In Stephen Rutt’s second book, Wintering, we follow him on a journey around the British Isles to find the elusive species and sub-species of what might at first light seem a rather dull and innocuous class of birds, the geese. The geese, you say? As in “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander”? What could be more interesting?
Well, hang fire, Rutt’s tale takes back through mediaeval droves to the ancient Greeks and the ancient Egyptians even, by way of the marshlands and reedy wetlands of Suffolk, Northumberland, and the wide rivers of the Scottish borderlands. It also takes us back and forth across oceans to Scandinavia for the geese have been with us a long, long time and are an integral part of British history in ways you cannot imagine, they are in historical festive diet, and embedded in our folklore.
Rutt’s poetic prose tells tale of Beans and Barnacles, of Canada, and Brent and Brant. He talks of Pink-foots of Greylags, and White-fronts. He writes with an empathy and an enthusiasm that has grown in him and grows in us the reader with each waft of the figurative quill. It’s a tale of chasing, of tracking, of falling in love with place and nature. A tale of missed opportunity and the luckiest of finds.