Stargazing by Peter Hill was not at all the book I was expecting. With its meditative cover and poetic title, I had anticipated a nature memoir in the vein of Robert Macfarlane or Helen McDonald, something thoughtful and lyrical. 

(I must also confess that another reason I grabbed this from Brotherhood Books was because in another life, I knew someone else with this name, who coincidentally took me up onto a rooftop blindfolded so I could gaze at Halley's Comet with dark-adjusted eyes.)

But -- this was not the same Peter Hill, and Stargazing was no reflective hymn to nature's wonders. Instead I found myself reading a jaunty account of Hill's 1970s stint working on Scottish lighthouses as a nineteen year old, the eccentric characters with whom he shared his duties, and a way of life now lost to automation. He casts a wry retrospective eye over his teenage self (addicted to poetry and drawing, obsessed with music) and popular culture of the time (Dr Who even makes an appearance, along with Captain Beefheart and Jack Kerouac). 

Okay, I must admit there is also a pinch of Nature's Wonders -- the wild seas, the creepy night when one of the lighthouses was swamped with migrating birds. But most of Hill's nostalgia is centred on his fellow lighthouse keepers, some young, some old, and the stories they had to share. At the change of shifts, one keeper had a duty to make sure the next one was fully awake, and so they'd sit and drink tea and eat cheese and biscuits, and talk about their lives. As he says, it was the only profession* that paid you to tell stories -- a sad loss indeed.

*Except, you know, author, I guess.

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