Posts

Showing posts from October, 2013

Mr. B’s Reading Year No. 7: The Green Road into the Trees: a walk through England by Hugh Thomson (2012)

Image
Here is an interesting, well-written book, full of people, locations and history that give us a snapshot of southern England today.  Personal coincidences abound, so Hugh was off to a winner for me from the off.  I started reading this a week after walking with Hilary and the dogs on Chesil beach at Abbotsbury, after Mike Rufus’ 75th birthday hog roast at his thatched cottage Tilly Whim in the countryside outside Dorchester, Dorset.  The walk described in the book starts at the chapel by Abbotsbury above the beach!  The walk is along the ancient Icknield Way, taking in the Ridgeway in Wiltshire, part of which I walked as a boy, through the Chilterns, ending at Holme-next-the -Sea in Norfolk. Halfway house is Hugh’s home near the Thames, where he learns he has to move out.  Not everything has gone smoothly for Hugh’s personal life, but I like his take on things and people. 
As an ancient trackway, it is fitting that history, archaeology and landscape are recurring themes.  There are …

Mr. B’s Reading Year No. 6: Thoughtful Gardening: great plants, great gardens, great gardeners by Robin Lane Fox (2010)

Image
Thoughtless Gardening would be a better title for this book!  I haven’t been as stimulated by a book as this one, for some time.  However, it isn’t for the right reasons.  The Oxford academic author and Financial Times gardening columnist has gathered his writings into the calendar year in short column chapters.  The fact that each is short is a blessing.  To give him his due, he does have an excellent understanding of cultivars and the best chapters focus on individual groups – asters, peonies, roses, etc., etc. - where useful experience and information is passed on.  In a similar vein, some of the descriptions of individual gardens are good.  However, the overall tone is of pomposity and name dropping, rather than of passing on a genuine enthusiasm.  What comes over is a rather opinionated writer, probably reflecting a life spent in an Oxford college and London.  What really grates is that here is a writer that apparently likes gardens and gardening (one wonders if they really do in…

Mr. B’s Reading Year No. 5: The Howling Miller by Arto Paasilinna (1981) - translated by Will Hobson from the French of Anne Collin du Terrail (Le Meunier Hurlant)

Image
A slightly odd book?  Perhaps, but as one critic puts it, “beautifully written and strangely moving”.  The main character, the miller, Gunnar Huuttunen, is an odd individual for sure - he howls like a wolf now and then -  but he is hard working, straight and persecuted.  That persecution from his neighbours is definitely unfair and undeserved, but circumstances unfold in this fable in an unpredictably predictable way.  How he keeps going, being sent to an asylum, escaping and living wild, is a wonder and you feel for him.  His kind, increasingly supportive, girlfriend, the horticulturalist Sanelma Käyrämö, sees him through a series of mishaps and adventures.  The great and the good of the local town, particularly the chief of police and doctor, have it in for Gunnar, for no obviously good reason.  Having evaded the army, Gunnar is ultimately tricked and captured to be sent back to the asylum.  He is with his friend, the constable Portimo, on the train, but mysteriously they never arri…