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The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs
on 24 May 2014
This morning, looking west in Sainsbury's car park I saw a rainbow and exulted as I recognised the 42 degrees and antisolar point. 42 degrees is just over four extended fists widths according to Mr Gooley, so imagine the humorous looks I received from early morning shoppers as I made Dalek-at-a-funk-disco arm movements to calculate the angle!
A crack in the sky displayed picture-postcard beams of light across a bright-green grass hill in the distance while a modest sleepy group of travellers head for the entrance in a bid to start the bank holiday before anyone else.
Turning to my wife I said "It's going to rain, take your time" and I grabbed my copy of "The Walker's Guide to Outdoor Clues and Signs" opened the car window a tad and began reading with anticipation.
It wasn't long before light taps on the car roof and windscreen grew into a throng of pouring rain. With a smug-know-it-all grin on my face I watched as roof-racked car owners struggled with tarpaulins and the faces of grumpy young children contorted as they squashed their noses up against the glass clearly not jubilant at the prospect of a day in the car rather than on the beach.
Had I been twenty years younger, I too would be packing the car and preparing for a sodden day at the beach so truly I feel for the people in my morning’s entertainment. Twenty years ago navigation on land, sea and the air was an important part of my business and I had become so dependent on technology that looking at a cloud, flower or even cows in a field to tell direction or pending weather would have been a ridiculous idea.
The problem with technology is it leaves no puzzles unsolved so why look anywhere else? Before I read any of Mr Gooley’s books I would have described my own pitiful natural navigation tools as mere tricks. This book demonstrates the knowledge our ancestors took for granted and used for accurate and reliable understanding of direction and weather, and all without a battery.
In Crocodile Dundee the hero grabs Wally’s arm for a glimpse of his wrist watch so he can show off to the reporter by giving an accurate estimation of the time. Imagine being able to do this without cheating any time of day or night, to use everything from animal and plant to the landscape in front of you? Furthermore, imagine being able to deduce during the same glimpse the direction you are facing and what weather to expect? Granted none of this is easy....at least not until you understand why and how which is the purpose of this book.
Mr Gooley speaks to his readers as equals. His focus is on facts you can understand from your surroundings to tell the imminent weather, time passing and how to find your way. This means he covers a wide selection of subjects. Consequently, I needed support to help identify trees, wild flowers, mosses, mushrooms and lichens and found the Collins "Complete Guides to British..." "Wild Flowers" and "Trees" most helpful. There are others in the series such as birds and animals too. Collins Complete Guides provide a useful visual reference with an index of common and Latin names and make an excellent companion to this book.
Mr Gooley has given us an insight into total natural navigation and the comprehension of surrounding conditions. A few subjects warrant books of their own, but nevertheless this book remains a reassuring compendium of serviceable clues.