Posted by: billpurdue | October 11, 2012

How good are you on UK geography?

When I worked in a school library (a few years ago now!) the teachers told me that some of the pupils had little idea about the geography of the UK. I was told that some knew more about the Costa del Sol or Majorca for example, than they did about their nearest city, Nottingham. I don’t watch a lot of quiz programmes on the telly, but when I have done, it’s clear that not all the contestants can answer what to me seem to be very basic geographical questions.

 For these people, then, I have found the ideal book: Never Eat Shredded Wheat by Christopher Somerville (the man behind the “Coast” books) will provide a basic grounding in what is where and what the physical geography features are called and what they are. It also lists significant landmarks around the country: I was pleasantly surprised to find Clipstone Colliery headstocks listed as one of only 7 notable landmarks in the North Midlands (presumably those considered notable by the author).

I started by reading it from the beginning, but soon gave up as I already knew most of what is in the first few chapters. I know that sounds pompous to say it, but geography (not physical geography) has always been a strong point with me, as opposed to some other subjects I could mention. However if you need to beef up on what is where in the UK, then this could be for you.

[Hodder and Stoughton £8.99 pbk 978-1444704648. line drawings]


Can’t get over the Olympics?

If you are still looking back at the 2012 Olympics (or looking forward to the 2016 games), then you might be interested in the last time that Britain hosted the games – in 1948. Bear in mind that rationing was still in force at the time and Britain had had little time to overcome the ravages of war. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that quite a few people were opposed to hosting the games so soon after 1945, the whole thing went ahead and proved to be very successful.

 Janie Hampton’s The Austerity Olympics tells the complete story, from the preparation and the route of the torch right through to the finale. The games were a success much to the surprise of the “dismal jimmies’ (as one commentator described them) who predicted disaster. There are many parallels with the 2012 games and also some significant differences of course. One of the big changes that the 1948 games helped to bring about was that taking part in sporting events was no longer confined to people with a private income.  A very absorbing read.

[Aurum, £8.99 9781845137205. monochrome photographs]

Janie Hampton has also written a Shire publication about the 1908 and 1948 Olympics (London Olympics: 1908 and 1948). For those unfamiliar with Shire books, these are described by the publisher as books to “fill the gaps in published material, providing affordable non-fiction paperbacks that reflect the interests and passions of ordinary people everywhere”. There’s a wide range of subjects, some very specialised, to choose from.

I’m reading…

The Woman who Died a Lot by Jasper Fforde. I’m enjoying it now, but it did take some getting used to. More next time.



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