Sunday 16 June 2013

Letter to Robert Macfarlane, from Bertie in Torridon.

To: Dr Robert Macfarlane, Fellow of Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge.

16th June, 2013.

Dear Robert,


I hope you don't mind me contacting you out of the blue like this. I may call you Robert, mayn't I, even though you have never met me, and I only know you through your books, more of which later.

First some background. I am a three year old wire-haired fox terrier, bouncy in demeanour and blessed with an enquiring mind and an adventurous spirit. My owner Gail and I divide our time between our main home in Aberdeen and our West Coast retreat on the shores of Loch Torridon. My life in Scotland, and much else, is chronicled in 'Bouncing Bertie's Blog'.

You and I clearly  have in common that we love to explore wild places, to know them well  and to contemplate, in our different species ways, their impact on us. 

Well I am sorry to say that this weekend you have, indirectly, been the cause of a very frustrating  time here in Torridon. 

The weather has been glorious, the midge clouds not too dense, the air as clear as the June light is long. The mountains beckon.

And what has Gail been doing most of the weekend? Yes that's right, she's been sitting indoors, nose inside a book. Not just any book sir, YOUR book, 'The Old Ways', your latest and, unfortunately - from my perspective -  your longest one. Every now and then my owner has been emitting funny little noises which I believe to be human expressions of intense pleasure and delight.

A neighbour called round and I overheard Gail enthusing about your transcendent prose, your thoughtful mediations on the relationship between people and place and your consistently fascinating description of walks along ancient pathways in Britain and beyond. 

Hang on a minute. WALKS! She's spent all weekend, bum on sofa, reading about walks? Ok, plus the odd sea voyage or two.

It gets worse. I gather that at no point in this supposedly magnificent book, are you accompanied by that essential component of a satisfactory outing on foot, namely a canine companion....

Well Dr Macfarlane what can I say?

I'll take Gail's word for it that this 'The Old Ways' volume approaches perfection as reading material. At least for a certain kind of human. But as a writer you will surely now be looking for a topic for your next book. Perhaps, like me, you are brimming with ideas for things you want to write about. Perhaps not.

In any case, may I respectfully suggest that you could expand your horizons (and your readership) by moving beyond the theme of 'how the places we inhabit shape the people that we are', and towards 'how being accompanied by a fine dog can alter and enrich our relationship with the landscape'. 

I recognise you might be concerned that the 'dog book' market is an overcrowded one characterised by sentimentality and inferior prose, and thus beneath the consideration of a distinguished Cambridge don such as yourself.

So, in case you need further persuading, Gail has suggested that I invite you up to Torridon to stay with us for a week, or longer, at our beautiful, secluded cottage. I will happily show you all my favourite routes and together we can explore the deeper meaning of how landscape affects the nature and quality of canine-human bond. 

(Gail says that she would write such a book herself, if only she could compete with you for erudition, originality of thought and poetic turn of phrase. But, frankly, she can't).

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Toodle pip! With greatest respect,

Granddach Beinn Alligin (commonly known as 'Bertie').


  1. Bertie if THIS doesn't Bring HIM to his senses... NOTHING Ever WILL. Well stated case my man. VERY well stated.

  2. Oh no, nose in a good book on a nice day for walkies is not on. We think you stated your case very well. Dr Macfarlane get a dog....we wholeheartedly agree. Have a serene Sunday.
    Best wishes Molly

  3. Hari OM
    Well Granddach Beinn Alligin-ji, if the fellow frae Cambridge disnae ken a fair ca' oot when he sees it, he'll be the poorer for it!!

    ...and OMD look what I just saw - thank you &*> Hugs and wags, YAM-aunty xxx

  4. Hello, Bertie!

    Then after McFarlane has spent time with you at Torridon, perhaps you could go to Cambridge and spend a month or two with him. Just so he gets to see both sides of dog keeping,that only seems right to me

    I'm sure you'll let us know how it all works out, just certain of that I am!.

    Toodle pup!


  5. Very well said Bertie, now grab that book and run outside to find a hole for it, its quite obvious that the man has no sense of the wonderful relationship us pupper can provide!

    The Mad Scots

  6. Oh what an offer no self-respecting auteur could refuse.
    Three cheers, Sr.Bertie.

    Wirey love,

    Jake and Just Harry

  7. Well written, Bertie. But maybe you should buy an audio version of his book so Gail can listen to it WHILE you go for walks. Just an idea.

    XXXOOO Daisy, bella & Roxy

    Then write about relationships between canines and humans.

  8. Well done Bertie. If he doesn't respond and come round, I dont know what will make him!

  9. Great letter better, we 100% agree a walk is not a walk without a canine companion at your side. Unless Robert MacFarlane is crazy he is just bound to take you up on your offer

    urban hounds

  10. That is an amazing letter. We hope he comes to visit. Lee and Phod

  11. Well said Bertie!! That should get his attention

    Loveys Sasha

  12. An excellent letter Bertie - walking without a dog? What on earth is the man thinking?
    I think a visit to lovely Cambridge and a punt on the Cam is in order so you can personally make your point.

  13. Bertie you are one fine spokesman and a deep thinker
    hugs madi your BFFF

  14. We do hope he replies to your letter. It would be most rude of him to ignore you.

    Molly, Taffy, Monty and Winnie

  15. Well said, Bertie! How can he turn down such an invitation?

  16. Oh Bertie I could not agree with you more...The professor may be brilliant and a wonderful writer, but how could not include a wonderful dog on his journey...And the worst of it is now my Momz wants to read his book and she even checked and found that it's at our local library...Maybe I can get her to save it just for rainy days...Hope he accepts your invite so you can educate him on the wonders of exploring with a best 4-legged friend

  17. Surely your erudite and pithy plea will win the great one over!! Extraordinarily well done Bertie!

  18. Oh Bertie, you write so well, if that doesnt do it then I dont know what will. You are way beyond your years Bertie!!


  19. Bertie you crack me up!! I loved your comment on biscuits and am considering an addition to your Cabinet title...
    Directory of Science of Tail Wagging and Biscuitology!!
    You really don't have biscuits in a can/tin?
    OMDs that would be a hurting on our Christmas Morning Breakfast of Monkey Bread...have you ever hand any? FYI no monkeys were injured in the preparation of it
    hugs madi your bFFF

  20. This is awesome! I can't believe we missed it at the time...thanks for the link!