Posted by: billpurdue | April 6, 2013

Short stories from ‘Our Betty’

ImageI’m starting this new series of postings with a quick review of a paperback I picked up on the ‘Recommended Reads’ shelf in my local library. Liz Smith MBE is one of my favourite actresses and she isn’t bad at writing either. I read and enjoyed her autobiography Our Betty ,which revealed some the hardships she has overcome in her long life (she was born in 1921). The book I picked up at the library is Jottings: flights of fancy from Our Betty.  It’s a book of short stories, but of very varying lengths. The longer stories are the best and one, “Eliza’s Story” probably reflects some of her own life history. In the introduction Liz says that the idea for this particular story came from the time she played a charwoman in J B Priestley’s “When we are married”.

I’m not normally one for short stories, but I’m glad I found this book. Like the librarians, I can recommend it too.

[Pocket Books £7.99 978184391650. Some  line drawings]

UK travel writing – a classic


ImageMy parents were keen readers and one of the books I inherited from them was Journey through Britain by John Hillaby (1917 – 1996). Hillaby has been called “one of the world’s greatest walkers” and in this book he recounts his journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which doesn’t (as far as I can see) keep to the shortest route. On his 1,100 mile journey, he walks alone with a rucksack and tent and comments on the geology, the fauna and flora, the people he meets and of course, the weather. He made the journey in the 1960s before the days when there were a lot of long distance footpaths around the country, though the Pennine Way had been completed just a year or two earlier. It was also before the days when many pubs served only drinks, so he couldn’t always get a hot meal when he needed it. Some of those hostelries that did offer accommodation, were not always willing to offer it to mere walkers, whom some hoteliers considered little better than tramps.

He navigates mainly with compass and map, as well as advice from the locals. His experiences are extremely varied and sometimes had me on the edge of the seat when he tries to find his way across remote Scottish mountains in thick mist.

[copies are available second hand online: the paperback has maps and b/w photos]

Cakes and Bakes

ImageI sometimes  like to have a dabble in the kitchen making a cake. I didn’t watch the original Great British Bake Off series, but I was hooked on the Comic relief version. Mary Berry is of course well known for her cookery books and her previous TV series, but one book I remember becoming a sort of ‘bible’ for cake bakers was her Fast Cakes.  Most of the cake recipes in the book can be prepared in about 10 minutes and baked in under an hour, so it’s perfect for the likes of me.

[Sphere 9780751504903 £8.99]

What to do with your unwanted books

I’ve been going through my shelves over the past few months and taking out all those books I really didn’t want to keep. I was intending to visit a second hand bookshop to see if they would buy any of them from me, but I didn’t get around to it until after Christmas, by which time the shop I had chosen was having a sale and didn’t want any more stock. In the meantime I had also acquired more books from other sources, so I had a minor mountain of books cluttering up my house.

I finally made the trip to Scarthin Books at Cromford in Derbyshire a couple of weeks ago and now I have been given £65 worth of credit, which I can spend at the shop. In case you are wondering, they don’t actually give you cash – if you would prefer to have some money in your hand, then you need to try other methods, such as ebay. I’m just glad to have a bit more space at home!


…and, if you don’t already know Scarthin Books, take a trip one day. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave of a shop – they sell a lot of new books too and there’s a lovely vegetarian cafe.


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