Posted by: billpurdue | March 26, 2009

48 Countryside Nostalgia….

kill-call…but first, before I go any further, a reminder that Stephen Booth’s latest novel The Kill Call [ HarperCollins £17.99 9780007243457 ] is due out on April 2nd. This brand new Cooper and Fry mystery centres around the world of hunting, hunt saboteurs and horses. As well as a “product description” on the Amazon web page there’s also a transcript of an interview with Stephen Booth about his new book.

Now to my main topic this week; I grew up at Kirkby Woodhouse and our home was situated at the top of a hill from where we had good views of Kirkby-in-Ashfield across the valley as well as further afield in the Derbyshire direction – as far as Crich Stand in fact. Although it was a coal mining area it was also a semi rural location and I’m sure this has something to do with my love of the countryside. On our bookshelves at home we had a whole row of back numbers of a quarterly magazine that started back in 1927 and is still going strong today: “The Countryman”. In those days every issue had a green cover and it wasn’t until 1959 that any kind of illustration appeared on the front. These days the cover is in glorious colour, and it keeps up with the times in many other ways too. Two years ago a collection of articles from editions spanning the whole history of the magazine since its beginning was put together by Valerie Porter.

words-countryman1Entitled Words from the Countryman [David and Charles £12.99 9780715327043] it’s a very varied collection from the brief humorous anecdote – often written in a local dialect – to short contributions from prime ministers of the day or commentaries on the various issues affecting farming at the time. The Countryman magazine doesn’t look at the world through rose tinted spectacles, but tells it like it is.

I don’t have any copies of those Countryman magazines belonging to my parents now, but I do have another book compiled by Valerie Porter: FirstIdeas.inddYesterday’s Countryside: country life as it really was. It’s quite a large tome of a book, published in 2000. It doesn’t quite show how hard country life was in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as many of the photographs appear to show how idyllic it was, but it looks at every aspect of country life. It’s now in its third edition and still available, though it appears to be in a smaller format [David and Charles £12.99 9780715321966]. And if you like that sort of thing, Valerie Porter has compiled Yesterday’s Farm: a taste of rural life from the past [David and Charles £12.99 9780715328781] which is in a very similar format. Also on April 24th there’s a new book compiled by the same author called Times Past in the Countryside [Readers Digest £25 9780276444043] . I can’t tell you much about this book, except that the “product description” on the  Amazon website gives the impression that it’s very similar in content to Yesterday’s Countryside – another big dollop of nostalgia!

that’s enough nostalgia….

undercover….here’s something a bit different. Did you know that the word spam – meaning junk mail – was inspired by the Monty Python sketch featuring a couple in a restaurant asking what was on the menu and being told that almost all the dishes included spam – or that after death, the human body can in certain conditions turn to soap ? You did? – oh well, you might still like this book about the science behind everyday mishaps, such as forgetting where you put something, sleeping through the alarm clock, or why it’s so easy to have an accident when you are in a hurry. The Undercover Scientist: investigating the mishaps of everyday life[Random House £12.99 9781847945235] by Peter J Bentley is a catalogue of accidents as they might occur during a typical day, but in this case the most accident prone day ever. The author looks into the causes why these everyday accidents happen and how these events form part of the pattern of scientific principles governing life and everything around us. Fascinating and very readable.

Next time: back to the Victorian era, when an illusionist tries to stop a religious sect taking over the world.

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