Published by Ebury Press

It isn’t often I get the chance to read an ‘adult’ book – and it is very rare for me to read a biography. I am half way through this volume (I’m reading a proof I found behind the till a little while ago), and am beginning to think that I really should watch the books that are published for that genre, so I don’t miss out, as I nearly did with

This volume is full of small vignettes of Chris Packham’s childhood. He refers to it as being ‘A Memoir’, and so it is. The small stories of his youth are not in chronological order, but this is of no matter. They are wonderful pieces of observation and glorious writing. These are interspersed with small much more recent introspective pieces… which I suspect will give the book a depth that isn’t yet apparent; I haven’t finished the book – only 153 pages into it. Not long after I began the book I started ripping up bits of toilet paper (the only spare paper I had to hand), to mark passages that particularly caught my attention…

The Farmer June 1975

Occasionally after this reiterated exchange the boy would suddenly start to tell him about some bird or other. He’d talk absurdly fast, obliviously tripping through his words, always looking down at the step, he’d tell the mat about something that totally switched him on, he’d lurch from timid and backward to a barely contained mania, rambling too quickly, excitedly crashing through a dialogue that gave no room for conversation and then, inevitably, punctuate this cascade of unsolicited enthusiasm with a question. He’d finally glance at him to ask if he’d seen a ‘whatever-it-was’. Which he hadn’t because he knew nothing about birds…

The Bird Saturday 14th June 1975

Twelve hours later my bedroom was a different place. It had a Kestrel in it. Perched on my jiggery cjextaewgae5p43paw. It was gawky, half-dressed, its jumper ruffed up over its baggy trousers and sockless feet, an in-betweener with a tetchy temper, tufted with sneezy down. I could smell it. Sweet, musty, dry and when it shook, a cloud of glittering dust puffed into the shaft of evening sun that cut through a crack in the pegged-together curtains. I could smell its droppings too, or mutes as falconers call them; wet and papery, they had slapped Marc hard across his starred cheek, blotted his sparkling corkscrew hair and blistered his guitar….

The Dream August 1975

His chest lightened as he banked up hard, the air riffling his feathers, tickling his legs, he squeezed his toes together and heard his wing tips whizzing as he belted into a big curve out of the shade into the dazzling sun, slipping across the sky so fast it made his nose run. And then into an instant white-out, a shocking cold on his eyes, tearing tiny tears from the mist, racing in little rivulets over his back and down his tail and through the fluxing honey glow of the facing sun all strewn over with a tracery of fine thread, then the world flashing far beneath him as he hurled out into a vast canyon of puffy grey vapour.

This volume has taken me back to the sounds and smells of my youth. The sounds of a milk float, bottles gently clinking…television shows I had forgotten and more recently describes the all encompassing over load of my senses as I have handled birds of prey over the years, the sights, touch, sounds, smells and almost taste of birds. Its an extraordinary piece of writing.

Why Ebury  Press didn’t use a close up of a kestrel for the cover of this book, (or the photograph above) I really don’t know – the hardback is available now with the cover I have shown at the beginning of this post. This really is an extraordinary. It is so much more than ‘A Memoir’.