Tag Archives: The Guardian

The big move: now based in Orkney

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I recently moved to Orkney with my partner Richard, where he has been posted as a probationary teacher. At times like this I am reminded what a wonderful privilege it is to be self-employed – and able to up sticks easily, and work from such a beautiful and remote location. (Although it doesn’t feel at all remote, once one is actually here.)

I wrote about moving house – and how the task of packing up my belongings made me think rather wistfully of our six weeks living the ultralight lifestyle on the Colorado Trail – for Prospect, in my latest ‘Wild Frontier’ column. (Text can be found online here, or after the fold.)

I also had a nice surprise when my first Country Diary entry for The Guardian from Orkney was an unexpected hit, racking up more than 30,000 readers in its first few hours online (quite unusual for this section, which features gentle snippets of nature writing). It dealt with the arrival of stoats on the archipelago, and why conservationists believe that might be disastrous for the ground-nesting birds that live here. (Full text can be found here, or after the fold.)

Eradication and ‘population management’ of wildlife prompts important ethical questions in environmental circles – ones I have touched on in more length in the context of red deer culls (for Granta and The Guardian’s long-read section) and in a discussion of our instinctive dislike of ‘invasive’ non-native species (for the New Humanist). So, why not read more?

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Guardian Country Diary: Cairn Gorm in winter

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I recently made another contribution to The Guardian’s Country Diary. I love writing for this small regular feature, which publishes snippets of seasonal nature writing from around the UK daily.

It can be found on the Guardian website here, or (in a slightly longer form) after the break: Continue reading

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Tracking badgers with Nan Shepherd

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I wrote a short postcard from the foot of the snowy Cairngorms for The Guardian’s Country Diary, while doing a week-long residency on the Inshriach House estate with The Bothy Project. It can be found on the Guardian site here, or after the fold.

(Edit: If you’re interested in staying in this beautiful contemporary bothy at Inshriach, but aren’t in a position to apply for an artist’s residency, Inshriach House takes private holiday bookings during the summer months – find it here.)

(Edit II: The Artist Bothy is now available to buy as a pre-fab cabin, from Bothy Stores. I love it, would very happily live in it, and just need to get a patch of land to put one on….)

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Granta and Guardian Long Reads

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I’m very excited to have had an essay appear in the print edition of Granta (issue #142: Animalia). It is about the impact of red deer in the Highlands of Scotland, and the annual cull which takes place in estates across the country. It’s a complex issue, and one that causes a lot of discussion and disagreement in the Highlands. Thanks especially to my friends Julien Legrand and Iona Scobie of the East Rhiddoroch Estate, who helped me understand the issues at stake. Julien took me shooting during the hind season, where I learned the realities of stalking and gralloching.

I think of every time I’ve ever used the word ‘visceral’ and resolve never again to take it in vain. What did I know of viscera until I felt the chainlink of intestine running through my fingers? How dare I allude to this most intimate of acts: the touch of another creature’s innards, of following the transfiguration of grass to fumet as one traces digestive tract from throat to tail.

It was a primal experience, and immersing myself in the subject has totally changed the way that I look at the landscape around me. Read the full essay here (£), or after the fold.

The Guardian also kindly reprinted an excerpt from the essay as their ‘long read’ on Tuesday. It can be found online here. Continue reading

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Book interviews and country diary

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I’ve still got my head down working on a longer term project, but in the mean time I continue to conduct interviews and edit for the literary site Five Books, which you should visit and follow if, like me, you like to keep a to-be-read pile larger than your bedside table or to hear authors/academics/public figures talking about their areas of expertise in depth. Recently I’ve spoken to author Matthew Green about post-traumatic stress, journalist and memoirist Bryony Gordon about depression, and academic Philippa Levine about eugenics.

I also contributed another short entry to the Guardian’s Country Diary, this time about horse-riding in the Black Isle during pheasant shooting season. Text at the Guardian website here, or after the fold.  Continue reading

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The trouble with lichen

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I had another short article in the Guardian’s lovely Country Diary section a few days ago, about lichen land grabs and the slow wars waged over centuries.

Find the full text here, or after the break.

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Further coverage of Thicker Than Water

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I thought I’d pull together briefly some of the coverage of Thicker Than Water over the last few weeks:

  • Full page review, by Elizabeth Lowry, in The Guardian.

    Flyn deftly captures the looking-glass world of the antipodean landscape, so alien to European eyes… Her account is vivid with a sense of its strangeness; lyrically responsive to the odd local fauna and flora…
    The urgent question, “How can things be fixed?” infuses every page. To her credit, Flyn is aware of the ugly likelihood that they can’t.

  • Review, by Allan Massie, in The Scotsman, who took issue with the “fashionable” concept of ‘inherited guilt’, but otherwise found the book

    full of interest and intelligently and evocatively written. [Flyn] gives a vivid picture of the landscape and way of life, and explores the complexities and silences of Australian history… Her book is not only continuously interesting, and the author’s character as pleasing and sympathetic as her eye for detail and oddity is sharp, it also offers a salutory lesson.

  • Review in The Economist:

    Tracing McMillan’s footsteps, she conjures up the landscape of Gippsland, plaiting together travelogue, history, diaries and reflections… McMillan has come to symbolise some of the very worst excesses of Australia’s violent colonial past. So it is a tribute to Ms Flyn’s empathy for his “moral ambivalence” that when she comes to write of his death—possibly suicide—aged 54, the reader feels pity as well as relief.

  • A drawing together of reviews, in The Week
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  • Interview on Radio 4’s Midweek: full episode of Libby Purves’ Wednesday arts show is available to listen to here.
  • Interview on BBC Scotland’s Culture Show with Janice Forsyth: available to listen to here.

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Puffin spotting on the Isle of May

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I spent a lovely day on the Isle of May, a beautiful nature reserve off the coast of Fife, spotting puffins and other nesting seabirds for this Country Diary entry for The Guardian. It was a gorgeous, cloudless day, and the birds there are thick upon the ground – literally! I almost stepped on several eider ducks who nest in the grass and regularly in the middle of paths, and will not shift for anything!

I travelled on the Osprey rib from Anstruther, which was fast, exciting and vastly superior to the’pleasure cruise’ that chugs the same route, which we zipped past and looped the loop around. From the rib we also had fantastic views of low rocky shelves where seals were basking in the sun, and were raced by flashy boy-racer eider ducks (who abandon their women to their nesting duties). While stopped at the foot of a sea stack, several puffins flew down to dive right by us. Fabulous.

Text of the Country Diary piece can be found on the Guardian website here, or after the fold.  Continue reading

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Country diary: Shetland’s high energy coastline

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I headed to Shetland for Lerwick’s Up Helly Aa fire festival and while there took the time to pen this short entry for the Guardian’s brilliant Country Diary section, which prints short nature ‘postcards’ that charts the progress of the seasons.

Find it at the Guardian’s website here, or after the fold. The lovely pic above is of the Eshaness lighthouse, a beautiful example of the Stevenson-designed lighthouses, taken by Ian Cowe.

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Country diary: sunlight on snowfall

adrian hopkins - view from Sgurr MorI wrote a short entry for the Guardian’s Country Diary section this week following a fantastic hillwalking trip to the west coast, on the edge of Knoydart, stopping off at the Kinbreak bothy.

Full text can be found here, or after the break

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