‘WITH a warm and helping wind, out of ancient and unknown urges, they attempt the epic flight of endurance to the Sahara.

‘Young ones may linger until October in certain parts, and I recall little ones in the nests of the wash pillboxes in September.

‘This migration is a living metaphor of man’s ignorance of the subtleties and complexities of nature.’

These words, by poet and philosopher Jim Emerton, refer to the passage of the swallow, as the small bird makes its way on its cross-continental journey from Britain to North Africa.

Our fascination with this annual ritual will never end, and despite countless studies through time, we will never really know how they, and other birds who make the gruelling trip, do it.

The feats of endurance undertaken by birds is a subject close to Jim’s heart. He was once one of the world’s top long-distance pigeon racers. Experiencing many successes in European races, he understands more than most how birds function.

Yet even he does not pretend to really know all the answers. ‘We are passengers on the planet, our transient and ephemeral existence bathed in ignorance,’ he writes in his latest book, ‘a singular swallow has the key to surely untold secrets.’

‘The Deep Thoughts of Jim Emerton’ is a collection of the former Bradford College student’s more philosophical writings - his attempts, as he says, to ‘verbalise the unknowable’

Jim, who studied trades unionism in Bradford, relays, in bite-sized chunks, his take on gargantuan subjects: ‘Man, humanity and the meaning of life’ is one chapter heading, ‘Personality and the mind’ another.

As perhaps is excepted from an active member of Mensa - he has been a member since 1987 and regularly contributes to their literature - some of this is a little high-brow for most of us. Take the following: ‘I accept the eastern influence of Taoism and Buddhism as tools of meditation. I see my mind as a microcosm led by the ego or pilot and like to access the deeper regions of its creative power...be careful what you tap into in conscious meditation, as it is a trip into the inner nature of the self, where you may encounter shadow and darkness before spiritual light.’

But beneath his intellectual ramblings, there is some sound sense and food for thought. He can also be funny, making light-hearted quips about life and characters.

I use the word ramblings, as the book does jump about a little, with comments on subjects ranging from fashion, the guitar, life in the fast lane and money following in quick succession, as though he has quickly scribbled down thoughts as they race into his mind. I have met Jim, and, in this respect, the book reflects the man.

Sections from the book are reproduced with permission from Mensa magazine. Indeed the paperback begins with an interview by the magazine’s editor Brian Page, describing how, when travelling in Nepal, Jim began to develop his deep thought processes. He was on top of a mountain and experienced ‘a complete loss of ego’ and ‘enhanced feeling of consciousness.’


Jim, who now lives in York, briefly explores ‘the fusion of genius and madness’, believing they are inextricably linked and combine to fuel creativity.

He pens a poem about one of his heroes, Van Gogh, that begins ‘each stroke of florid brilliance, an outpouring from the inferno. The need to purify, cleanse a troubled soul, And when the genius is projected, the retreat into the inner chamber of torment.’

A prolific author, Jim has written books on a range of subjects, ranging from his love of nature to an in-depth look at his passion - the sport of pigeon racing.

From his writing, few could fail to guess that, as well as being an intellectual, Jim is an eccentric, and happy to admit to that. He certainly thinks outside the box.

*The Deep Thoughts of Jim Emerton - a collection of writings on philosophy, the natural world and the human condition, is available from Amazon.