As I reached my late teens and early twenties my reading declined though upon occasion a particular author would catch my eye and was able to hold my attention, well for a short time. Fantasy fiction became a regular, though not that often, read with authors such as David Gemmell and Raymond E. Feist able to distract me from the pursuits of drinking and the chasing of the fairer sex for a little time. Another author who had a similar effect was Alexander Kent (Douglas Reeman) and his stories of Richard Bolithero and his adventures within the Royal navy at the time of Nelson, Wellington and Napoleon. I always think when reading books written about days of yore that I was truly born out of my time and that is why I perhaps shun modern society somewhat with its little use for good manners, discipline and respect.
As my eventually doomed marriage conspired to take me away from a rather enjoyable, if seen through bleary eyes and tainted with the occasional thick head, lifestyle to the world of responsibility and debt, books became an unwelcome expense and frivolous waste of time (well in one partner's eyes that was the truth). The only books to make it through customs at the front door were copious books upon D.I.Y. because here there was always a huge list of home improvement awaiting me as I came, bone weary home from the various fun factories within that I have toiled. I did manage to smuggle the odd gardening book into Stalag Wooldridge but seldom had to time (nor the nerve) to read them openly, preferring to snatch a few pages in the scant sanctuary of my shed on the premise of planning the next herculean home improvement trial.
Skip forward to the present day and now my wonderful partner George has no qualms about me reading at all. The trouble is I have absolutely no time to read for the pleasure and escapism a book can bring. Also I have not the mental strength because of the tiredness that my body and mind struggle to escape, which is caused by the combination of my business stresses and the Black dog feeding vampire like on my resolve to provide a loving life for George and myself. Of late the only scribings read are when my tired eyes scan the computer screen for reference or the sourcing of materials for the business. Well that was the case up until recently, then this at times dim caveman discovered a little bit of technology that I can almost understand. My vehicle of transport, a lwb Renault Trafic, is actually fitted with a amazing little bit of kit that has a radio, CD player, a connection for USB devices (whatever they are), and a satnav (bugger I no longer have the excuse of 'I have absolutely no idea how to get Ikea my love') but most useful of all is that it connects to my mobile phone via bluetooth thus allowing hands free communication to clients, friends and family alike but even better than this, it allows me to play media from my phone through the van's speaker system...oh god bless the audio book. My in car entertainment has indeed come along way from my days of falling off the road in my Vauxhall Viva to the sounds of AC/DC blasting out off the cassette deck that was jury rigged to my car battery.
Already I have discovered, to my delight, the rather dark and reflective humour of Sir Terry Pratchett, especially the adventures of the Night Watch in the Discworld series of books. Journeys back and too from clients or suppliers have now become a joy and not that tedious drudge listening to the woes of this world on the radio, traffic ques no longer are despised but welcomed with a sense of joy knowing they give me more time to absorb the words pouring out from the speakers of my van. One book in particular has caught my attention of late and is now on its second 'reading', a thing I never usually do as once read a book is to be put away, if good it goes to a bookcase to be treasure discovered again in the future if not, off to the charity shop as its penance for not whisking my mind away from life's problems, real or imagined.
Oh the book? Well if you have a taste for the old ways of land management, conservation, or of giving a little hope to the thought that this planet's flora and fauna may somehow be saved then this book may well be of interest to you....
Written by John Lewis-Stempel, the Running Hare (the secret life of farmland) is a both joyous yet at the same time a saddening read. The book is based upon the author's idea, experiment if you like, to tend an arable field using old and time honoured techniques, with the exclusion of herbicides and pesticides. The object, or I should perhaps say dream, is being able to see if wildlife could be tempted back to live alongside the farmer and indeed thrive upon the tilled land. The way the field is cultivated is a vast departure from today's economically driven 'farming factories' that dominate and scar the landscape of our once fair land. The Running Hare is written with knowledge, a lovely use of the english language and an underlying passion that the author can barely suppress. There are references to old customs and songs, the history of the land and the people that tended it. The words describe wildlife still here (though only just), wildlife that is lost forever and its relationship in days long gone with the farmed land. There are to few words to be said about today's relationships as the clinical clean, chemical laden farmland of today can support hardly any wildlife at all. The joy of reading (listening) to this book is the nature described in it may indeed still be saved but the sadness is of the knowledge now gleaned of all that we have lost. If you only have time to read one book this year and you have a love of the land then read this one, I believe you will not be disappointed and perhaps even moved to do a little more to give nature a helping hand in its struggle to survive mankind.
Until the next time, fare thee well...
John the Gardener.