Boats and Beasts.

We’ve had such a resplendent summer, it felt like it would go on and on. However, the holidays are over, the schools are back and the weather has started to show a distinctly Autumnal edge. It might be time to put away the linen and summer tees, and dig out the woolly jumpers and corduroy, but I’m still feeling chilled out from my recent holiday on a narrow boat, which was spent drifting along the canals of Stoke on Trent and the Potteries.


Even though my family were holed up in a confined space for a week, and took turns in steering and operating the locks, we all got on and no-one ended up overboard, so I count that as a roaring success. Before going, I anticipated that I’d have a lot of time to while away with a book, and I wasn’t wrong, although I didn’t quite hit the mark with my book choices. I’d ordered copies of Tarka the Otter by Henry Williamson, which didn’t arrive in time, and – sticking with otters – Gavin Maxwell’s A Ring of Bright Water, which did. The book was very engaging, but so strongly coastal in theme, that it jarred with my experience of being on an inland waterway, so a chapter in, I decided to stop and save it for another time.

My next book was far more fitting. Jerome K. Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat hit the perfect note with its bumbling pace and delicious wit. It made me laugh that my family paid the same serious attention to edible supplies and refreshments during the course of our trip as Jerome and his pals did, although thankfully, we experienced less of the mishaps. My edition also contained the sequel Three Men on the Bummel, but as that’s about a cycling holiday, I decided to save that for another time, too.

three men

I’ve had my eye on my next choice since Lucy reviewed it last year, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Charles Foster’s Being a Beast completely blew me away. His brilliant and bonkers approach to wildlife is so dazzlingly brought to life within the pages of the book that I couldn’t resist quoting great chunks to my family to their increasing annoyance. I love that he sends his children out with strict instructions to spraint like otters do; skulks around rubbish bins in the East End of London to get down with the Urban foxes; and plays Bach’s B Minor Mass to badgers, on admittedly sub-standard speakers, because why wouldn’t their lives be enriched by hearing it? Foster’s warmth and enthusiastic eccentricity just burst from the book. I’ll be buying copies for everyone.


Yet again, I failed on my #20 Books of Summer reading challenge – I couldn’t even tell you how many I managed, but I’ve enjoyed my summer of reading, and that’s the main thing, after all.