Posted by: billpurdue | July 3, 2008

14. China, milk and doggy facts


Perhaps it’s because both my parents were born during the first decade of the 20th century and I was born after the end of the second world war, that I am interested in the history of the early 20th century. I grew up in a part of Notts. not far from the Derbyshire border, so I’m quite interested in the recent history of that part of the world.


What I’m getting around to saying is that not only am I interested in the local history of the area, but that I’m rather partial to a bit of nostalgia (well, when you get to my age…). I also like reading local history books, so I was very keen to see a recent publication by Derbyshire County Council called Milk, Muck and Memories (1), a collection of reminiscences gathered from people who worked (and some who still work) in agriculture in an area between Chesterfield and Matlock, particularly in the Ashover area.


Over 30 people were interviewed to find out what farming life was like a generation ago, covering everything from children on the farm to ploughing and dairy farming. Over 50 pages are devoted to the farming year and especially interesting are the recollections of harvest time. Perhaps the highlight of the book is a description of haymaking by moonlight – what a different world it was then.


With a liberal scattering of photographs and some drawings and paintings by Ted Hellaby, this is a fascinating record of life on the farm in days gone by.



I’m rather disappointed that I didn’t get chance to see all the editions of the recent BBC series “Wild China”. It was a nature series with a big difference: it looked at the bigger picture to include not just the flora and fauna and the habitats, but the different peoples that populate that vast country and how they interact with nature. The part played by historical events dating back to ancient times also features heavily.


As is the custom with a  major series on the BBC, a book is published to accompany the series. Unusually, this one is just a paperback (2), but it lives up to expectations in all other respects; very well illustrated with, dare I say stunning photography (I know that word is very overused) and a captivating text to go with it. I have only dipped into it, but found myself reading far more than I had intended: the Mongolian festival of Nadam where children as young as five compete in the horse racing; the story of the Wild Yak Brigade which was set up in 1992 to try and protect the Tibetan antelope or chiru from poachers and the coastal village of Chuwang where kelp aquaculture has helped the flocks of whooper swans to survive.


The book comes complete with a gazetteer of the most interesting sites to visit and the best times to go. So if you would like to drink yak-butter tea with nomads, visit a festival of ice sculptures in Northern China or watch fishermen fishing with cormorants, this book tells you how.


and now for dog lovers….

Did you know that ….the first organised dog show was held in England in 1859 ? – or that  foods which should not be given to dogs include grapes, raisins and walnuts? – or that a survey by the American Animal Hospital Association found that 37% of pet owners left messages for their pets on answering machines while they were out? Well if this sort of doggie trivia is right up your street, then Everything Dogs Expect You to Know (3) could be just what you need.  Without going into detail, this book covers just about anything on any aspect of the canine world. In amongst all the trivia, there is some useful information for dog owners, but you’ll need to refer to the (quite good) index to find it, as there seems to be no logical order for all this knowledge – and if you want photos too, forget it. I suppose this type of book comes under the “gift book” category, but it’s a pretty plain looking sort of gift.



I’m really enjoying Arthur and George by Julian Barnes – more about that next time







1 Milk, Muck and Memories: farming Lives collected by Margaret Wombwell. Derbyshire County Council  £7.99  9780903463843


2 Wild China: natural wonders of the World’s most enigmatic land by Phil Chapman and the BBC Wild China team.  BBC £20. 9781846072338


3 Everything Dogs Expect you to Know by Karen Bush. New Holland £9.99 9781845379544

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