Timothy's Book

by Bernie Bell - 14:16 on 19 July 2022

Timothy’s Book

Before Covid changed the way we live our lives, Mike used to check the Stromness charity shops in his lunch break and often brought home books. He brought home ‘Timothy’s Book  - Notes of an English Country Tortoise’ by Verlyn Klinkenborg, and it sat there on the shelf until Mike was having  a clear-out in the room we now call his office, then he set it aside to go back to the charity shop, which is when I saw it,  and liked the look of it…….

Well -  wouldn’t you?

It’s the tale of Timothy, Gilbert White’s tortoise https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gilbert_White as told by himself with observations on the life around him, the seasons - including the wisdom of hibernating in the winter – and ….humanity.

At one point Timothy contemplates what an upheaval it would cause if he spoke to one of Mr. White’s visitors – and he could - if he chose to.

“My voice would shatter his human solitude.  The happiness of his breed depends upon it.  The world is theirs to arrange.  So they tell themselves.   A word or two from me – ‘Now, then’ – and they have all the arranging to do over again.”

‘The world is theirs to arrange’ – that‘s our delusion, as viewed by Timothy, and looking at what’s happening around us right now – what a delusion it is shown to be.

Timothy wonders if he could “trust Mr. Gilbert White with a syllable or two”,  as Gilbert White connects so much with the natural world.  Presumably he decided against it.

It’s a delight-full book.  I’d never heard of it – or of Verlyn Klinkenborg – didn’t know they existed.  I’m glad that Mike picked it up in the charity shop, and that I picked it from the charity shop bag. It’s got all sorts in it, written in a very engaging way from a very different view-point.  Timothy’s tales also contain a lot of detail of life at that time, so different from our lives now in the West of the world.

As an aside – years ago Mike and I worked at the Cota Donana Nature Reserve in Spain for 6 weeks, where we saw many wild creatures which we’d previously only seen in captivity - including Tortoises plodding along the sandy tracks of the reserve, and Flamingos flying across the skies above.  These were creature which I’d only ever seen in very restricted, limiting situations before and now I saw them living their lives – freely.

We also encountered Wild Boar and a Lynx, but we’d never seen them before, anywhere.

Timothy isn’t a wild tortoise, but he gets quite cross sometimes.


I wrote this when we encountered the Lynx…..

The Lynx

Walking by, stopped, frozen –

“What is it?  Will it hurt me?  Can I eat it?”

Continues cautiously –

“You never know, with humans.”


We looked at the Lynx, the Lynx looked at us, all thinking much the same things – living - connecting. Then we each carried on our way.

An Iberian Lynx, nearly driven to extinction by…..us.


And here’s one I made earlier…….. https://theorkneynews.scot/2022/04/03/corn-italian-casserole/

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