Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Libraries of Thought and Imagination

An anthology of books and bookshelves. Edited by Alec Finlay, who says this in his Introduction:It is the use we make of them, not only in reading but in the reassuring and inpsiring presence that they have, that books discover their full meaning.'
The topics covered in the short pieces which make up the content of this book are so eclectic that it would be impossible to make anything approaching a summary. They are a celebration and an exploration of everything books can mean and be, both as physical objects and as sources of information and inspiration.
It is a book to live with, to dip into, to ponder, to return to time and again, always finding something which strikes you anew. What's more, each article, poem or chapter ends with a Bibliography, thus pointing the reader to yet more possibilities. If you just followed up on a small percentage of the references, you'd be kept in reading matter for years.

Like all the books in the Pocketbook series, the book itself is compact, stylish and beautifully produced with a sturdy card cover - and illustrated throughout with atmospheric photographs.

Published by Pocketbooks, Morning Star Publications, Polygon. 2001Available from

Monday, 27 August 2007

Der Abschied from Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler

A poem for Billo, who has gone away

The Farewell

Farewell in the Mountain
Bid each other farewell in the mountain
Closing wooden gate at dusk
Spring grass green again next year
Will the honoured friend return?
Wang Wei

Friday, 24 August 2007

Bren's progress

Bren's registered kennel name, Skelrah Eid, was chosen by the breeders; apparently they spent a holiday in Norway last year and decided to call all the puppies in the litter after Norwegian waterfalls! Six day in, and Bren is doing fine. He's a remarkably calm and phlegmatic little beast, although he enjoys a romp with Sam and is very sociable with people and dogs he meets when out and about. I keep trying to get a good picture of him, but he's so densely black that it's hard to see his features - unlike Sam, who is delightfully photogenic! So much so, that as soon as I produce the camera he goes into 'posing' mode, waiting patiently until he hears a click.
In the second photo, Bren has nabbed the chew and Sam is waiting until he gets bored and drops it - Sam, of course, has his own chew, but the point of the game is to compete for possession of the SAME chew. Whereas Bren's tactic is to jump up and try to snatch it from Sam, Sam prefers the waiting game.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Introducing Skelrah Eid (Aka Bren (Brendon)

The newest addition to the family, Bren, is ten weeks old. He's distantly related to Sam and was bred at a farm in the south of Cumbria. Although he only arrived yesterday, he's settled in amazingly well and is already Sam's new best friend. Puppies leaving their mums and siblings for the first time usually tend to protest loudly on their first night away; Bren took it all in his stride and not a sound was heard all night - actually, he was probably too exhausted by the day's excitement to protest. He has made his first appearance on the Sea Brows, to general admiration.

Friday, 17 August 2007

The Age of Illusion

The Age of Illusion. England in the Twenties and Thirties, by Ronald Blythe (1963). Another recent find in a second-hand book-shop, from the author most famously known as the writer of Akenfield, Portrait of an English Village (1969), a portrait of agricultural life in Suffolk from the turn of the century to the 1960s.

Did you know (I didn’t) the whole story of how the Unknown Soldier came to be laid to rest in Westminster Abbey? Or the amorous adventures of the Vicar of Stiffkey? (I’d heard of him, vaguely, but didn’t know the story – fascinating stuff worthy of space in any red-top….) Or exactly how the Jarrow march came into existence and what happened to it? (My father had told me about seeing the marchers arrive in London – he was, apparently, one of a not particularly welcoming, or large, crowd of onlookers who watched as the marchers wearily trooped to the soup kitchen arranged for them in Garrick Street.) By selecting fifteen topics, people and events, and giving the personal stories AND the politics behind each one, Blythe conveys the atmosphere of the times he’s writing about and gives a more convincing feeling of what it was like to be there, of what really happened, than many a more academic and objective account. There are chapters on, among other things, T.E.Lawrence, Mrs. Wallis, Amy Johnson, The Brighton Trunk Murders.
I particularly enjoyed an absolutely riveting account of the great body-line bowling controversy which began in Adelaide on Saturday, 13th January, 1933, at the third Test between the MCCV and Australia. The controversy spread to ‘every anglicized acre of the world’, and was ‘compulsory conversation wherever the English met’, but Blythe ends this chapter by quietly reminding us that, during what he calls this ‘three weeks’ wonder’, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of the Reich and Captain Goring took control of the police in Berlin, and over more than half of Germany besides. As he says, the public obsession with the body-line bowling controversy could be compared to Drake’s game of bowls……..

Blythe’s style is jaunty, even racy, and carries the reader along at a great pace. Altogether, he’s entertaining as well as being informative. Call it ‘history lite’, if you will, but I enjoyed every word of it – I’m re-reading some of the chapters and savouring them all the more.
(The picture shows Ronald Blythe with Rex Pyke. In Peter Hall's 1974 film Akenfield, the director used the residents of East Anglian villages to act in stories of rural life. Thirty years after the release of this unusual film, a 2006 documentary saw the original producer/editor gather together crew, including Sir Peter Hall, author Ronald Blythe and members of the local 'cast' to see how life has changed for those featured and to recall the making of the production. )

Saturday, 4 August 2007