Book Review: The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Illustrated by Nick Hayes

The Heeding by Rob Cowen, Illustrated by Nick Hayes.

My Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

There will be a few books in life that you will always treasure, it might the content of the book itself or where you were or who you were with when you read them. Common Ground by Rob Cowen is one of those books for me. I can tell you when and where I was when I was reading it (in the last couple of weeks in my last paid job before going freelance), and to a limited extent I can tell you about the effect it had on me – I actually find it difficult to truly find the right words if I’m being honest.

It is the book that I have gifted / given more than any other book.

But. Rob hasn’t written another book until now and I really have waited for this book. This could go either way really couldn’t it?

Now let’s be honest, when I knew this book was coming I asked if I could go on the review list, before I was asked if I’d like to review it. I never do this. I pre-ordered a copy (it’s out tomorrow – June 17th). I wanted to read this book. I wanted it to be as good as Common Ground.

But. What if it wasn’t?

But. It’s better.

My god. IT. IS.


In many ways it couldn’t be more different, it is a book of poems not prose, but they tell a story just the same. Written during lockdown in 2020 and illustrated by Nick Hayes (I reviewed Nick’s the Book of Trespass here) – the two aspects merge together into an amazing book.

The Heeding is a message to us all. We need to heed what is going on around us. To call out what is maybe not quite right and to celebrate the good and the beautiful in our world. To take the time to actually look and listen to the world around us. To pay attention to those things that maybe we take for granted, and make sure that we don’t loose them through our own inattention.

It had me captivated from the first page. I devoured it, and did so again, finally slowing to read each poem more deliberately and going back over them. To be honest I’m still reading it. Although it’s sitting next to my keyboard right now, it’s always close at hand, my proof copy is falling apart through use. This is a special book, it’s another one that I’ll treasure and will be gifting to others.

If you should read this book, and you should go and order a copy right now. I think you’ll find your own meaning in the poems and the illustrations, if I had to pick a couple of poems that are personal favourites it would be; This Allotment; The Lovers; and The Heeding. These and the others have made me smile, laugh, cry, rant & rave and be grateful for the world. If we were all to heed the world around us in this way what an amazing place it would be.

The illustrations elevate the words too, they bring the poems to life with their striking, contrasting style as well as having a life of their own.

I am truly grateful for this book, it is beautiful. You may be able to tell that I am struggling to really find the words to truly express how I feel about it and just how good it is.

Please go and get yourself a copy, in fact buy a couple and give one to a friend.


From The Publisher: The world changed in 2020. Gradually at first, then quickly and irreversibly, the patterns by which we once lived altered completely. The Heeding paints a picture of a tear caught in the grip of history, yet filled with revelatory perspectives close at hand: from a sparrowhawk hunting in a back street, the moon over a town or butterflies massing in a high-summer yard, to remembrances of moments that shape a life. Collecting birds, animals, trees and people together and surfacing memories along the way, The Heeding becomes a profound meditation on a time no-one will forget.

The Heeding is a book of our time: conceived in lockdown by two creative people who have yet to meet in person. Across four seasons, Rob Cowen and Nick Hayes lead us on a journey that takes its markers and signs from nature all around us, coming to terms with a world that is filled with terror and pain, but beauty and wonder too.

Rob Cowen is an award winning writer, hailed as one of the UK’s most original voices on nature and place. His book Common Ground (2015) was shortlisted for the Portico, Richard Jefferies Society and Wainwright Prizes and voted on of the nation’s favourite nature books on BBC Winterwatch. He lives in North Yorkshire.

Nick Hayes is a writer, illustrator and print-maker. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller, The Book of Trespass: Crossing the Lines That Divide Us (2020). He has published graphic novels with Jonathan Cape and worked with many renowned titles. He has exhibited across the country, including the Hayward Gallery. He lives on the Kennet and Avon canal.

The Heeding is published by Elliott & Thompson on 17th June 2021.


[Disclaimer: The publishers very kindly sent me a proof copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have received no payment for this review, and the thoughts are my own.]

My Review of 2015

As 2015 winds its way into 2016, I thought I would sit and review a few bits of my year.

Work

On the work front it’s been a significant year for me. About 12 months ago, I was working out numbers and calculating where I might end up if I accepted a voluntary redundancy offer. By the end of July I had gone from being an employee to being self-employed and my own boss. I wasn’t quite planning things that way, but so far my new business has been going well enough to keep me working and provide an income, as well as allow me to do some other development work, but there is still much more for me to do, and whilst I need to sit and do some planning for 2016 and how this is going to work for me, I don’t really know what next year will bring on the work front.

This change in my work, although probably one of the biggest steps I’ve taken in my life, and potentially very stressful, has given me a much better work / life balance than I had before and maybe have ever had. I don’t know how it’s going to work out in the longer term, but I feel like I’m generally moving in the right direction.

Allotment

This year has been one of my best years on the allotment. We’ve pretty much been self-sufficient for vegetables from late spring, all through the summer and into autumn, only have to buy things like mushrooms and peppers, which I didn’t grow. Next year, I’m planning on growing peppers, so that should change as well. I’ve also enjoyed my plot more than I ever have. I know that sounds a little odd, but I’ve really gotten engaged in what I’ve been doing and been keeping much better records than ever before in a pocket notebook, so that I can look back and see how things have been. As the winter has approached I’ve kept a few things going and we’ve had a supply of winter vegetables as well. I’m now looking forward to next year, with even bigger plans.

Books

Last year was a poor year for me, finding time to read, and at the start of this year, I set my sights relatively low, not anticipating reading many books. In the end I’ve ended up reading nearly 50 books (I might actually achieve 50 before the year is out), which has quite surprised me. You can see what I’ve been reading on GoodReads, here.

My book of the year has to be Common Ground by Rob Cowen it’s an incredible book, which I’ve now read twice, and still dip into again and again. It’s made me reconnect much more with urban wildlife, as Rob tells the story of his “edgelands” and the wildlife near Bilton in Harrogate. It’s full of vivid descriptions, and stories putting the reader in the place of the wildlife as well as being a really personal account. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future.

My other highlights are also all natural history books, including H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald, The Peregrine by J A Baker, Claxton by Mark Cocker,  and Notes From Walnut Tree Farm & Wildwood by the late Roger Deakin. I could name more, and probably I’ve enjoyed nearly everything I’ve read this year. I just hope that 2016 brings more of the same. We’ll see.

Films & TV

I can’t say that I there was anything really memorable to write about here. I enjoyed the final Hobbit movie, but otherwise I don’t really remember what else I’ve watched this year. On the TV side there have been a few things, but the one that I really want to mention is Bosch which has been available on Amazon Video. This has bought Michael Connelly’s character from over 20 books to the small screen – Harry Bosch. It’s been a great series and I’m pleased that there is going to be a second season, probably early next year.

2016?

As for next year, I don’t know what I want from the year yet. I need to sit and do some planning, both professionally and personally. Set myself some targets and goals. I might come back and share this in due course.