If you read my last blog, you know that I am based in Milton Keynes, 45 miles north of London. Londoners struggle to not laugh aloud when they hear where we are living. Londoners don’t do the American hoot, holler and thigh-slap (aren’t generalizations awful?), but their lips twitch.
Because of this pervasive perception that those who live in Milton Keynes are lower life forms, I find the Ronald Rae sculpture in front of the train station especially interesting.
You would think that the architectural team or the local council would have given more thought to selling/improving outsiders’ image of the town. But no. Rather, the sculpture suggests despair.
Given a choice, I would rather spend my days in London. The obvious attractions include music, plays, museums, and bookstores. In particular, I always visit Hatchards Piccadilly established in 1797. My familiar routine is to hit St. James in time for a lunchtime concert… then walk down to Hatchards where I will find some books and curl up on the second floor Chesterfield.
This week I was thrilled to find a long-lost book at Hatchards. Sanding at the checkout with a new book in-hand, I saw the lost book to the right of the register. It was one of those moments that you believe in fate. I was thrilled. Finding the book was just like the return of a beloved dog that had gone missing. The kisses! The slobber! I think I wagged my tail!
The title of the lost and found book is The Snow Geese by William Fiennes, not to be confused with the classic World War II story, The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico. The Fiennes book is a travelogue written by a 25-year-old Brit. Following a long illness and being bed-bound in his parents’ house, Fiennes yearns to follow the migrating Snow Geese as they fly north in the spring. Leaving Eagle Lake (Austin, Texas), he follows the birds to the Sand Lakes in South Dakota, to Winnipeg, Churchill, Hudson Bay, and Baffin Island.
As to what is so special about this book… the bird lore and the migration facts are interesting, but for me, the landscape and Fiennes’ experiences along the way are priceless. Fiennes is the master of sensory detail. Readers are his close companions as he travels by greyhound bus, eats regional food, and sleeps in cheap motels. The folks he meets (defined only by what they say and how they say it) are a fascinating cross-section of people. Each and every one is outside any pre-conceived notion of a stereotypical American.
But it is Fiennes’ writing that makes me want to read his work again and again. He breaks all the rules currently in vogue: RELY PRIMARILY ON STRONG VERBS. AVIOD ABSTRACT NOUNS. USE ADJECTIVES SPARINGLY. CUT ALL ADVERBS.
Choosing a sentence… any sentence… as an example: Thirty thousand geese lifted off the ice in front of us, wingbeats drumming the air, goose yelps gathering to a pounding, metallic yammer, the sound of steel being hammered on anvils, in caverns. The ice thrummed and sang with it.
Good grief! Nice verbs, but so many adjectives! I love this guy.