16th June, 2013.
INVITATION TO TORRIDON
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.
Granddach Beinn Alligin (commonly known as 'Bertie').