Dive books full of photographs are designed to be flicked through. Which is what I did when I first picked up"Wrecks and Reefs of Southeast Scotland." Initial impressions: lovely photos, nicely bound book, lovely glossy paper, great cover; and I like the format and the way the dives are laid out with some stats followed by photos and narrative description. Then I saw a picture of a big shark, and I'm thinking ... the east coast is more interesting than I thought ... hmmm. I kept flicking and noticed "Tye's Tunnel" ... yes, one of my favourite east coast sites. Looking forward to reading that one in more detail. Then I stop at dive number 75, "Don's Bum", and I read ... "I first learnt about Don's Bum from a local diver called Don ..." It's at this point that I realise that this is a more profound piece of writing than your average dive guide; it has a confessional quality and ... well, we can only admire Mike's courage for being willing to write so openly about ... err ... Don's Bum. If there are any under-18's reading this, please avert you eyes now. Mike continues: " ... you will see, directly opposite you, a dark hole. This is Don's Bum. Entering the hole you will find that it is a small, curved tunnel that takes you into the other beautiful gully that you ignored earlier." For me, that's up there with "The Story of O" or "Delta of Venus".
Kidding aside, this is the loveliest book about diving in Scotland that I've ever read. I'm not just saying that because Mike's such a nice guy. Here's what I like about it, not in any particular order: - Mike's passion and enthusiasm come over in the writing and the way he describes each dive as a little personal odyssey. - The quality of Mike's writing is as good as his photography. Some of the descriptions are very poetical without being purple or cliched. - The book is very well produced, with photo quality paper. Any less would not have done justice to the images. - Some of the photos themselves are exceptional. My personal favourite is on p.97: "Divers surface off the Skelly at Anemone Gullies". Not because it's the greatest photo, but because it holds a story, or memories of late afternoon dives as a winter sun sets (or maybe it's summer and very late, but you can't tell). It's imperfect because there's water on the lens, but I love it because it reminds me of dives and days out and buddies past. Very Scottish and very evocative. - Mike must have taken 10's of thousands of photos to get this collection. The visibility in many of the shots is excellent, so each captures a rare event by definition in Scotland. But they are perfect, like the Scart Rock Octopus or the Diver Decompressing on a shot on p.47. This book evokes happy memories. But above all, it makes me want to go diving! And who could ask for more than that?