Posted by: billpurdue | November 15, 2008

31 Country matters

If you haven’t been to Ireland, then I really do recommend it, if you’re not averse to crossing the Irish Sea by boat or by air. Failing that, read a book by an Irish author such as Alice Taylor. I’ve just finished The Parish [Brandon £15.99 9780863223747] which is the most recent (2008) of her books of reminiscences and autobiographical writings. She begins the book by painting a picture of what life used to be like in her village in days gone by and contrasting that with life today when supermarkets have replaced corner shops, many new houses have been built, heavy traffic roars through the village and the sense of community is gradually being eroded. She then goes on to describe the various efforts she and a group of locals have made to raise funds to restore their church which needed about a million pounds (or was it euros?) spending on it. It seems the sense of community is by no means dead in her village ( probably much better than in most large towns and cities nowadays on both sides of the Irish Sea) since over a period of time the funds were raised and restoration was completed. Their efforts to raise funds took many forms – organising concerts, an art and craft fair on a grand scale and even travelling to various parts of the country selling raffle tickets for a car. Interspersed with the fund raising efforts are other episodes such as taking the six year old son of a neighbour to do his Christmas shopping. Towards the end of the book Alice Taylor’s husband Gabriel passes away and there is an outpouring of grief, mainly in the form of several poems. Then, near the end of the book we read how she is beginning to come to terms with her husband’s death and facing new challenges like trying to keep her garden tidy whilst having two boisterous Dobermans running and racing about. I’m tempted to say that this is a – for the most part – “feel good” type of book, but perhaps the most appropriate word is satisfying – a really good read.

If you like that book, then the chances are you’ll be interested in The Guardian Book of the Countryside [Guardian Books £14.99 9780852651094], a compilation of articles from the Guardian about all matters connected with the countryside starting from the early days of the Manchester Guardian in the 19th century and finishing with an amusing article written by Simon Hoggart about the decision last July not to permit the culling of badgers. So it’s not just a collection of articles about the changing seasons, but everything from terriers killing 80 rats in an hour to revolutions in food producing methods (factory farming for example) or the restoration of the canalside cottages of Golden Valley near Ripley.

And if you still want more of the countryside, get your wellies on and get out to a publicly accessible wildlife space near you. One book which will give you a few suggestions about where to go for a day out with nature is Nature’s Calendar introduced by Chris Packham which accompanied the BBC TV series. For each month of the year there are 10 locations briefly described, listing their particular strengths. However, you have got to be prepared to travel as the nearest site to the Chad area is Calke Abbey. I would have thought that Clumber Park or possibly Sherwood Forest Country park might have made it in there somewhere. Also if you want to know more than the bare essentials about any of the sites, you’ll need to do more “digging” as it were. Still it’s a nice book to browse through and might make a good Christmas present for anyone who enjoyed the series on TV.

Edition 33 in a couple of weeks will include my suggestions for Christmas books, but if anyone has any titles in mind which they would like to recommend as presents, please post a comment. Next time – a bit of action and adventure.

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