Sunday, November 18, 2018

The Ravenmaster is Pure Pleasure

My Life With the Ravens at the Tower of London
Christopher Skaife
Harper Collins
October 2, 2018

The first thing I have to say about The Ravenmaster is that it has been a very long time since I have enjoyed reading a book so much. Spending a few hours with The Ravenmaster, Christopher Skaife, and the ravens of the Tower; Munin, Merlina, Erin, Rocky, Jubilee II, Gripp II, and Harris, is pure pleasure. I learned so much that I never knew about ravens, their lore and behavior. Both the Ravens and the humans living their lives in the Tower are fascinating.

Christopher Skaife served his country for 24 years in the British Army all over the world before moving on to a new career as a Yeoman Warder at the Tower. He knew nothing about ravens, but the former Ravenmaster had a notion that the Ravens might just like Skaife. He began apprenticing for the job and eventually moved into it, finding not only a new career but his passion. Skaife has introduced many new innovations into the Raven's lives, including an improved night enclosure and a change in the trimming of their wings, resulting in greater freedom. This last has caused no end of trouble for him when trying to get them into the enclosure at night, but he considers it well worth it. The position of Ravenmaster is in addition to his regular duties, leading 3-4 tours a day, and his day begins at 5:30 in the morning and ends when all the Ravens are settled for the night. He has read widely and assembled an encyclopedic knowledge of ravens, the City of London, and the Tower. He clearly loves the Ravens and cares for them faithfully. As he says of himself, he is a "glass full to the brim" sort of person. He also has a gift for storytelling, a useful attribute for a Yeoman Warder and writer.

Reading The Ravenmaster brought back memories of my own visit to The Tower years ago. At the time, I was focused more on the Crown Jewels, like most tourists, I suspect. If I have an opportunity to return, I will pay more attention to the avian residents. I do recall a pleasant conversation with our guide who, like me, thinks that King Richard III got a raw deal from the historians. He very kindly pointed me toward some reading on the subject that I was unaware of.

RATING- 5 Stars

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