One of my favourite ways to spend a day off when we’re in Cumbria is wandering along Cockermouth Main St (in fact I often give myself a couple of hours off at lunch time, just to wander, enjoy a decent coffee and peruse the books in the New Bookshop). This is how I found myself sitting in the bookshop cafe on New Years Eve reading page after page of Karen Lloyd’s new book The Blackbird Diaries. I had read Karen’s first book, The Gathering Tide, but I was little out of touch last year, finishing my own book and I had missed the publication of this beautifully written nature diary, chronicling a year in the Cumbrian countryside and a project she became involved in to raise awareness of the plight of British curlews.
I only planned to read the first few pages while I drank my coffee, but an hour later I found myself ordering a second flat white and reading through January, February and half way through March before I finally put the book in my bag and headed home (Full disclosure — I excused myself from the traditional family New Year jigsaw that night and retired to bed, reading page after page). It’s not unusual for me to read a book at one sitting, and if Mr T hadn’t come to bed shortly after midnight and insisted on “Lights out”, I may well have sat until the early hours with this book!
New Years day was filled with family visits, celebrations and a brisk walk and so it wasn’t until a few days later, and back in Cheshire that I was able to sit down and finish The Blackbird Diaries. I’ve since picked it up occasionally, just to read random entries. Comparing my typical day to Karen’s and sharing her delight in the simplicity and beguiling activities of garden birds and wildlife. This entry for 6th March is typical of a scene played out in my on garden:
A feeding frenzy, late afternoon on the feeder outside my study window: chaffinches, blue tits and the by now ubiquitous goldfinches. The window was open and the timbre of irritable bickering and avian arguments filtered inside. I looked up, and there, complete with her black mask and buff-coloured chest: a female bullfinch, She took the sunflower seeds and peered all bright — eyed through the window. Then the frap of small wings and her mate arrived, black headed and grey frock — coated, his chest and round and ruddy as a late September rosehip.
March 6th, The Blackbird Diaries by Karen Lloyd
It’s easy to think of this as just another nature diary, but there is so much more to this book than the simplicity of stepping outside and seeing nature. There is a love of the fells, an understanding of the landscape and a real appreciation of the challenges faced by some of our native species. The book closes with the aftermath of the floods of 2015 and the devastation caused by extreme weather events across Cumbria. Reading the descriptions of closed roads, watery drives and sudden flashes of delight (the brief observation of red kites) I was transported back to those weeks of rain and loss; of damage reports from friends cut off by blocked roads and sudden glimpses of winter visitors blown off course.
This is a book I would probably never have found online. But, because the New Bookshop offers a variety of titles, a healthy mix of the eclectic and the mainstream I can always find something that would otherwise have escaped me. “Real”, independent bookshops, like yarn stores are becoming rarer every year and I treasure the ones that are local to me. I rarely come out empty handed and often not with the book I intended to buy. The fact that the New Bookshop is a ten minute walk from home, serves great coffee (and cake) is a bonus and Mr T and I take full advantage of it, no visit home is complete until we’ve visited, stocked up on books and treated ourselves to a cuppa.
So, although this meant to be a review of a book I really enjoyed and thoroughly recommend; it’s also a small way of saying thank you to the staff at the New Bookshop who sustain my need for great reads and always greet us with a smile …
…You don’t get that on Amazon!
Posted by Tracey on February 1, 2019
Originally published at bakingandmaking.com on February 1, 2019.