The book: In 1939 the author built a small wooden boat, and sailed it down the River Thames, stopping off to drink in pubs, talk to people, and make engravings of what he saw.
The author: Robert Gibbings (1889-1958) was an Irish writer and sculptor/painter/engraver, friend of Eric Gill, and ran the Golden Cockerel Press for a number of years. The quote in the title of this review is his, of course.
My opinion: reading this is like being accosted at the bar by some large, garrulous bloke - before you know it you've been drawn into his story, and emerge - hours later - a little dazed and much edified. Gibbings writes like he talks, I think, and he talks a lot of sense: he knows his natural history. He also likes to talk about the weather, make jokes, discuss folk medicine, tell you about the people he met, stories from his youth...
This book was hugely popular in 1940 - for people who wanted to escape the harsh reality for a little while; or for people who liked to remember what they were fighting for - quintessential England (or one of them, anyway).
A very nice bedside book!
This may be a book better read on a warm summer's evening with a gin and tonic to hand but it will repay any time spent reading it. It describes an idyllic trip down the Thames at the start of the second world war. That historical "accident" lends the account poignancy but with the author turning his eye between the micro (e.g. describing tiny aquatic creatures) and the macro (stopping his journey to sketch a bridge for example) you are swept along with the current and his classical turn of phrase. It is very "off its time" so may seem dated compared to more modern nature journals but for me that is one of its strengths as a document of the time as well as the place.
I must also praise the publishers who have taken on the job of publishing a number of old "nature" books, all of which look very inviting and if this book is anything to go by they look well worth purchasing - and no I don't work for them...