It was with great excitement that we discovered that most books in a very large recently purchased collection had been signed by either the author or the illustrator, and sometimes both. It was my task to sort and catalogue them and for many weeks I watched the different boxes of well kept books being unloaded onto my 'cataloguing' shelves. As soon as each shelf was filled the excitement would get the better of me and I would have to see what had just arrived!
When we refer to walking today we think of walking for leisure. Yet until relatively recent times most people went on Shank's Pony (derived from 'shank' meaning 'leg') for their everyday business. From the Welsh drovers, who took the cattle from the hills of Wales to London , to the door to door hawkers and pedlars.
Walking for leisure started with the first "tourists" in the eighteenth century and an early example is the Reverend Richard Warner. In "A Walk Through Wales" he travelled 469 miles in 17 days on foot. No modern walking boots, rucksack and bright shiny waterproofs. To quote: "In preparing for a pedestrian tour, few arrangements are requisite; a single change of raiment and some other little articles". He had extra pockets added to his coat to carry these items and that was that - one suspects that after a few days hard walking in the rain he stank!
Although the butt of many jokes Dyb Dyb Dyb and Woggles were for millions of us all part of that great life that was and is the Boy Scouts.
2007 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Boys Scouts movement by Lord Robert Baden-Powell (BP). It started with a camp for boys from mixed social backgrounds on Brownsea Island to which Baden-Powell had been a frequent visitor as a guest of the Van Raalte family who owned the island. Although this camp in August 1907 is seen as the formal start of the movement it was in fact the culmination of several years of thinking and absorption of ideas from other people and groups. The Boys Brigade and author/naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton contributed but there's no doubt the main ideas came from BP's experience in the Boer war where he used young cadets as messengers during the siege of Mafeking .
With our latest themed room being based on 'school years', I thought, why not write about my own memories of school? After all, someone might be interested!
I remember my first day at infant school which was Wood End First School in Stantonbury, Milton Keynes. This was in the mid 1970s and I remember my mother wearing fake fur gloves on the day. I was sobbing my heart out into these gloves crying 'don't leave me mummy' - they must have been drenched!
I don't remember a great deal about my time at Wood End First School but I do remember the teacher trying to teach the class how to write their date of birth and I just didn't get it. This was probably due to the fact that my deafness at this point was undiagnosed and no doubt I wasn't hearing what the teacher was saying. (As a baby Mum used to think I was just a sound sleeper because I slept through the noise of vacuum cleaning, washing machine - anything!). Anyway, I got so frustrated with being unable to understand what was required, I picked up the chair I was sitting on, threw it across the room and stormed out of the school - I was only five years old! I have no idea what happened then but I marched home and remember being sent back to school the next day.
‘A Day In The Life’…no,‘A Year In the Day’…no, not quite right,‘A Life In the Year’… oh dear ...
Mummy says Stop Woofling and Get On With It! So here goes – ‘The Amazing, Breathtaking, Colourful…’ no stoppit – ‘Some Adventures From The Diary of a Swedish Vallhund’ (That’s me – Sammy! And this is all about when I was a baby and first came to live with my new Mummy and Daddy…)
Sunday 27th July
Today my new Mummy and Daddy came to take me to my new home. I was a bit frighted, leaving my doggy mummy and brothers and sisters and going off in a big grey box with wheels on and I did cry a bit but Mummy cuddled me and that was so nice I fell asleep. It took such a long time to get to my new home, Mummy and Daddy stopped half way to let me get out for a break and a drink of water. There were lots more big boxes on wheels, more people than I’ve ever seen before, miles of grass and everything was so interesting I just kept looking and looking. When we reached home I found a lovely new crate and pen, all of my own. My pen is my own play space with my crate where I sleep, my water bowl and a tray for me to use for wee and poo. I have lots of new toys, a ball, a rope, a bone and some chew toys. Then Mummy and Daddy put me in my pen in the garden – I wasn’t very happy about that and shouted to let Mummy know. Lots of visitors (Aunties, Uncles and Neighbours) came to meet me and play with me. I loved playing tug of war with Daddy and my rope. At the end of the day I was so tired I fell asleep on Daddy’s feet.
A character almost everyone is familiar with is Rupert Bear. Rupert is immensely collectable today and in particular the early annuals are very sought after. Although the first Rupert annual was published in 1936, Rupert Bear was actually created 16 years previously in 1920. His creator was Mary Tourtel, born in 1874 into a very artistic family and married in her early 20's to Herbert Tourtel who worked in printing and publishing.
As a child Mary was fond of sketching animals and eventually attended Canterbury Art School where she won a gold medal as the most outstanding pupil. Besides being a clever artist she was also an aviator and adventurer who pre-dated the more famous Amy Johnson by some years. With her husband in 1919 she had flown in a Handley-Page aeroplane breaking the record from Hounslow to Brussels.
It's that time of year again. Those spectacular Autumn colours have now been blown down, and we have just swept them up. The garden is looking smartish, but strangely empty without the colour, although the heather is in flower, and the choisia, and the schitzostylus, and the... But enough of that, although it has been a strange year, with plants flowering at such odd times. And our home grown grapes were splendiferous this year...
Left: Fishing on the Dordogne
So what have we to look forward to? Looming large on the skyline are the Christmas Lights, but we have spoken about them before. One of the real pleasures of this time of year is planning next year's holidays, which leads to fond memories of what has gone before.
What is it about men and their bikes? Their bikes are objects that they worship! My husband certainly takes more care of his bicycle than he does in maintaining our little flat! Are all men the same? Sorry.... I just needed to vent a little!
When I was young I used to love riding my bicycle. We lived up a steep single track lane and I would often cycle down into the village to meet my school friends (and back up again afterwards – or perhaps I walked up, I can't quite remember!) However, one day I had a little incident - I met a horse on our lane very unexpectedly! I slammed the brakes on and unfortunately didn't realise that I was on gravel at the time. And that was that really... Over the handlebars I went in spectacular fashion. I have been very nervous of cycling ever since – especially downhill! You'll be pleased to know that I didn't break anything – surprisingly! And the horse was fine too – if a little startled.
There are very many wonderful memories connected to this highly pleasurable activity. I have two daughters, now in their late twenties, to whom I used to read each day when they were young. One became an avid reader, staying up late into the night reading some treasured stories, over and over, with her parents blissfully asleep and unaware. Roald Dahl was a favourite author at that time.
I have vivid memories, which I hope they share, of laughter, safe “terror” and tears for those really sad endings followed by cuddles. I also loved watching them as they re-enacted various stories together or made up their own versions. It was wonderful to watch their development, from just pointing at pictures with smiles or frowns, to remembering the words by heart (it’s a shame that it can become so much harder in later life!) Of course it became a game to change a word here and there - they were so pleased when they had to correct me.
Who was Alice? She was born Alice Pleasance Liddell in Oxford in 1852, the middle daughter of Dean Liddell (Dr Henry Liddell, former head of Westminster School, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford). The Liddell family belonged to the English upper class. The family could afford all sorts of luxuries including elegant clothes, books , toys and have their children educated by private tutors . They had a beautiful home and hosted elegant parties Their house was staffed with lots of servants, so all in all Alice had a very privileged childhood. Mr Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) studied at Christ Church Oxford and obtained a Batchelor of Arts degree in Mathematics and remained at Christ Church as a lecturer for 47 years until his death.
A fascinating, colourful and educational series of books for children, first published at the start of the Second World War and with some volumes continuing to be reprinted well into the 1970's. How did this series come to be published in the war years when there were severe paper shortages and little money to be spent on books? The series was the brainchild of Noel Carrington, editor for Country Life books and described by Kathleen Hale as "a brilliant talent spotter"
Carrington had for some time been an admirer of the brightly coloured lithographed books mass-produced for Soviet children. Well illustrated, they were printed in huge numbers and given away on street corners so that every child in the land could have one. Carrington believed that there was a need for such books in Britain and was actively seeking a publisher who would be prepared to take a similar risk. He had researched the subject thoroughly with the printers W.H. Cowell and was convinced it was viable. Artists would be required to draw their illustrations directly onto lithographic plates to avoid the expense of camera work. While this was a complex and time-consuming process it would help to reduce the published price of the books in line with Carrington's ideal.
Whilst tidying the shelves recently I came across a book by Catherine Sefton. Nothing odd in that but as I was reading the text on the wrapper flaps I discovered that Catherine Sefton is the pen name of Martin Waddell! This set me thinking why do some authors use pseudonyms or pen names?
According to the Oxford English Dictionary a pseudonym is 'a fictitious name, especially one used by an author'. There are many reasons why an author may not want to use their own name. They may wish to hide their identity or to disguise their gender. They may use different names for different genres. There may already be an author with the same or similar name or it may simply be a marketing ploy. Some author's pseudonyms become common knowledge whilst others may be known only to their publishers.
Well that was in the middle of the nineteenth century!
What have the Portuguese done for us? (To paraphrase Monty Python)
Hans Christian Andersen, best known today for his children's Fairy Tales was, in his time, best known as a writer of travelogues. Andersen visited Portugal in 1865-66 and was extremely impressed with the country, the modernity of its railways, the neatness of its towns and the courtesy of its people (still true today - well at least the courtesy bit!) In contrast, he thought Spain was backward and disordered! Portugal at this time led the way in education and had developed new ways to help the children learn their own language, which right now I could use as I'm currently struggling to learn Portuguese!
I read in a newspaper recently that most people collect something - for me it's pigs! My collection started many years ago with a wooden pig I saw on a bric-a-brac stall in Hay market. It was nothing special, not an antique, not particularly pretty and not expensive (I think I paid about 50 pence) but it caught my eye and I bought it. My collection has grown and grown over the years because, along with my purchases, family and friends have bought me gifts of pigs as well - I was never difficult to buy for, if in doubt get a pig! To date I have over 400 pigs in all shapes and sizes and made of all manner of materials.
After at least 25 years (good grief, am I really that old?) I have decided to take up piano lessons again. I remember having lessons when I was young and the last time was in Chepstow, South Wales, on a Saturday morning - I must have been in my early teens.
I have always loved the piano as an instrument. My mum has always played (sometimes more the organ than the piano) and I loved to listen to her. I can't remember why I stopped having lessons - probably just a teenager thing, I lost interest. When I moved out of the family home to Hay-on-Wye, I did buy myself an electric keyboard because we would never have been able to get an upright piano up the narrow staircase to our flat. But it was not the same and I didn't really play properly again until early this year.
Jane’s recent article on her better half’s passion for a well used Land Rover led me to think back over the many cars that have passed through my hands over more years than I care to admit.
It all started when my indulgent parents agreed to help my older brother purchase a rather stately two-tone grey Austin Cambridge, on the proviso that his rather battered and unreliable Ford Anglia became my first vehicle, ah the freedom! Apart from the many parental requests like ‘can you just pop me to town’ or ‘can you just drop me off at aunty Peg’s’ etc. Which, of course, were agreed to with alacrity as they had helped me to become mobile in the first place!
These delightful pocket sized books have become both a collector's delight and a torture for those whose aim it is to collect every variation of every edition. Prices for books in this informative series vary from the hundreds of pounds for a 1st edition of The Observer's Book of Birds, with a wrapper, to a few pence for some titles published in the Observer's heyday of the 1970's.
So where did it all start? Frederick Warne had a history of publishing both children's books and natural history books. Of particular note are the Beatrix Potter tales which blend the two areas together with their charming stories and illustrations. In 1895 Edward Step had Wayside and Woodland Blossoms published which was his first book and the first in the Wayside and Woodland series. These books were designed for the observant wayfarer. They were the forerunners of the present day field guides with the revolutionary features of being short, concise, well illustrated in colour, accurate and pocket sized, all of which made them ideal for the beginner. Edward Step's books were so successful that some of the text was reused verbatim in some of the early Observer titles.
We use them everyday - to build things, buy things, gamble and grow. Yet we use numbers without thinking about how peculiar they are.
We first learnt to count by saying: '3 apples and 2 apples makes 5 apples' and we could check this by actually taking physical apples and grouping them.
And then we advanced to: '3 apples plus 2 apples equals 5 apples'.
But can you remember at what point you made the huge leap and forgot about apples and instead said: 3+2 = 5?
It happens so subtly we can't remember, but it is a truly remarkable leap of faith - that what's true for apples is true for anything we want to count and is still true when we're not associating the figures 2 and 3 with any entity. We just slipped from apples to abstract without noticing!
I read somewhere that the things that you are passionate about as a child, stay with you for life. They say it is similar to buying a computer: when young, the things you become passionate about go onto your hard drive, as you age and your tastes alter it is similar to buying software, but the hard disk info remains.
With me this is oh so true - images, aromas, sounds take me immediately back to an earlier time, the music, for example, of my early teens may not be great music, but oh does it affect me still! I only have to hear the opening bars of Daydream Believer by the Monkees, and I am back, 12 years of age, and all that it implies. I re-read books that I loved as a youngster, it is I accept a strange mix, Jennings is in there, as growing up on a council estate the tales of public school life fascinated me. How I longed for tuck boxes and dormitory life, tales of Nelson's time with Alexander Kent, the Bolitho novels' tales of sailing the seven seas held me in their sway, but there were also tales of The Man from Uncle mixed up with Gerald Durrell's weird family and love of animals.
SENSUAL AND ALLURING
NATURAL HISTORY BOOKS?
ABSOLUTELY TRUE WHEN IT'S A NEW NATURALIST!
Look at a collection of New Naturalists in their beautiful dust wrappers; touch the green buckram bindings, the top quality paper. Savour the visual and tactile sensations.Sensual and alluring - absolutely!
The New Naturalist Library is a series of about one hundred books first issued in Great Britain by William Collins in 1945 and continuing into the 1990's with it's peak in the 50's and 60's. The series covers every aspect of British Natural History from Moles to Measles. Clifford and Rosemary Ellis painted most of the dustwrappers. The series is worth acquiring simply for these works of art. From the subtlety of the Swallowtails for Butterflies (the first title published in 1945) to the dramatic and terrifying mole for the monograph The Mole.