Caught by the River

New Additions to the Nature Book Reader

5th July 2010


Some British Moths by Norman Riley. Chosen by Edwyn Collins.

My interest in all forms of nature, wildlife, geology and rock pools, led me to reference books and books of illustrations rather than to nature writing as such. I didn’t need or want other people’s interpretation of experience; it was my internal world and I wanted knowledge. When I made West Heath House, (an indulgent comedy drama for Channel 4) with Seb, my friend and recording partner, we improvised a scene at a natural harbour in Caithness, where he had gone a bit hippy and was raving about Jonathan Livingston Seagull, whilst I delivered a longwinded lecture about fulmars (which were all around us on the cliffs.) I droned on about the importance of the perfection of the fulmar alula, the edge feathers, which makes them such expert flyers. “Basically, they’re designed for flight!” All stuff I read when I was a boy.
When I moved my belongings into Grace’s flat in 1984, she laughed her head off at two of my ancient books. ‘Knots and Knotting,’ and ‘Some British Moths.’
“Only some? Not the lot then?” she asked,
“Obviously. There are thousands of them, everybody knows that,” I replied.

I still draw from my copy of the AA Book of British Birds. I’ve had that since I was a teenager. I have a beautiful book about Edward Lear’s travels which is illustrated by his paintings and drawings. And recently I was given a present of Sir Peter Scott’s ‘Morning Flight,’ a gorgeous book of his illustrations of wildfowl in the wetlands at Slimbridge, with a narrative. Peter Scott was another of my boyhood heroes. I like people like him, lost in their own world.

an edited version of this can be found in the Caught by the River Nature Book Reader.