Wednesday 14 August 2019


As I mentioned in the last post, for the last ten years I've kept a travel journal. This started off life as a pure birding diary, a day by day blow of birds I'd seen along with meticulous lists. It still is, though its scope has expanded to also include pure travel. Not all travel, that would become a little tedious, so for instance a day trip to a european city is unlikely to feature. However some of my more far-flung trips get a mention, even if their primary goal is not birds or photography, such as Malaysia and Japan with Mrs L, or Utah and Arizona with Henry. Birds always feature however, however minimally - as a birder I can never properly switch off, there is always something that needs recording.

I use something called the Alwych, I think I picked it up from a Mark Cocker book on birding (Tales of a Tribe), and it has proved perfect. It fits nicely in my newfound jacket pockets, and is neatly lined, although I only use these as guides to try and keep vaguely straight. My handwriting is extremely small and I only get around 25 days holiday a year, so I'm actually only on my second one although this is now nearly full. I started it in 2014 and I don't think it will last much into 2020.

I used to be extremely diligent, writing it up every evening after a day's birding, but more recently I have lost my way, and for a whole year I didn't even pick it up. This became a significant niggle, and in May I put it on my to do list. It was a mammoth undertaking. 
Somehow I had to remember all the the trips I had been on since around August 2018, as well as all the birds I had seen. Luckily I had forseen my extreme laziness and had made various lists on scraps of paper which I had carefully retained, but actually placing myself back on my travels was a long and labourious process. Mostly I caught up on flights, airline lounges or hotel rooms - constantly irritated that I wanted to be writing the here and now rather than the past, but not wishing to mess up the chronology. I must never be so slack again. 

Earlier this month I finally finished - the last entry was my trip to Long Island. Since August 2018 I have filled 56 pages. I counted the words on a random page and there were 359, so it has taken me 20,00 words to catch up. No wonder it took a long time! Of course it is a lot slower after the event. I needed to remember what order I went to places, I had to consult maps, old blog posts and lists of flights, I needed to painstakingly transcribe bird lists onto the page and do the odd sketch. This was quite a fun process and a good test of my memory, but sometimes there would be a mental delay and I would find that after I had finished a day off and moved on to the next only then would I remember some funny incident I had witnessed, people I had talked too, other birds I had seen, what I had eaten or in some cases whole passages of the day that with the passing of time I had completely skipped and now there was no room in which to go back. In fact the last year of writings could be described as rather boring in the context of the rest of it. Writing it so far down the line is never going to be as rich as doing it whilst travelling. It felt rather forced, that I had lost the emotions of immediacy, of the present. My family would contend that the whole thing is boring! But this is not supposed to be a classic read, it is supposed to be a memory jogger, a record of the fun I have had. Nobody else really cares and nor should they, despite the length this is not my magnum opus, it is just another way to while away the many spare hours I have and no idea what to do with them.

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