……. is much easier to spell, so it seems, and to lisp, than birdthong. And it was matters grammatical that caught my eye a few days ago, at the start of the latest book to move from the bedside table back to the shelf. More of that later.
There was more birdsong earlier, as I sat by the nature reserve on the campsite. The heron took to the wing, announcing the imminent arrival of a pair of Urchins last seen on the BMX track, wondering what it was all about until three big boys came along and it got faster and scarier. Said Urchins had a good run on the bikes yesterday, in fact we went out en famille, managing a dozen miles or so, either side of a picnic lunch in the woods, and whilst slowly getting an understanding of the mapping and signing of the fietsroutes. Given that their longest previous trip was down to the palace once, and perhaps still, occupied by thee Queen of Hearts, this was no mean feat, and one enjoyed by all. Younger Urchin is back on the cycle-paths as I type, whilst I am chained to the tent where his sister elected to remain.
But we did see some other grasshoppers earlier, part of the wildlife up at the pond, hunted by frogs lying sleepily amongst the bulrushes. Dazzling blue dragonflies whizzed by, and the green frogs lay still, camouflaged with black spots. At every turn, or so it seemed, a family of ducklings is taken out for the safety of the water, practising their in-line waddling on the way. Clouds gathered overhead; a half millimetre of rain promised but still to arrive. Apparently there will be a good half inch or so in a day or two, but who cares? We may just take the chance to travel further afield.
Local guidebooks are plentiful in a superb bookshop in the nearest village; the type of bookshop that also sells fountain pens of the type I may save up for every decade or so, notebooks fit to be scriven in by same, and other such temptations. But all the books, indeed the information signs along the ways, come in any language you want, so long as that is Dutch. Still we’ve now a good map of the routes and excursions it seems will be plentiful. I’m told we’re on the hunt for stickers for the roofbox, the red & white chequerboard of the North Brabant flag, reminding me of Croatia’s Sahavonica, and also the tricolour of these parts. Oh, and a Dutch football strip too, age 7.
The climate is somewhat agreeable to this old wheezebag. I have a regime that involves peak flow readings three times a day, and I’m delighted that the worst reading here exceeds the best ever back at Grasshopper Towers. In general breathing is improved by 15%, and with cycle routes to play on perhaps I should just stay. Just one thing, my emails aren’t being sent, so maybe I’ll have to go home one day.
Now that book and grammar. Early on I happened across a phrase that lingers like a nasty smell. “Off course I should of…….” It grates somewhat, and this from a professional writer with double figures published, an agent, a publishing house and who knows how many editors and sub-eds. It shouldn’t be allowed, I should’ve put the book down there and then.
But I didn’t and it turned out to be a fine yarn, or rather a couple of yarns strung together in fine style despite that start. It is largely based on another work that rests in the stacks back home, Nathaniel Philbrick’s The Heart of the Sea, a tale of the survivors of the Essex, back in the days of the Nantucket whalers. And it started with a true tale of an eight year old lad saved from the jaws of a tiger. It melds into Darwin and Audobon. Carol Birch’s Jamrach’s Menagerie is well worth a read, as long as you overlook that grating slip. I guess it might have been an unfamiliar keypad, though I doubt it