…. just Hallowe’en spooky?
So there was I, resisting the temptatation to close the eyes, a quiet half hour, Urchins a-bed. Then I hear that the new AutumnWatch is coming from The Highlands. Hmm, thought I, must try and stay awake; all those autumn colours and rutting stags, eagles and sea eagles no doubt. So it was with a special effort that I heard those three magic words in the opening announcements – Aigas Field Centre.
Surely it wasn’t but 12 hours since I typed the words John Lister-Kaye? But it was and I woke up, determined to stay the course. For Aigas is JLK’s baby, and it was the subject of his latest book, published 2010, At The Water’s Edge.
He wrote then of a year’s cycle in his one mile daily walk round the loch at the edge of which the three intrepid presenters stood shivering. It was a year that took 30 years to build; and on every walk in his non-rustling jacket he carried a notebook, and two pens. The result is a delight, after 40 years of honing his writing into one of the finest commentators on nature around.
Don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at the first testament on the back cover – Full of otter-story and heron-meanings, this is a book where sunrise, pine marten, trout and storm are all characters; a book of land-knowing by someone who has spent a gentle lifetime learning the languages of animals – and the author of those words is none other than….. Jay Griffiths, cue spooky music.
I remember reading Lister-Kaye’s first book, The White Island. He hadn’t written before Gavin Maxwell rang his phone at 2.30am and gave him the offer he couldn’t refuse, the one where he deserted Swansea and headed for the highlands, where he has been ever since. Sadly Maxwell died too young and too soon, but they had some valauable time together and a tale to tell. Water’s Edge is the eighth, and one of his best.
That lighthouse on that cover is Stevenson built, the cottages to the right are available today, as Eilean Ban has been saved for a bit longer. One is as it was when Maxwell stayed there, after the fire at Camusfearna, and a visit is spine-tingling if you have read all that happened in those days. The other is available for holiday lets, a writer’s retreat perhaps.
The picture today is a bit different though, the Skye bridge swooping down from the left, almost above the lighthouse, forming a landing strip on the island and from thence a link to the mainland.
But you can, if you wish, still go Over the Sea to Skye, on the ferry at Glenelg, now twinned with Mars, and just a mile or three from Sandaig, or Camusfearna as it was known then.
The second testimonial on the back of the latest book was penned by Kate Humble, and as I watched the first in this new series I longed for her cheery manner under that tumble of curls, that ever-present sparkle. Perhaps its a man thing, though I longed for Bill Oddie too.
Then I stayed with BBC2 for the Iceberg drama. Wasn’t that just fantastic viewing, gripping stuff? But I thought they missed a bit of a trick. I’d have liked some input from the Inuit who have lived with the glacier for thousands of years. Still it won’t stop me tuning in next week, to both programmes, anxious for more. And if you’ve a mind to do some reading beforehand, you could do worse than pick up anything from the pen of John Lister-Kaye.