests. As I’ve said before, everything has a Darwin connection.
Some stuff I thought worth sharing:
- Nature writer and novelist Melissa Harrison has launched a new podcast, The Stubborn Light of Things, documenting the wonder and richness of the natural world. It brims with delight.
- Confined to his ‘sometime new home at the bottom of Africa’, Tim Dee will this year miss springtime in his ‘sometime old home in England’. This has led him to meditate on Gilbert White’s Swallows. (See also Comfort Reading below.)
- Horatio Clare passes on some valuable lessons he learnt writing a memoir about his parents’ divorce.
- Sarah Beavins describes a recent visit to the wonderful Ronald Blythe at his home, Bottengoms Farm. (See also Comfort Reading below.)
- Unsatisfied with George Orwell’s description of patriotism, John Mitchinson digs deep into his own personal history to untangle the complex roots of his Englishness.
- I loved the Asterix books as a kid, and appreciate them even more as an adult. When their illustrator, Albert Uderzo, died in March, the London Review of Books resurrected historian Mary Beard’s earlier piece Bonté Gracieuse! Astérix Redux.
- Benjamin Myers has released a PDF ebook of his short story A Stone Statue in the Future in support of independent publishers Little Toller and Bluemoose Books. An excellent coffee-break read for the price of a cup of coffee.
- As a keen photographer, I first became aware of the legendary travel writer Eric Newby through his wonderful photo-book What the Traveller Saw. The Royal Geographical Society recently launched a new virtual exhibition based on the book.
- After a hiatus of several years, American photographer Zack Arias recently relaunched his entertaining YouTube channel. Although I’m not feeling in the least burnt out, I particularly enjoyed his video Burn Out 02 : How To Restart Yourself : Inspiration Is For Amateurs, which provides some sound advice that doesn’t just apply to photographers or the burnt out.
- Caroline Crampton on the iconic WW2 Maunsell forts in the Thames Estuary.
- Katherine Rundell on the fascinating Greenland shark.
- The mystery of why fans sing Swing Low, Sweet Chariot at England rugby union matches has finally been solved.
In this time of crisis, I’ve been chilling out with plenty of comfort reading. For some reason, I’ve been finding writers in the 80s and 90s especially comforting:
If all the above isn’t enough to keep you going, please don’t forget to check out my regular Sidelines: lines I write on the side, so to speak, when I really ought to be writing other stuff. 27th April was a particularly delightful day I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.
Keep safe. Keep well. And I’ll see you next time.