Taking a Gander
I was determined to leave behind the pretensions of the English Lit. student in me, the one who might casually let Paradise Lost or The Prelude or even the later works of St Augustine drop from his bag as he surfed into a café after lectures. This would not do for my new life of practicality and outdoor earthiness. Skipping over anything with footnotes, I found company among the fading spines and yellowing pages of books so untouched as to have thick ditches of dust along their tops. In the old farmhouse there was plenty of James Herriot, a bit of Edward Thomas, a natural history of hedgerows and various guides to the birds of England, Scotland and, rather ambitiously, Africa. Then I found Dillon Ripley’s A Paddling of Ducks. The title set me thinking of a pushy mother duck leading a splash of little squeaks across a pond, which was rather comforting, so I settled down to read it.