A review of Native: Life in a Vanishing Landscape by Patrick Laurie
If you’ve ever read Patrick’s writing – be it in Shooting Times, his Working for Grouse blog or elsewhere – you’ll know how much he cares for the countryside. If you haven’t, you’re missing out. Native distills that passion for the countryside and shows just what can be achieved with dedication, hard work and lot of sheer bloody-mindedness. It’s not your average country tale either. It’s crammed with love – love for his patch of Scotland, for his Galloway cattle, for birdlife and for and from his wife, who is unfailingly by his side throughout. We use the word husbandry a lot in farming, but this feels more like parenthood. Love, care and nurture pour through every blade of grass, every curlew call, every oat.
“Galloway poured back into my boots like peaty water” says Laurie, an image that sums up his symbiotic relationship with this little corner of the world. Scotland is blessed with its poets, but few could make me feel every blister, every early morning and every heart-swelling triumph, however small, that the pages of this book contains. James Rebanks calls it ‘a hymn of love to his native land’ and I couldn’t agree more.
In a world of heavy and grunting manual labour, there’s a refreshing fragility to Laurie’s experiences. He’s the first to admit his shortcomings, as boldly as stating “I said that I came back to Galloway because I had other plans. Weakness was closer to the truth”.
He does himself a disservice, however. It’s as if he’s been called to serve this patch of land, to evangelise about the historic wonder of Riggit Galloways and to bring a hulking white David Brown tractor back to life. In a world of GPS-driven 600-horsepower megatractors, there’s something blissfully pastoral about Patrick’s view of the world. It’s not romanticised though, it’s realistic.
In the words of the author, anything is possible if you slow down.