Butterflies of the night? But butterflies don’t fly at night I hear you say. True, they do not, but in France the moth is aptly named Papillon De Nuit - Butterfly Of The Night. Having said that butterflies don’t fly at night, there are one or two exceptions and although we think of moths as night-time creatures there are in fact many day flying moths which we may mistake for butterflies.
I would imagine that a lot of people are like myself. I describe myself as an amateur bird-watcher. I love to watch birds from the comfort of my chair or, if out and about, on a nice country walk then if a bird happens to pass I will try and work out what it was and make a mental note of it.
We have all sorts of beautiful birds here in the UK. My favourite is the long-tailed tit – beautiful little birds that flutter around our gardens and woodlands in small flocks, their shrill chirping easily identified but doesn't become their beauty. One of our most popular garden birds is our little Robin Redbreast, always featuring in winter scenes for Christmas cards and always around when you are in the garden digging soil, hoping to be there when the big fat worm is uncovered.
Did you know that…
It takes worker bees 10 million trips to gather enough nectar to make 0.5kg (1lb) of honey?
Bees from a single hive may make four and a half million visits to flowers in the course of one day’s work?
More than one thousand workers will die every day in the summer from sheer exhaustion?
And the life expectancy of the bee is a mere six weeks during this time!
Bees are very important to the environment and there is strong circumstancial evidence that the first bees appeared during the Cretaceous period (146 to 76 million years ago). It is widely believed that during this period, the first true mammals and the first true flowering plants appeared.
Is it just me? Or is it true, that when you live in a beautiful area, that you sometimes don't always truly see it for what it is, or take full advantage of all that is on offer?
Having lived in and around the Chepstow area all my life, and having parents that have lived here most of their lives, sometimes this is the case with me. However, when in Chepstow and its surrounding areas, there are always coachloads of tourists that have travelled great distances to absorb and marvel at the history and beauty of this place that many of us call home.
A while ago, it made me stop and think, I should be making more of an effort to enjoy and utilise these attractions on my doorstep. So that’s what I've endeavoured to do. As my husband isn't from the immediate area we've tried to visit places that, in the 13 years that he's lived here, he's never seen before.
One of the most popular sections within Stella Books is the one that contains our collection of Folio Society editions, and when you look at the rows of handsome slipcased volumes it is not hard to see why this is the case.
The London based publishing company was founded by Charles Ede in 1947 with the aim to produce “editions of the world's great literature, in a format worthy of the content, at a price within the reach of everyman.” When you hold a Folio Society edition in your hands there can surely be little doubt that they have successfully fulfilled their ambition “to create books that are unique in their aesthetic and in their quality.”
We recently purchased a large collection of books about Robin Hood. Who would have thought there would be so many?? We purchased over 140 titles in this little collection!
The collection included factual books about the legend of Robin Hood as well as Children's story books. Many films have also been made about Robin Hood. He has been portrayed by a multitude of stars including Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Michael Praed, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner... and many, many more! And of course there is the 1973 film by Walt Disney in which Robin Hood is portrayed as an animated anthropomorphic fox!
Noddy is 70 years old this year. And, I think you would all agree, he does not look a day older than when he was first created! He probably needs no introduction but nevertheless...
Noddy is the creation of Enid Blyton. He enters the scene as a little wooden man who has a collision with Big-Ears the brownie. The story unfolds in the very first numbered Noddy book 'Noddy Goes to Toyland'. Big-Ears is perplexed by the peculiar appearance of a little wooden man with a nodding head and no clothes. The conversation that ensues is mildly amusing:
I have long harboured a dream that I could sell up and live on a canal boat. My family are far less enthusiastic but from time to time I head off to the Monmouthshire and Brecon and wander along its banks with the dog whilst I imagine how it would be to wake up in the morning on this particularly beautiful canal. It seems that this dream is doomed to meet with extensive doses of reality provided by my ever doubtful family. “You won't like it on a frosty winter morning”. “How are you going to manage when you have run out of supplies miles from anywhere?” “Who is going to help with all the heavy work like changing gas bottles?”. I know they are right and so I forget about it for a while, but many people do live on the canal and in fact the numbers are growing.
There are so many things to celebrate throughout the year, but here are a few from the past 150 years that might have slipped your mind.
First of all let's look at those events that are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
1969 saw the year in which Robin Knox Johnston sailed solo around the world without stopping, and The Clangers, one of the many beloved characters created by Oliver Postgate, was first shown on television. 1969 also saw the maiden flight of Concorde.
Let's go back another 50 years to 1919, when the character 'William' created by Richmal Crompton made his first appearance in 'Home' magazine, this was the same year that saw the founding of 'Bentley' cars.
Oh my goodness, what an adventure!
Back in January 2001 (so long ago already) I decided, for my annual holiday, to become part of a working crew on board the Stavros S. Niarchos, a British Brig square rigged Tall Ship. A twelve day voyage away from the stresses of running a restaurant. She has since been re-named Sunset but then she was operated by Tall Ships Youth Trust.
Their mission is: "to enable young people aged 12-25 to fulfil their life potential through genuinely life changing adventures at sea. What's more, our extensive Adult Voyage programme, for ages 18-80, helps fund our youth development work."
Being a novice traveller this was going to be quite an adventure, no support from husband or children, just me to fit in with the crew on board a Tall Ship.
Have you ever wondered where some of our everyday phrases come from? I know I've used 'happy as a sandboy' when I'm particularly pleased with something but I've never really thought about its origins. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens featured an Inn called The Jolly Sandboys which had a sign outside showing three inebriated sandboys. Many years ago, in the Bristol area, a sandboy was a youngster employed to bring sand to an inn from the nearby caves, this sand would be spread on the floor to absorb spillages. The boys were paid partly in alcohol so it is not surprising they were often drunk. The phrase became popular after the publication of the book although I notice that we now use happy rather than jolly.
A what? Say again.... What is that?
These are the most common questions and responses I get, when I relate to friends and family a recent animal encounter that my husband and I participated in!
To prepare for our encounter, we had to be briefed and were given protective goggles and overcoats. It was made very clear to us that we would be entering the Binturong's enclosure and any interaction would be on their terms, with their (and our) safety and welfare being of paramount importance. This all being done and being suitably togged up, in we went. Here is some of what we learned.
What is a Binturong?
It is part of the Viverridae family, its scientific name being Arctictis binturong. They are native to South and South East Asia and prefer tall forest, or places with good tree coverage. Sometimes the Binturong is also known as a bearcat, but it is neither a cat nor a bear, but rather is related to the palm civets of Asia. However, you can understand this name when you see one; with their face and whiskers looking like a cat, but stout and stocky bodies and limbs, that look more like a bear, together with thick coarse hair and long prehensile tails. These tails can be almost as long as the head and body put together and can act like another limb.
Stella & Rose's Books wish to thank Mr. John Gough for his kind submission of this article
Do you remember Pookie?
Author-illustrator Ivy L. Wallace’s Pookie was first published in 1946, when she was thirty-one. This and subsequent volumes in the series remained in print until I was working in a bookshop around 1970. Then they fell into an abyss. The original publishers, William Collins, decided not to reprint any of the Pooki” books, or Wallace’s other Animal Shelf series.Despite nearly thirty years of publishing success, Pookie and his creator have never been discussed in any children’s literature books or journals. Not treated seriously in their time, and no longer in print – when I first started researching Ivy L. Wallace and Pookie, around 1990 - things were looking pretty grim!
Are you a hylophobe?Or a bit of a tree-hugger?
Do you find forests places of fear and danger?Or places of peace and emotional healing?
Even the most cursory of glances reveals the pervasive influence of woods and forests in literature, legends and fairy tales. Sometimes the forest is a dark and forbidding place, full of hazards and unseen enemies that await the unfortunate individual who ventues within.
Examples include the Wild Wood from Kenneth Grahame's The Wind in the Willows, where the frightened Mole is fortunate to stumble across the safety of Mr. Badger's sett, or the suffocating gloom of Mirkwood in Tolkien's The Hobbit, where Bilbo Baggins has to rescue the Dwarves from the attention of the giant scary, hairy spiders.
Stella & Rose's Books wish to thank Mr. John Gough for his kind submission of the following article
Magdalen Eldon wrote and illustrated three children’s picture-story books that feature a Pekinese dog called Bumble.
Bumble (1950)Snow Bumble (1951)Highland Bumble (1952)
Who is this Bumble? Bumble is a Pekinese dog, who happens to be half Chinese (of course, as a Peke) and half Scottish. Bumble also claims to be descendent of Sherlock Holmes, although none of the stories involve Bumble in solving mysteries, or smoking a pipe, or ….
Bumble lives with a large, lively family of mice, named Macmouse. They all live in Windwhistle Manor, a cosy hollow tree and old badger sett on a Devonshire moor, with a family of Scottish mice whose very many children have amazing names, a wise worm who lectures from an encyclopedia and an infestation of well-meaning beetles and some of the prettiest pictures ever made for children, or, perhaps, adults. Even the candy-striped book covers were delightful designs. Bumble 'owns' the tree/apartment house, and its farm, and the mice are his housekeeper tenants.
Aah, I just love a bit of Les Mis!
Do you hear the people sing,Singing the songs of angry men?It is the music of the peopleWho will not be slaves again!
It was thirty years ago this month that I exited the Palace Theatre in London with those lyrics reverberating through my head. As many other people have probably done before and since, I immediately resolved to tackle reading Victor Hugo's masterpiece.
The written narrative of the life of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables is magnificent and so very much more than is told in either the musical or any of the films. It is well known that the book comprises a daunting number of pages. At the time I had never attempted to read such a long work, but I found out something that made the book so much more accessible to me. Please don't tell anyone who told you this, but you really don't need to read every chapter! There are numerous sections of the book where Hugo makes rambling diversions, such as detailing the history of the Convent of Petit-Picpus or the building of the Parisian sewers. Some may consider it sacrilegious when I say that chapters such as these can be skimmed or even skipped altogether as the principal characters play no part in them whatsoever.
Browse the Special Book Room >
An Aladdin’s cave for Booklovers. I think that is an apt description for the Special Book Room at Stella Books. On entering the shop door one is struck by the spaciousness and openness of the store but wait! To the left is a gate. Why? Can you not venture in? Of course you can. The gate signifies that you are entering a very special place - the area where all our most rare, fragile and valuable items are collected together. But unlike many bookstores most items are in plain sight, beautifully displayed on bookshelves, not locked away in glass cabinets making one afraid to ask to view.
I like stained glass and I've always wanted to have a go at making something out of it. So when I saw a course advertised locally, which was spread over 3.5 days and involved designing and making a stained glass panel, I jumped at the opportunity and eagerly booked a place.
I arrived for the first session on Saturday afternoon excited and anxious. Excited because I like to try new crafts (I've been on a few one day craft courses before) but equally anxious because I wasn't sure if I would have the necessary ability or skill.
So after introductions our excellent teacher gave us a brief insight into making stained glass panels, the tools and techniques used and some instruction on cutting glass to shape. We were then let loose on a piece of clear glass. If there was a prize for the first person to cut themselves I would have won. Having mastered, and I use that term loosely, glass cutting we had slides of our teacher's work and previous students' panels to give us inspiration. Homework was to decide on your design.
Is it my imagination or are the Winters in Britain (specifically the South Wales area) becoming milder? I have a tortoise who hibernates every year in a double insulated box in the garage. His name is Zebedee (see the Magic Roundabout connection... he used to have a mate called Florence who is no longer with us). This Winter past I was watching the weather temperatures earnestly 'oh no, its not cold enough' (above 4C) 'oh no, it's too cold for him to be outside' (below 0C) – dash to the garage and bring his hibernating box into the unheated conservatory! Roll on Spring when he finally wakes up, albeit early, and take a huge sigh of relief!
The hesitation at the door, the hopeful smile, and then the inevitable question: "Do you buy books?"
Oh... if only I was witty and quick.... the answers I could give! "No, we prefer to steal them - although it's increasingly frowned on". "No, we write them". "No, they are all from the library down the road..." Oh, if only we could sometimes be like the Black Books television series!!
We are a secondhand book business. We need stock. So, of course we buy books! Secondhand bookshops come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes but all need stock if they are to survive and therefore I believe that they do all buy books! Someone please correct me if I'm wrong!