As written about here previously, I do a lot of reading when I’m travelling and particularly when I’m travelling to the football. This will be all about books.
The season is not old. I have only seen Hibs play three times so far, the fourth being tonight against Asteris Tripolis. My reading matter has consisted of three books, two by women and two also library books. The first was There’s Always The Hills, the autobiography of mountaineer and writer Cameron McNeish. That hit the spot. He writes incredibly well about most things but reading McNeish makes you want to go up a mountain or just for a long walk. His perspective on the world, sustainable development and on our country’s remaining wild places is refreshing and impassioned, not at all a bad thing, plus he writes about places I know (he grew up not far from where I live) and a lot of writers I like (John Muir, Nan Shepherd, amongst others). That was read on the bus to and from Edinburgh since there was engineering works on the train line the day Hibs played Blackburn for Paul Hanlon’s testimonial.
I took The Comforters by Muriel Spark to the Runavik game the following Thursday at Easter Road. The Comforters is Spark’s first novel, published in 1957. It was quite beguiling, full of well-drawn characters, characteristic turns of phrase and lots to make one pause. It wasn’t as accomplished as some of Spark’s later books but it worked, it was fine.
For the trip to Coldstream last Sunday to see a Hibs XI, I read A Place Apart by Dervla Murphy, based on a friend’s recommendation and borrowed from the Glasgow Women’s Library. It was a short book, a paperback of 300 pages or so, but full of depth. The book is about Dervla Murphy’s journeys around Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles, visiting and meeting with people from the Protestant and Catholic communities. Despite being written in 1978, a lot of what she writes about is very relevant to Northern Ireland and the wider world today. I have already raided the library for all of our Dervla Murphy stock, I will be visiting the GWL for much of the rest. We need people like Dervla Murphy in our world.
Tonight’s book is Bloody Scotland, an anthology of Scottish crime writers writing about historical places, published last year by Historic Environment Scotland. So far I have read the first three stories, by Lin Anderson, Val McDermid and ES Thomson, the latter particularly sticking in my mind as a gory tale set amidst the whirring machines of Stanley Mill in Perthshire. That one is another library book, incidentally. Occupational hazard.
I did think about taking a Muriel Spark book. I bought a pile of them a few months ago on a killing time mission in Waterstones at Braehead and have two left, The Mandelbaum Gate and Memento Mori. They will come with me at some point but I also have Dervla Murphy books to read, plus a Peter May crime book that I’ve had for weeks and weeks, and the Stuart Maconie book following in the footsteps of the Jarrow marchers that’s sitting in my locker at work. Luckily I have time off looming on the horizon.
I am incapable of going anywhere without something to read. Sitting on a train is especially hard. I have even been known to read some of my book before the game, sitting in my seat, as I did with both Cameron McNeish and Muriel Spark. Last season I went through a few Muriel Spark books plus crime novels (I seem to remember having a Stuart MacBride one game) and not a few nature books including Nan Shepherd and John Muir. As much as I look forward to the books, they are an added bonus to the main reason for the journey, the game. That’s the main thing.