In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies

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In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies

Non-Fiction - Science & Technology - ISBN: 0224027166

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Review of "In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies"

published 30/11/2016 | 2mennycds
Member since : 28/08/2015
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Best wishes to all, and thanks for your kind rates and comments, have been half-expecting the latest announcement for at least the last year. Have thoroughly enjoyed being a member over the last couple of years or so.
Super
Pro Fascinating accounts of personal encounters with wildlife in Spain
Cons At least one map should have been included!
exceptional
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"A secret well shared"

In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies

In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies

Mike Tomkies gave up a successful career in journalism – including being on first-name terms with a number of Hollywood stars – for a very back-to-basics life, initially in Canada and then in the Scottish Highlands.

This is an unusual book in that it deals not with encounters with British wildlife, but with wildlife in Spain, much of it rare.

The book

The book contains 22 chapters and 32 pages of his own colour photographs. My edition is hardback (it has been out of print for a number of years but is worth tracking down).

With the exception of one title, which I read many years ago, Mike Tomkies generally wrote in a no-frills and down-to-earth style. He writes about his treks and observations; his love and wonder of the creatures and scenery that he witnessed are also very evident in his writings.


A different setting

As mentioned already, most of his books deal with his encounters with wildlife in the Scottish Highlands. Although his adventures are extraordinary, most of those he describes in this book are far less familiar. I enjoyed this book when I borrowed it from my local library many years ago and was delighted to find this copy second hand. It’s like sharing a change of scenery with a friend whom you have already become a little acquainted with.


Here we meet several species of eagle other than the golden eagle that is found in Scotland, vultures, wolves, bears, and the elusive Iberian or Spanish lynx. We also meet wild mountain sheep and goats (mouflon and Barbary sheep, ibex), and wild boar. And, whilst Tomkies observed a number of familiar bird species, he watched and photographed others not found in Britain, such as the golden oriole, hoopoe, bee eaters, and black kites.


I really enjoyed his descriptions of the various animals, birds (and insects) and his reactions to them. His observations of different approaches to conservation and the management of nature reserves was also very interesting.


I also related to his self deprecation for failing to have his camera (or adequate film!) with him at times. Neither my camera nor my own skills are capable of capturing much wildlife, but I can’t even guess how often I have berated myself for leaving my camera at home. Many’s the time I’ve missed a beautifully lit scene or some other fascinating shot in a familiar scene that I haven’t been able to capture before or since!


The highs

I love some of the detail that Tomkies includes. In chapter 10 he describes how a wild boar gradually came into sight, evoking his own sense of awe and wonder at the size and appearance of the beast.

I like some of the amateur naturalist descriptions in which he indulges at times, too. He is no detached scientist making observations, nor is he afraid to use very non-scientific descriptions at times. To me this not only evokes his own delight, I also find it infectious! In chapter 13 he describes the Egyptian vulture as having “a true carnival face, as if worn for a masked ball... From a distance it looks like a wedge of cheddar cheese...”

In a similar vein, a black vulture chick “Unlike an eagle chick... behaved with oddly endearing dignity” towards its mother. “The vultures’ world seemed one of infinite patience, of stoic acceptance that time passes with nothing much achieved, or achievable.”


Wasps and spiders may not be to everyone’s liking, but it’s hard not to admire Tomkies’ patient observation of a wasp trying to manoeuvre a captured spider, and his conclusion: “I had seldom seen so much individual intelligence in the insect world”.


The lows

Under this heading I’m not referring to any disappointments with the book, but to the author’s own setbacks and disappointments.

One thing I like about Tomkies’ writings is the reality that he conveys. His books never gloss over frustrations, anger, discouragements and even dangers.

It’s obvious that a man in his 50s will struggle on mountainous terrain while lugging 48lb of film equipment; Tomkies, though, describes the griping pains in his chest and how “one slip on sliding shale and one could be away to a gouging painful death.”

He is honest about his ailing German Shepherd dog back home and his emotional struggles to complete the book after the death of this faithful tracking companion and personal confidant. He describes hours of fruitless waiting in cramped postures. He recounts his own personal sorrows at times.

Indeed one whole chapter (“No Peace Anywhere”) is about his setbacks and frustrations.


All this adds a more rounded dimension to his writings than if they were solely a collection of observations. I feel I have come to know the man a little, especially after reading several of his books. They aren’t autobiographies, but they, do give insights into the man himself.


The personal reactions and insights

I like Tomkies’ descriptions of some of his own reactions. In addition to his affectionate and passionate recounting of the animals and birds he observed, he relates some of his own feelings more directly. Of one creature he honestly recalls

“Would it attack or run away?... My heart was thumping, but this was too good a chance to miss... Though I was scared, the short axe I carried in my right hand gave me a little Dutch courage...”

There are other instances of Tomkies’ heart being on his sleeve: “I had seldom been paid a nicer compliment”.

Although a loner by nature, Tomkies also writes movingly about the mutual respect felt by himself and Spanish naturalists and by a farmer who invited him to photograph vultures on his land whenever he wished (“No Scottish shepherd had ever said anything like that to me.”)


Concluding comments

I rate this 4 stars.


I LIKE...

~~~ the enthusiastic and empathetic style of Tomkies’ writing

~~~ the detailed nature of his observations

~~~ his personal honesty and realism. It’s one thing to admire and appreciate Tomkies’ accounts, but there is no doubting the commitment and cost involved.

~~~ the wealth of photographs (all his own) and his aversion to using photographs of captive animals as an easier option to images of them “in the wild”

I’M LESS KEEN ON...

~~~ I am a little surprised that neither the author nor the editor thought to include a map or two to show the areas that feature in the book. I accept that I could have consulted an atlas, but I was a little lazy about doing so, and I think the book is slightly the poorer for the omission

~~~ having read six or seven of Tomkies’ books over the years I am a little disappointed that there are fewer insights in this book into the man himself. Some of his other books contain some striking quotations of his reflections on this or that experience and the impressions that they made upon his own personal attitudes. Don’t get me wrong, there are instances of this through the book, but to me they are less profound and moving than examples in some of his other writings


Having said all that, I still feel that this is a fascinating book about less familiar animals and about one man’s attempts to observe and photograph or film them.


This book is sadly out of print. Amazon Marketplace has used copies available from £4.99.


_____________

Also recommended by the same author:

“Moobli” (about his German Shepherd dog); “Wildcat Haven”; “A Last Wild Place” – all of which I have reviewed.

“Out Of The Wild” – about his various rescues, nursing, and attempts to rehabilitate various wild creatures; “Between Earth And Paradise” – about his first Scottish wilderness home, and which has some very evocative and moving paragraphs.

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Comments on this review

  • jb0077 published 22/12/2016
    great stuff
  • IzzyS published 08/12/2016
    Thorough review.
  • Chippytarka published 08/12/2016
    Fab review!
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Product Information : In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies

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Non-Fiction - Science & Technology - ISBN: 0224027166

Product Details

Title: In Spain's Secret Wilderness

Author: Mike Tomkies

EAN: 9780224027168

ISBN: 0224027166

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Type: Non-Fiction

Genre: Science & Technology

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In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies - Review - A secret well shared
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About me: Best wishes to all, and thanks for your kind rates and comments, have been half-expecting the latest announcement for at least the last year. Have thoroughly enjoyed being a member over the last couple of years or so.

Member since:28.08.2015

Reviews:286

Members who trust:72

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A secret well shared

Quote-end
30.11.2016

Advantages:
Fascinating accounts of personal encounters with wildlife in Spain

Disadvantages:
At least one map should have been included !

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34 Ciao members have rated this review on average: exceptional See ratings
exceptional by (85%):
  1. jb0077
  2. IzzyS
  3. Chippytarka
and 26 other members
very helpful by (15%):
  1. LiveMusicLoverLyn
  2. thedevilinme
  3. jo-1976
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Mike Tomkies gave up a successful career in journalism including being on first-name terms with a number of Hollywood stars for a very back-to-basics life, initially in Canada and then in the Scottish Highlands.

This is an unusual book in that it deals not with encounters with British wildlife, but with wildlife in Spain, much of it rare.

The book

The book contains 22 chapters and 32 pages of his own colour photographs. My edition is hardback (it has been out of print for a number of years but is worth tracking down).

With the exception of one title, which I read many years ago, Mike Tomkies generally wrote in a no-frills and down-to-earth style. He writes about his treks and observations; his love and wonder of the creatures and scenery that he witnessed are also very evident in his writings.


A different setting

As mentioned already, most of his books deal with his encounters with wildlife in the Scottish Highlands. Although his adventures are extraordinary, most of those he describes in this book are far less familiar. I enjoyed this book when I borrowed it from my local library many years ago and was delighted to find this copy second hand. Its like sharing a change of scenery with a friend whom you have already become a little acquainted with.


Here we meet several species of eagle other than the golden eagle that is found in Scotland, vultures, wolves, bears, and the elusive Iberian or Spanish lynx. We also meet wild mountain sheep and goats (mouflon and Barbary sheep, ibex), and wild boar. And, whilst Tomkies observed a number of familiar bird species, he watched and photographed others not found in Britain, such as the golden oriole, hoopoe, bee eaters, and black kites.


I really enjoyed his descriptions of the various animals, birds (and insects) and his reactions to them. His observations of different approaches to conservation and the management of nature reserves was also very interesting.


I also related to his self deprecation for failing to have his camera (or adequate film!) with him at times. Neither my camera nor my own skills are capable of capturing much wildlife, but I cant even guess how often I have berated myself for leaving my camera at home. Manys the time Ive missed a beautifully lit scene or some other fascinating shot in a familiar scene that I havent been able to capture before or since!


The highs

I love some of the detail that Tomkies includes. In chapter 10 he describes how a wild boar gradually came into sight, evoking his own sense of awe and wonder at the size and appearance of the beast.

I like some of the amateur naturalist descriptions in which he indulges at times, too. He is no detached scientist making observations, nor is he afraid to use very non-scientific descriptions at times. To me this not only evokes his own delight, I also find it infectious! In chapter 13 he describes the Egyptian vulture as having a true carnival face, as if worn for a masked ball... From a distance it looks like a wedge of cheddar cheese...

In a similar vein, a black vulture chick Unlike an eagle chick... behaved with oddly endearing dignity towards its mother. The vultures world seemed one of infinite patience, of stoic acceptance that time passes with nothing much achieved, or achievable.


Wasps and spiders may not be to everyones liking, but its hard not to admire Tomkies patient observation of a wasp trying to manoeuvre a captured spider, and his conclusion: I had seldom seen so much individual intelligence in the insect world.


The lows

Under this heading Im not referring to any disappointments with the book, but to the authors own setbacks and disappointments.

One thing I like about Tomkies writings is the reality that he conveys. His books never gloss over frustrations, anger, discouragements and even dangers.

Its obvious that a man in his 50s will struggle on mountainous terrain while lugging 48lb of film equipment; Tomkies, though, describes the griping pains in his chest and how one slip on sliding shale and one could be away to a gouging painful death.

He is honest about his ailing German Shepherd dog back home and his emotional struggles to complete the book after the death of this faithful tracking companion and personal confidant. He describes hours of fruitless waiting in cramped postures. He recounts his own personal sorrows at times.

Indeed one whole chapter (No Peace Anywhere) is about his setbacks and frustrations.


All this adds a more rounded dimension to his writings than if they were solely a collection of observations. I feel I have come to know the man a little, especially after reading several of his books. They arent autobiographies, but they, do give insights into the man himself.


The personal reactions and insights

I like Tomkies descriptions of some of his own reactions. In addition to his affectionate and passionate recounting of the animals and birds he observed, he relates some of his own feelings more directly. Of one creature he honestly recalls

Would it attack or run away?... My heart was thumping, but this was too good a chance to miss... Though I was scared, the short axe I carried in my right hand gave me a little Dutch courage...

There are other instances of Tomkies heart being on his sleeve: I had seldom been paid a nicer compliment.

Although a loner by nature, Tomkies also writes movingly about the mutual respect felt by himself and Spanish naturalists and by a farmer who invited him to photograph vultures on his land whenever he wished (No Scottish shepherd had ever said anything like that to me.)


Concluding comments

I rate this 4 stars.


I LIKE...

~~~ the enthusiastic and empathetic style of Tomkies writing

~~~ the detailed nature of his observations

~~~ his personal honesty and realism. Its one thing to admire and appreciate Tomkies accounts, but there is no doubting the commitment and cost involved.

~~~ the wealth of photographs (all his own) and his aversion to using photographs of captive animals as an easier option to images of them in the wild

IM LESS KEEN ON...

~~~ I am a little surprised that neither the author nor the editor thought to include a map or two to show the areas that feature in the book. I accept that I could have consulted an atlas, but I was a little lazy about doing so, and I think the book is slightly the poorer for the omission

~~~ having read six or seven of Tomkies books over the years I am a little disappointed that there are fewer insights in this book into the man himself. Some of his other books contain some striking quotations of his reflections on this or that experience and the impressions that they made upon his own personal attitudes. Dont get me wrong, there are instances of this through the book, but to me they are less profound and moving than examples in some of his other writings


Having said all that, I still feel that this is a fascinating book about less familiar animals and about one mans attempts to observe and photograph or film them.


This book is sadly out of print. Amazon Marketplace has used copies available from 4.99.


_____________

Also recommended by the same author:

Moobli (about his German Shepherd dog); Wildcat Haven; A Last Wild Place all of which I have reviewed.

Out Of The Wild about his various rescues, nursing, and attempts to rehabilitate various wild creatures; Between Earth And Paradise about his first Scottish wilderness home, and which has some very evocative and moving paragraphs.
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Comments about this review »

jb0077 22.12.2016 20:35

great stuff

IzzyS 08.12.2016 10:28

Thorough review.

Chippytarka 08.12.2016 05:56

Fab review!

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Product Information

Product details

Title In Spain's Secret Wilderness
Author Mike Tomkies
EAN 9780224027168
ISBN 0224027166
Publisher Jonathan Cape
Type Non-Fiction
Genre Science & Technology

Show all Product Information

Review Ratings

This review of In Spain's Secret Wilderness - Mike Tomkies has been rated:

"exceptional" by (85%):

  1. jb0077
  2. IzzyS
  3. Chippytarka

and 26 other members

"very helpful" by (15%):

  1. LiveMusicLoverLyn
  2. thedevilinme
  3. jo-1976

and 2 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.



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