Scottish life and landscape in photos, from Edinburgh to Shetland and points between
Sunday, 15 September 2013
(End of) summer reading
Summer reading has slipped into end of summer reading. Three library books and two bought ones this time.
Being British, one is meant to look forward to Wimbledon as the essence of summer sport. That, or cricket. I used to be an avid tennis watcher, but in recent years I've found it edging towards tedious. It's been replaced in my affections by the Tour de France. Already I'm counting the weeks until next July. Three weeks of drama, extreme sporting endeavour, baroque tactics, and glorious French countryside. To compensate for the end of the Tour this year, I tracked down a couple of books in the library. First up, the autobiography of the British/Isle of Man sprinter, Mark Cavendish. A fascinating account of the life of a professional cyclist. I can't begin to imagine going from race to race, living on the road, staking everything of split-second decisions in a crush of other cyclists. I daresay he couldn't imagine the tedium of my day-job in front of a computer.
One of the things I particularly like about the Tour is the ironic commentary by Gary Imlach, Chris Boardman, and Ned Boulting. Ned's book about what goes on behind the scenes of the Tour was in the same vein.
Getting serious now, my attempt to learn some Albanian. I'm going back to Kosovo in the autumn, and want to be able to say more than 'thank you'. However, you will notice the pristine condition of the book. I have signed up for an evening class in another language, so I may have bitten off more than I can chew right now. When I was younger I soaked up new languages, but I can actually feel the language-learning part of my brain grinding and protesting.
My current read, a book about the wonder of the night sky and natural darkness. It's a subject about which I'm passionate. I need properly dark nights. When we drive north in the winter up through the central highlands, I feelsomething in me relax at being surrounded by the night. And on the return journey, it affects me physically every time as we come within sight of the orange skyglow of the central belt of Scotland. Read this book, visit the Campaign for Dark Skies website, or just go outside and notice how little of the night sky you can see.
I didn't mean this juxtaposition, but it so happens that a satellite image of North Korea at night will show only a faint point of light where the capital is, and the rest of the country is in darkness.
And finally, my failure of the summer. I could not make headway with this book. It was acutely perceptive, and was indeed 'a majestic work of scholarship', but it was just too heavy on the literary criticism for my summer mood. I have to admit that I read the first chapter and the last, and was very sorry to have stalled on any book by Francis Spufford, but I did not have the stamina for it.
What should I do now? Get another pile of books, or hunker down with Albanian?