I’ve only ticked off nine new countries in the last twelve months. This means that the finish-line has receded even further into the future, but hey-ho.
Which means I’ve read 16 (and a half!) this year. Which is down from the rate I managed at first — 53 in the first two years — but about in line with what I’ve done since. So at least I haven’t slowed down even more. Or stopped altogether.
None of those 16 were absolutely stand-out classics, but there are several I can recommend if they sound like the kind of thing that would interest you:
A Woman in the Crossfire: Diaries of the Syrian Revolution by Samar Yazbek is well-written, interesting and informative. It’s becoming ever less topical as the situation in Syria moves on; but as long as we have dictatorships, the subject of life as a dissident in a (wobbling, unstable) police state is still going to have relevance.
Survival in the Killing Fields by Haing Ngor and Roger Warner is a book that tells a remarkable story, of a man who survived the Khmer Rouge and ended up winning an Oscar for his performance in a film about it.
Life and a Half by Sony Labou Tansi is yet another book about dictatorship, this time a dark, strange, poetic novel which I thought was very worth reading.
And not recommendations exactly, but a few books which stand out in my memory because of their subject matter rather than their literary qualities: 88 Days (Somali piracy), The Chronicles of Dathra (Kuwaiti chick-lit, sort of), and African Philosophy (African philosophy).
» Cupid Shooting Arrows at the World Globe is attributed to Otto van Veen and apparently 1608ish. From the Met.
If I’d been better blogger recently you might have got my thoughts about things like the weirdness of the US healthcare debate (you’d think that the aim of universal healthcare was laughably naive starry-eyed utopianism, rather than something that every other wealthy country has already achieved), Manchester United’s prospects for the season (I’m worried they’ll be short of goals if Rooney gets crocked), the Ashes (I’m thrilled we won, but it was a funny old topsy-turvy series), and the appearance of a variant, yellow-winged form of the Jersey Tiger moth in the garden.
So you haven’t missed much, really.
I don’t actually have anything in particular to say now, I just had a twinge of guilt about the lack of blogging. I’m currently drinking a cup of coffee and preparing to upgrade the OS on my computer — something I realised I was excited about not so much because of the software itself but because it’s named after the most beautiful and coolest of the big cats.
I’ve had a couple of good days of birding. Yesterday we had a walk in some dry scrubby brush – cistus (ie rock rose), wild lavender, broom and flowers like wild gladiolus, orchids and so on. There were nightingales and woodlarks singing, and I also saw Dartford warbler, woodchat shrike, black kite and possibly most exciting, turtle dove, a bird I haven’t seen for a surprisingly long time.
Then today we went for a walk somewhere picked for no other reason than there was a big lake on the map, and again it was a lovely landscape with masses of flowers. Nightingales singing beautifully, and this time I managed to see subalpine warbler. And even better, red-backed shrike, which is a bird I’ve only seen once before, many years ago, and then I saw a juvenile or a female, so it was a boring mottled brown instead of the attractive male I saw today with a pink tummy, a rufous back, grey head and a rakish highwayman’s mask.
Then just to top it off, a family of crested tits turned up at the villa during lunch. So that was nice.
The wildlife picked up a bit today: some very camouflaged geckos on the walls of the house (I’ll post a pic when I get back to England), a raven flying over, bee-eaters heard but not seen.
And the treecreepers nesting in the roof, which I think I mentioned on Twitter but not here, turned out to be Short-toed Treecreeper. I thought initially it was a new bird for my life list, but I realised I saw them in Spain a couple of years ago. Still, it was a challenge to identify them, so I’m glad I managed.
And most exciting, what initially looked like a big fat bumblebee but turned out to be a bee mimic: the Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth. I’d post a link but I’m blogging from the iPhone and it’s a PITA. I’ve wanted to see one of these little clear winged hawkmoths for years and years and years, though, so that was very pleasing.
I’m still in France; no hot news on the bird front or indeed any other front, but it’s all very pleasant.
Some kind of lizard orchid. Not the prettiest orchid I’ve found, but maybe the coolest.
There’s a gecko behind the sofa on the other side of the room.