Posted: Mar 20, 2020 10:18 pm
by crazyfitter
The Story of the British Isles by Neil Oliver is a lightweight history book centred on a look at 100 places in these islands. Like his TV shows, like Coast, he has a romantic, even hippyish way of writing. Try this from his introduction: “The coast is like the hem of a garment - fixing the whole against unravelling”. Total bullshit but a style that is easy on the brain I found.
One of the chapters deals with the Dover Boat, 3500years old and well preserved in the mud. Formed of 4oak planks sewn together with flexible willow it was 60ft long and 30 ft of it is in the Dover museum. But here he goes again: ”Just as there are places in the landscape that feel ‘thin’, where the divide between one world and the next seems slight........While I stood and crouched beside her, I swear I felt her makers ghosts close by.” Maybe it’s just me!
We have a chapter on Schiehallion and it’s roll in discovering the gravitational constant and therefore the weight of our planet. It’s a ’Munro’, that is a Scottish mountain over 3000ft high and one of 282. It stands alone and is a good conical shape so ideal to measure and find its volume. In 1772 The Royal Society sent a surveyor called Charles Mason ( he of Mason - Dixon fame) to measure it. The finished product was a map covered in dots representing height above sea level. To make sense of it the mathematician Charles Hutton joined up the dots of the same height and hey presto he invented the contour line which we are all familiar with. The man who did the experiment with the plumb line was the Astronomer Royal the Reverend Nevil Maskelyne and with Hutton calculated the weight of the Earth to be around Five million, million tons, which we now know to be very close to actual.
In his conclusion he calls the book his love letter to the British Isles and here he goes again: “The world needs the British Isles - even the idea of the British Isles. Our unique and civilised culture, formed during thousands of years of often painful history, is a light in the dark. But that light is guttering and failing. The last petals are trembling on the stem. Olympus is falling”.