… of a Highland Year.
That’s just the subtitle. I waited patiently for this volume ever since John Lister-Kaye told the gathering at East Neuk in 2013 that his latest work, as then un-named, would be published in the spring. It arrived a couple of months ago, and was well worth the wait.
JLK has been on the bookshelf at Grasshopper Towers for some years; indeed at was The Genealogist who first found his writing, with Song of the Rolling Earth, a decade or so ago. But my trawls through the life and works of Gavin Maxwell took me to Lister-Kaye from another direction, to his first book, The White Island, of those times. Then I found At The Water’s Edge on a gap-weekend in London a few years back. And the rest, as they say…
Gods of the Morning is that latest volume, continuing where Water’s Edge took us, round the grounds of Aigas, peeking into nests, prying on nocturnal habits. His writing is beautiful, and I find myself reading a paragraph over again, just to make sure it was what I had read. I put the book down at the end of a chapter, time to reflect, to enjoy, like savouring a highland malt.
JLK puts himself in the very paws of the fox on his visit to the chicken run, re-living his route and his habits as he prowls for a weakness. Mesmerising. The swan is another story, but I’ll let you discover that yourself. And there’s his dogs, a hill, and a pair of binoculars. That’s one to behold.
There is gripping stuff on the hillside, none more so than the night of the bushfire. And with spiders and buzzards, pine martens and tree-creepers, this book is one to savour, slowly, to take in, and to wish you were there.
Lister-Kaye’s writing on the love of his life has matured and sings at you from the page. When you glance down the list of Inspirations with the credits, it is no surprise. First up, and no surprise, is Maxwell. But that list includes not just our finest naturalists, but our finest writers, many of them favourites of these pages. We have Jay Griffiths and Kathleen Jamie; Jim Crumley and Mark Baker; J A Baker too, and more.
Lister-Kaye is a master of his craft, both on the hill and with the pen. I’ll say no more and leave you to enjoy it for yourself.