Posted by: billpurdue | June 12, 2008

11 Allotments , another inter war story and some humour.

It’s reading in the garden time again and this has enabled me to finish- at last – the enormous tome I have mentioned before: Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell(1) , all 782 pages of it (the paperback edition has over a thousand pages) In spite of its length and weight, I found that the more I read the harder it was to put down. I thoroughly recommend it, if you like the fantastic and the historical. It has been compared to Harry Potter, though I don’t see much of a similarity.


On the Allotment

What with the rising price of food and the desire for more self sufficiency, allotments are in big demand these days. I took one on in February, so I’m interested to know how others coped with the trials and tribulations of a big area covered with weeds: I might be able to pick up a few tips. So I bought a copy of Allotted Time : Two blokes, one shed, no idea (2) by Robin Shelton. It’s an easy read, a humorous, entertaining and occasionally touching account of how two neighbours got together to rent an allotment – and how one of them seemed to do most of the work.  It makes me realise that I’m not the only one who is making mistakes and it gives a few hints on how to do it better next time. On the same theme and with another catchy title : One Man and His Dig (3) sounds like a very similar sort of book, but I haven’t seen it myself. I suggested in the last blog that there might be a kind of new genre of books about people’s allotment experiences: there are quite a few available. I’ve already mentioned two titles, here are two more: Digger’s Diary (4) by Victor Osborne tells, amongst other things, of the author’s determination to have an organically managed allotment and the tensions between him and those who like using pesticides. The Allotment Chronicles  (5) tells the fascinating history of allotments which goes back to the early 1700s. The list goes on….


In a recent blog I wrote of my interest for the period between the two world wars. Roy Hattersley’s book, which I’m still reading, is one way of looking at it; Gone with the Windsors (6) is a completely different one. For a start it’s fiction and concentrates on life almost at the very pinnacle of society, in particular the circle of friends surrounding the Prince of Wales in the 1930s. Maybell Brumby from the USA, recently widowed, decides to pop across the pond to live with her sister Violet in London and infiltrate the upper echelons of society with her old friend Wallis Simpson. If you already know the story of Edward and Mrs Simpson, then you can guess how the story unfolds, but the way it is told is probably quite different from any other account .To quote the blurb on the back cover, it’s a “confection of candyfloss, acid drops and the occasional hard centre”. It’s written in diary format, which made me hesitate at first, but now I’m really into the tale. There are occasional comments which made me laugh, such as this one: “Tomorrow with Wally to the rolling hills of Cotswoldshire and all those darling cottages with hairy roofs” . A suitable book for a reading group perhaps?


Now for some more humour, but the more homely kind. Les Dawson was one of my favourite comedians. I rarely missed his appearances on “Sez Les” and his Saturday night variety shows, though I wasn’t a great fan of “Blankety Blank” I particularly liked his skills as a pianist – you have to be good to play badly on purpose – and his Cissie and Ada sketches with Roy Barraclough. If you share my enthusiasm, you’ll enjoy Les Dawson’s Secret Notebooks (7), selected and introduced by Tracy Dawson, a compilation of jokes, sketches and monologues, some of them reproduced exactly as Les typed them out on his old typewriter or written on sheets of writing paper. There are Cissie and Ada sketches, one liner jokes, monologues and of course lots of mother-in-law (or wife) jokes. “The only success the mother-in-law ever had was with the council, selling her mince pie lids as manhole covers” And there’s more  – much more – where that came from.


Next time another visit to a local reading group.


1  Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by  Susanna Clarke    Bloomsbury £8.99 9780747579885

2  Allotted Time  by Robin Shelton. Pan £7.99  9780330441254

3 One Man and His Dig  by Valentine Low  £7.99 9781847391285

4 Digger’s Diary by Victor Osborne  Aurum Press  £7.99  9781845132514

5  The Allotment Chronicles: A Social History of Allotment Gardening by Steve Poole. Silver Link   9781857942682  £9.99

6 Gone with the Windsors by Laurie Graham.  Harper Perennial £6.99. 9780007146765

7 Les Dawson’s Secret Notebooks selected and introduced by Tracy Dawson. JR Books £15.99  9781906217198

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