Despite the title, this is not a book for those who love full colour illustrations or glossy photographs. It’s 275 pages of plain black text, packaged in a modest soft cover format. More for the bedside than for the coffee table, with some 60 diverse and entertaining short stories to dip into when you’re in the mood to relax and put your feet up.
In many ways Water Colour is a sequel to Greg French’s much loved 2002 book Frog Call, filled with heart-warming stories about family and friends, bonded by an egalitarian lifestyle and a devotion to the natural world. Sixteen years on, the writer has matured (though Peter Pan comes to mind), the world has changed, friends have been lost and new ones found but his passion for wild times, wild places, wild people and wild fish burns stronger than ever.
An older Greg French loves old dogs, young children, family, friends, world travel, printed maps, prehistoric cave art, literature, song lyrics, bush huts and anything handcrafted from natural timber or stone. He dislikes driving, shopping, shampoo, fancy gadgets, nonsensical rules and regulations, bureaucracy in general, climate change, Trump, clear felling, wood chipping, hire cars, dodgy aircraft, modern technology, anything shiny or mechanical, owning stuff and/or anything at all to do with money…
So nothing much has changed in sixteen years!
As always, Greg French paints the book’s pages with his vibrant story telling, from the happiest bright colours to the saddest grey tones. I have to say I was deeply moved at times, and that really did surprise me as I was already well familiar with the content in one way or another. The sad notes are truly sad, but maybe I’m just a sook.
Although everything in the book is more or less fishing related, there is very little hard core fishing content. Certainly nothing technical. In many stories there is no real mention of the tally or the fishing cicumstances, but some level of success is invariably implied or assumed. This is refreshing to me in so many ways (I read a lot of blow by blow fishing stories!) and makes the book equally appealing to those poor folk not afflicted by the fishing bug.
As Greg always tells me, his adventures and travels are so much more about the people and the places than merely about the fishing. How true that is. The fly rod is just a pretext for him to hunt and to gather and to walk on the wild side with only the barest necessities in life. If neolithic cave art (read about his Font-de-Gaume visit in the book) really does reflect an innate human ‘desire to create, to celebrate what is beautiful’ then those genes have been well invested in his gift as a writer and storyteller.
If many of Greg French’s earlier works were more about finding, documenting and doing, Water Colour is more about appreciating, reflecting and understanding.
Although accounts of some of his recent travels have appeared as features or Postcards in FlyLife, the book vignettes offer a much deeper, interpersonal and cultural perspective. More of the journey and less of the outcome in clinical fishing terms. Greenland is a great example.
As you’ll learn from the book, here is a man who is proud to dress like a vagabond, drives his beaten up sedan beyond sensible limits, wears elastic sided boots for walking and wading (same pair). He is benevolent, sincere in his beliefs, good with his hands, true to his word and, with the exception of travel, has no care for the material things money can buy. If this sounds like a character you would like to get to know, then Water Colour is a book you will thoroughly enjoy.
Available in the FlyLife shop here.