Homing Beacon (Blue)

We’re home after our jaunt round parts of the UK. First, the North West and Arnside for a couple of days, then Scotland (inc a cabin in the woods) and a trip to Edinburgh, before a final stop off at my my Mother-in-laws.

Was it a holiday? Was it restful? I’m not sure. It certainly wasn’t restful as we did a lot of walking (by choice). However, throughout it all, I had a nagging feeling that we’d not really left anything behind. The whole Covid routine followed us ( as it should of course) and so I felt like I could never really get into it, but I’m glad we got away for a chance of scenery…and what scenery it was. Well done, The Scots. We definitely need to go back in non-Covid times to enjoy Edinburgh, and also to remember to book a bloody ferry so we can get from Oban to an island. I am quite annoyed that I’ve not returned with a nice bottle of Whisky from eg Mull.

I, perhaps foolishly, took a big pile of notes and unfinished poems to work on, thinking that being out in the middle of a forest would get the old creative juices flowing on some half-started ideas, or even start off some new ones, but it wasn’t to be. And that’s all fine; it’s only poetry after all. I did, however, get to read a few things of an evening, although nowhere near the amount of books I’d taken with me.

One highlight of this week, aside from the time with my beloved family, obvs, was reading ‘Homing: On Pigeons, Dwellings & Why We Return‘ by Jon Day. I’d set this aside to read on a break and I’d been looking forward to it.

Homing, By Jon Day


The book, er, flew across my radar a few months ago when it was recommended to me by someone at the BBC during a call for a project we were working on. She mentioned it because it was written by the husband of someone else on the call, my colleague at ITV, Nat. I like Nat a lot and the subject matter is basically catnip to me. I am a sucker for anything that sounds like it will be slightly mundane, so a book about homing pigeons was never not going to interest me.

While the book is about homing pigeons, it turned out to be so much more than that. The official biog for the book states:

As a boy, Jon Day was fascinated by pigeons, which he used to rescue from the streets of London. Twenty years later he moved away from the city centre to the suburbs to start a family. But in moving house, he began to lose a sense of what it means to feel at home.

Returning to his childhood obsession with the birds, he built a coop in his garden and joined a local pigeon racing club. Over the next few years, as he made a home with his young family in Leyton, he learned to train and race his pigeons, hoping that they might teach him to feel homed.

Having lived closely with humans for tens of thousands of years, pigeons have become powerful symbols of peace and domesticity. But they are also much-maligned, and nowadays most people think of these birds, if they do so at all, as vermin.

A book about the overlooked beauty of this species, and about what it means to dwell, Homing delves into the curious world of pigeon fancying, explores the scientific mysteries of animal homing, and traces the cultural, political and philosophical meanings of home. It is a book about the making of home and making for home: a book about why we return.

I enjoyed the fact that there were plenty of references to poets throughout the book, including Marianne Moore, Mina Loy, Henry Thoreau, Douglas Dunn and John Clare, What I wasn’t expecting to find was the details about Nat and Jon’s family life, their miscarriages, the relationships Day forms with his fellow fanciers and how much the philosophical explorations of what it is to make a home would, er, hit home with me.

It could have been because we were so far away from home, it could be because of the restrictions placed on visiting homes at present or the fact that I’ve not been back to Norfolk for a while that made it all feel very real when talking about what home means. Whatever it was, this book really got under my skin and I will now have to get hold of Day’s other work.

In many ways, we sort of mirrored the journey his pigeons take on their big race from Thurso as we wove our way along the East Coast yesterday to get to the M-i-Ls, but we were definitely using Apple Maps, rather than the innate sense that pigeons use – whether it’s smell-based, leylines or something else still to be proved. The book looks at several theories, but notes we’re still not that close to understanding it.

It’s slightly ironic that my wife hates pigeons given how bloody much she has in common with them when it comes to navigation. She can find her way home from anywhere, while I am still getting lost in Beckenham (we’ve lived here for ten years, FFS!!). I’ll see if I can convince her to read the book as it might change her mind about pigeons. Can I convince you to read it too? I’d say I’d lend you my copy, but it will be going in the post tomorrow roost with a friend in Norfolk for a while. I hope it makes it home again though.

Oh yes, why the title…I managed to get out and have a run in Edinburgh yesterday morning and as I ran by the Duncan Brodie pub my playlist synchronised nicely by playing Deacon Blue’s ‘Dignity

THE WEEK IN STATS

29k running – Not bad, enjoyed running in the mountains and behind a cow in Arnside.

900 or so miles of driving

0 days of a the 7-minute workout, but plenty of walking around.

3 x rejections: The full hattrick of rejections from the 3 I was after. The North, Poetry Birmingham Literary Journal and Poetry Wales.

0 poems finished -Nowt

0 poems worked on.

7 days without cigarettes…

1 more week that I’m not having an affair with Eva Green

TITLE GIVEAWAY

Carpet Diem
Carpe Diet

READ/SEEN/HEARD/ETC

Music
Kevin Morby: Sundowner
Dawn Landes: Row
The Mountain Goats: Getting Into Knives
This Is The Kit: Off Off On
Laura Veirs: My Echo
Steven Adam’s and French Drops: xxx
Sam Amidon: ST
The Last Dinosaur: Wholeness
Death Cab For Cutie – Tank You For Today, Kintsugi
The Staves: Dead Born & Grown
Sylvan Esso : Free Love
Blood Everywhere: Perseverance
Deacon Blue : A New House
Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever: Sideways To New Italy

Hangouts/Video Calls/Zoom/Etc (not for work)
None this week

TV/Film
In The Heart Of The Sea
Gogglebox
Taskmaster (old episode)
Strictly
Thor: Ragnarok

Radio/Podcasts
None

Ordered
Nothing

Arrived
Derek Mahon- Selected Poems
Jonathan Davidson: The Living Room
Rosie Garland: What Girls Do In the Dark

Read
Marcus Brown: A Wicked Pack of Cards
North 64
Stand 18 (2020)
Jon Day: Homing: On Pigeons, Dwellings and Why We Return

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