Another miserable, rainy day meant a trip to the fancifully styled “Book Town of Scotland” at Wigtown this afternoon. It’s about a sixty mile trip along the Solway, but the dull journey was made a little more interesting by the fact that we saw a party of little egrets standing on the mudflats at Creetown. Lots of people talk about how common egrets are getting on the Solway, but I’ve certainly never seen one in Scotland before. The last time I came across little egrets, they were sauntering through the termite mounds in a field in Northern Tanzania – certainly strange to see them in the rain and mud of the Solway Firth.
I had planned to get hold of some non-toxic duck cartridges from the shop in Newton Stewart, since they seem to be very hard to get hold of in the eastern end of the county, but had conveniently left my shotgun certificate at home, so it was straight on to Wigtown, where the bookshops are famed for their enormity and the variety of wares on offer. By sheer fluke, I stumbled upon a copy of Grouse in Health and Disease – possibly the most fascinating and comprehensive tome ever put together on the subject. True, the fact that it was written precisely a century ago means that it has been superceded scientifically, but the spirit of the project is just as valid and as appealling today as it was when it was published. There is so much detail, and although I skimmed through a library copy while researching for my book on black grouse, a few minutes looking back through it in the shop convinced me that there’s a great deal more to this dusty old volume than first meets the eye.
There’s quite a draw to owning a copy which, while maybe not a first edition (although how you would tell is a mystery anyway) is certainly a hundred years old. I will plough through it over the next few weeks, but if the entire book is as interesting as the few snippets I have read so far, it will have been well worth the fairly not inconsiderable sum I paid for it.