Book Review: Brother Nature, by Jim Crumley

My bookshelves groan with classic Scottish nature writing from Seton Gordon, Fraser Darling and Mike Tomkies, all of which I heartily recommend. To these I can now add Jim Crumley, a contemporary writer taking up an increasing amount of space on my poor shelves! This latest book is published by the small Scottish independent publishers, Whittles Publishing who coincidentally have also recently reprinted books by Gordon and Tomkies. The book starts with a very atmospheric experience in Alaska but this is not a book about faraway places. It is about the author’s local patch, some 20 miles by 12 on Scotland’s Highland Edge and some of the observations he makes can only be possible by having such an intimate relationship with the local fauna and flora. Crumley is also a man with strong opinions and these surface early as when in talking about reintroductions his acerbic wit refers to the bureaucratic talking shop that passes for Scotland’s conservation decision makers that have been discussing the reintroduction of beavers for about a dozen years. More ire was reserved for the project to reintroduce the Red Kite near to his home patch when he was told that every single bird had been tagged with a piece of coloured plastic which leads him to declare that people aren’t spotting birds – they are just looking for a piece of plastic! Continue reading.....He also has a dig at people wearing various garishly coloured clothing but all this shows is that he fails to understand that the aim is to interest people who would normally never stop to look at wild birds. To be fair he does then reflect on his experience, helped by a dram. His passion is nature and he strives to keep nature’s company on nature’s terms and the Red Kite day was as far away from that as is possible. However he is also very thoughtful and I enjoyed his description of Ospreys returning and setting about the rebuilding of the old nest and one of his often used descriptive phrases portrays various animals coming out of habitat in the way of an otter emerging from a Hebridean sea – I am sure that we all know just what he means. His ending chapter is a leap into the future as he lets his imagination run riot by giving us a look into what he hopes will be the situation in 2015 – pie in the sky? You decide. Jim Crumley, as you may guess, is a stickler for correctness and treats us to a full explanation (and dig at sassunachs too) of the difference between harebells, wild hyacinths, bluebells and Scottish bluebells which will leave no-one in any doubt! He is a man of impeccable taste too as his old, well-travelled hip flask always contains something peaty and Hebridean with which to celebrate the wonderful events he has the good fortune to witness. Published by Whittles Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-1-904445-34-0 153pp. John Wright

This story was published with kind permission from the Ileach local newspaper.

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