The Bird Cottage| Het vogelhuis
Len Howard (1894-1973) spent the second half of her life in a small, remote house in the English countryside. She wrote two international bestsellers about robins, tits, sparrows, and other birds living in and around her house. For those who walk past it, only the sign ‘Bird Cottage’ functions as a reminder of the fascinating story of her life.
The windows of the ‘birdhouse’ were always open, the great tits and sparrows were free to come and go as they pleased, landing on the typewriter of Len Howard as soon as she sat down to write about her experiences with the animals. Although not originally a biologist, she was a pioneer in the field of animal research. She studied birds on the basis of their trust and observed their character, peculiarities and habits. In the meantime, their mutual appreciation and friendship grew.
Howard knew as a girl that she would not stay in her town of birth in Sussex. The soirées and romantic intrigues of the countryside high society disappointed her over and over again. With help from conductor Sir Malcolm Sargent she started her career as violinist, which she gave up on in order to move to Ditchling in Southern England. There she slowly gained the trust of the many birds surrounding her cottage. Great tits slept in birdhouses above the edge of the door and picked food out of her hands. Her musical hearing permitted her to differentiate between the many nuances in their languages – at least when she was able to keep the mailman and visitors at bay.
What drove Howard to change her life, to choose for a life outside the well-trodden paths? What do the life stories of robins tell us about our human world? And is it possible to free oneself from the expectations of others? Eva Meijer encountered the research of Howard, which undeservedly has been forgotten, during her work as a philosopher. The Bird Cottage is a book about music, the songs of birds and great tit conventions. It is also a book about resistance, in a soft manner, bringing about change and about deciding on what is important.
Praise for The Bird Cottage:
'Eva Meijer writes an eye-opening story about a woman who loves birds. This ‘bird-friend’ is portrayed naturally, without eccentricity or activism.' – De Volkskrant****
'It is the achievement of Eva Meijer that you will identify with Len Howard completely and that you will call her passion your own. She is no outsider, the humans without birds are.' - Tzum