Tuesday, December 14, 2010
A Winter evening spent reading John Buchan's "Huntingtower".
Though the Blue Jays are comforted by peanuts, we inside are trapped inside by cold and black ice. I fear for us if this weather persists. The roads and trails at the Warner Parks will be unusable, and our walking world will shrink to the apartment parking lots. Then again- I have seen winter days in the 60s, and barred owls catching snakes sunning on warm rocks.
I do have an interesting visitor- a Brewer's blackbird -who turned up yesterday. He is alone. At first glance I thought he was a grackle. But there was something off about the tail. It is short. He is also unwary, walking around under the holly hedge where the feral cats hide.
Weather like this leads to cabin fever, unless we can read or watch a good story. Yesterday I watched "The Nun's Story" on Turner Classics, and it was most satisfying. Then I turned off the television, and turned to John Buchan to get me through the evening. I have read his "The 39 Steps" and his Richard Hannay novels over and over. But last evening I picked up "Huntingtower"(one of his earlier novels) for the first time. In it a middle-aged Scottish business man sells his company and goes off on a walking adventure across moors and open country. He meets his fellow man across the table at country inns, and before long there is high adventure with political intrigue, a White Russian girl in distress, and hidden royal jewels. Here is Buchan describing his first hopes for his holiday:
"He would meet and talk with all sorts of folk; an exhilarating prospect, for McCunn loved his kind.There would be the evening hour before he reached his inn, when,pleasantly tired, he would top some ridge and see the welcoming lights of a little town. There would be the lamp-lit after -supper time when he would read and reflect, and the start in the gay morning, when tobacco tastes sweetest and even fifty-five seems young".
And here is more-
"A passerby would have remarked on an elderly shopkeeper bent apparently on a day in the country, a common little man on a prosaic errand. But the passerby would have been wrong, for he could not see into the heart. The plump citizen was the eternal pilgrim; he was Jason, Ulysses, Eric the Red,Albuquerque, Cortez- starting out to discover new worlds".
I am happy to say that "Huntingtower" can be read on-line at On-Lineliterature.com. And anyone interested in the colorful author- a diplomat, a politician, the First Baron of Tweedsmuir and Commander of the Dominion of Canada, can read more about him at JohnBuchansociety.com.