To those, like me, who have devoted their lives to the science of the fisheries, their condition at the start of the 21st century is depressing indeed. Outside my sitting room window, a carpet of lobster creels is set to over-exploit a temporary increase in the numbers of young lobsters, an increase made possible by the over-exploitation of the fish populations that used to prey upon them. Further offshore, the withered remnant of the once mighty Fife fishing fleet scratches the seabed for prawns (Norway lobsters) and everywhere the grey seal population has so prospered on the bodies of dead and dying fish discarded from fishing vessels that it now poses a serious threat to the populations of live fish that remain. Read Charles Clover’s, The End of the Line, as I have this summer, and learn how the symptoms of fishery mismanagement I see every day outside my window now extend to all the oceans of the world.
I started the summer with every intention of following Gandhi-ji’s advice and conducting a friendly study of world religion, but after 5 weekly renewals at the library, I was only on page 33 of the ‘Explorer’s Guide To Judaism’. The hint was taken. I stumbled upon ‘Irish Trees – Myths, Legends and Folklore’ by Niall Mac Coitir (The Collins Press) while rummaging in the nature section of my mum’s bookshelf, and now I can name the seven noble trees of the Irish wood, identify a fairy hawthorn, lop a sprig to ensure good butter and select the best tree from which to fashion a shield. Nature walks have taken on an ancient, superstitious quality.
A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water by Patrick Leigh Fermor. Buoyed by success in a recent challenge (see www.onemoregear.blogspot.com), I’m seeking another. In 1933, aged 18, Patrick Leigh Fermor set out on foot from the Hook of Holland to Constantinople. These two books describe in vivid detail his journey as far as Romania and are full of genuinely enthralling writing on wildlife, landscape, culture and history. When I first read them, I instantly wanted to follow in those footsteps and still cling to feint hopes of doing so by bike. There is a third volume that’s yet to be published. It might never appear. This could be my part three.