Dara McAnulty is being hailed by the likes of Robert Macfarlane and Chris Packham as a bright new voice. He talks about life with autism and finding peace in the wilds of Northern Ireland
It is a challenging time to be 16 and, like his peers, Dara McAnulty must currently endure a form of house arrest that means no seeing friends, no GCSEs. Unlike other locked-down teens, McAnulty is also dealing with the harsh mischance of having his first book, Diary of a Young Naturalist, published during the coronavirus crisis. He was supposed to be touring festivals but every date is cancelled. “I feel like my being is suffering from a slow puncture,” McAnulty tweeted in March. “I honestly feel like my world is falling apart right now.”
When we meet via a video call a month later, his mood has lifted. Lockdown is tough. His mum, Róisín – who McAnulty likes to have by his side, discreetly, during interviews – contracted coronavirus quite severely; meanwhile, he feels “trapped” and is “bouncing around the house like a ping pong ball”. Mercifully, over the road from their modern housing estate is a wood where he takes his daily exercise. “If I didn’t have it, I would be utterly insane,” he says. “The ground there is alive with peacock butterflies”, and that morning, he saw a red squirrel “so that makes the day”, he grins.
Twitter opened my entire world to like-minded people – you’ll always find someone to talk to about mycelial networks
We see a problem and we need to fix it. So when politicians seem to be making excuses we get angrier and angrier