A Book Review

SH-Guide to birdsMy husband and I once watched a documentary on the cult leader, Jim Jones, who was responsible for the deaths of 900 followers in a mass suicide/murder in Guyana in 1978.

I know, kinda grim, right? But I have a point to make so please bear with me.

Jones was all about controlling the minds of his followers, and one of his favorite methods was sleep deprivation.

In order to keep his followers in line, he ranted incessantly over loudspeakers set up throughout the camp. Believe me, no one slept and that ranting would be difficult for anyone to withstand.

Well, here’s my point—nowadays there are times when I feel like someone trapped in that camp with a “leader” who just will not shut up.

So I have become mindful about limiting my exposure to the “Incessant One.” I never listen to the news in any form, either on the radio or on television, so I never hear his voice. I turn off all my devices on the weekends because I figure the world can get along without me for that period of time.

And I read charming, thoughtful, quirky, funny, lovely books to feed my heart and soul.

All of which brings me around to this wonderful book with a funky title: A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson.

Originally published in 2008, Birds is a gentle, charming, rather off-beat love story about an older gentleman (and passionate ornithologist) named Mr. Malik. He lives in Nairobi, a successful (now retired) businessman. He is a widow, and has outlived one of his two children. The surviving child, a daughter, is a lovely young woman.

For the past two years, Mr. Malik has participated in a weekly bird walk conducted at the Nairobi Ornithological Society led by a woman named Rose Mbikwa. Mr. Malik has known for a long time that he is in love with Rose, and he has made rather timid plans to invite her to accompany him to a prestigious dance event.

Things seem to be proceeding slowly but nicely until a rival from Mr. Malik’s high school days shows up—with plans to invite Rose to that same dance.

In order to avoid putting Rose on the spot, the two men agree to a competition for the right to ask her. Whoever spots the greatest number of birds in a week is the winner.

This book has it all, moments when I literally laughed out loud and moments when I teared up. I learned about Nairobi, about birds that I will never see but can appreciate, I came to admire the morals and ethics of Mr. Malik, and I loved meeting all his friends.

And it is very well written.

In other words, it’s exactly what I want in a book right now.

Reading A Guide to the Birds of East Africa is like floating in a warm summer sea. You will be lulled by the book’s disarmingly simple prose style, its philosophical bent, the wonderful birds, and the unexpected twists and turns of Mr. Malik’s love for a woman named Rose.

I just had to share.

Carding Time

SH-daylight savings timeAs always, your recommendations to friends to visit Carding, Vermont are deeply appreciated so please do not hesitate to spread the word. As long as you keep visiting, I’ll keep writing.

You can visit Carding any time in my novels, The Road Unsalted, Thieves of Fire, and The Dazzling Uncertainty of Life. The fourth in the series, Lights in Water, Dancing, will be out later this year.

You can subscribe to the Carding Chronicles by clicking the subscribe button on my home page. When you do, my stories will speed from my keyboard to your inbox every Thursday without any further effort on your part.

This morning, we’re going to join the coffee klatch at the Crow Town Bakery. This is an amorphous group, one that contracts and expands and changes membership from day to day. Today happens to be an all-guy day, and they’re discussing the recent changing of the clocks.

Enjoy!

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“Who’s idea was this, anyway?” Andy Cooper grumped to the morning coffee klatch gathered in the corner booth at the Crow Town Bakery.

“Some guy named George Hudson, a Kiwi,” Amos Handy said.

Andy gaped at him. “Seriously, Amos, how do you know these things?”

The older man shrugged. “Working with the books in the Swap Shed, I get to read a lot.”

“Go on, then, tell us,” Charlie Cooper, Andy’s younger brother, said. “Why did some New Zealander want to monkey around with our clocks so that we all lose sleep in the spring, and then have to deal with the sun setting at 3 p.m. in January. If there’s any time of the year when I’d love to have a bit of extra daylight in the afternoon, it’s January.”

“Hudson was an entomologist, a bug guy, and he wanted more sunlight at the end of the day so he could collect specimens after working his day job,” Amos said. “That was back in 1895 or so but the idea didn’t get anywhere until World War I.”

Hillary Talbot stopped by the table, a pot full of steaming coffee in her hand. The members of the morning klatch paused to admire the bright yellow beads in her hair, and her mismatched socks—one kelly green and the other magenta. “Are you guys talking about Daylight Savings Time again?” she asked.

The men looked at one another like small boys caught with handfuls of verboten candy. “What do you mean, again?” Charlie finally asked.

Hillary rested her coffee container on the table. “Every year, you guys complain about going on Daylight Savings Time in March and then you complain about going off Daylight Savings Time in November. We just switched the clocks so I figured that was the topic of conversation this morning.”

She looked down at Peter Foster, and they smiled at one another. “I like the beads in your hair,” he said.

She touched them with her hand, her smile spreading wider. “Yeah? Some nice guy I know bought them for me.”

Ted Owens, the local postmaster, glanced from Peter to Hillary and back. “So tell me, when are you two finally going to get married?”

The couple blushed, and Hillary got busy topping up the coffee cups on the table.

“Well?” Andy asked.

“Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, Andy,” Hillary said. “But in the meantime, I have a question for all of you.”

Five faces turned up toward hers. “And your question is?” Amos said.

“When we go back to standard time, we fall back an hour, right?”

The five heads nodded.

“So we have one day a year with 25 hours in it, am I right?”

More nodding.

“So I want to know if you’re going to waste that extra hour complaining about something that will literally take an act of Congress to change…”

“Ha, and we all know that Congress can’t be bothered to do anything at all, especially if it’s useful,” Amos said.

“Right,” Hillary said. “So you’ve got an extra hour in your day. Time’s kinda precious, right? So how are you going to spend it?”

And with those words, the bakery’s star waitress hustled off to pick up her next round of orders, and deliver them to her customers.

Most of the coffee klatch quintet watched her go. Hillary had a way about her that each man appreciated, though for different reasons. But Ted took the moment to study Peter’s face, wondering why his friend wouldn’t answer the marriage question.

“What?” Peter asked when he caught Ted staring at him.

“Did you two already get married and not tell anyone?” Ted asked, riveting the attention of everyone else at the table. The prospect of new gossip was irresistible.

Peter’s face went up in flames. “No, no,” he said, shaking his head. “Nothing like that.”

“So what is it, then?”

“Ahem.” Hillary’s throat clearing was audible across the restaurant, and Peter’s eyes flew to her face. When she had his attention, she raised her hand to her tightly closed lips, and twisted it in a locking motion.

“Ooooh,” the men at the table chorused. “A secret.”

Peter stood up. “Yep, and it’s going to stay that way.” He grinned. “At least for now. I’ve got to get to work.”

The men waited until the bakery door closed behind Peter before they resumed their conversation. “So how long do you think that secret’s going to keep?” Andy asked.

Amos pressed his lips together, considering. “Won’t make the end of the day,” he said decisively, “whether we’ve got an extra hour or not.”

“So to get back to what we were talking about, why are we saddled with Daylight Savings Time?” Charlie asked.

“World War I,” Amos explained. “The Germans decided to put more sun at the end of the day  so they could save on coal during the war, and then the U.K. and the U.S. followed suit because if you want to kill people, you have to get up at the same time they do. We did it again during World War II but then abandoned it until the oil shortage in the early 1970s.”

“Did you know that was mostly a manufactured panic?” Charlie interrupted. “It was more the perception of shortages that drove prices up than actual scarcity.”

Amos’s eyes lit up. He liked nothing better than a good conspiracy theory.

“So what did the oil shortage have to do with Daylight Savings Time?” Andy intervened before Amos could get cranking.

“What? Oh yeah, well, Congress thought we could save oil by pushing the clocks ahead,” Amos explained. “Of course, no one knows whether it worked or not because Congress wouldn’t fund a study to see what happened.”

Charlie suddenly yawned, stretching his hands high above his head. He couldn’t decide whether he was tired or it was just that his normal sleep pattern was off. “I suppose we could just ignore the change, and keep our clocks set the same year-round. You know, Carding time.”

Andy laughed as he drained his cup and reached for his wallet. “I thought that was what we already lived on, Carding time.”

DST

Tomorrow is Carding Chronicle day, and we’re joining the guys sitting around the corner table having breakfast at the Crow Town Bakery.

The Crow Town coffee klatch is an amorphous group that contracts and expands over time. You never know who will show up but it’s usually a great place to pick up the latest town gossip.

Except that today is a slow news day so the guys are jawing about Daylight Savings Time.

Enjoy!
SH-daylight savings time

Author of the Carding, Vermont novels, quilt books, and book publishing guides.