Winter is always jigsaw season and one of my bookish Christmas presents was this Peter Pan jigsaw puzzle. It’s a plan of Kensington Gardens and all the things that happen there. I’ve got a thing about Peter Pan but it seems that not many people have actually read the original book.
At first sight I thought this would be a nightmare to complete. I soon knew it was a nightmare, but you know what those puzzles are like! It fairly grabbed us and we became obsessed with it. With the aid of a magnifier we managed it.
A Ship of the Line by C.S. Forester was written in 1938 and I read it because it won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize that year, I’m trying to read my way through as many of the winners as I can. Mind you, I can’t find any mention at all in the book’s introduction (by Bernard Cornwell) or on the jacket of the fact that it did win the prize.
It is of course a Horatio Hornblower tale of the sea during The Napoleonic Wars. It begins with Hornblower taking command of a ship called the Sutherland, it was originally captured from the Dutch and it’s design isn’t really suitable as a warship, it’s described as the ugliest and least desirable two-decker in the Navy List. Hornblower is having a hard time getting enough men to man the ship, he’s having to make do with prisoners and even men who have been pressed into service.
The action quickly moves off to the coast of Catalonia in Spain, where Hornblower and his ship’s company engage in sea battles and conduct raids on shore against the French army. It is of course set at a time when Napoleon was rampaging around Europe, particularly Spain.
To begin with I really didn’t think that I was going to enjoy this book, it seemed like it was going to be far too much of a sort of ‘boys’ adventure’ tale, with lots of fighting going on, but I ended up getting really into it, and when Hornblower mentioned that he knew the area well because he had been held captive in Ferrol for two years in the past, I felt quite at home too because of course we sailed into Ferrol just a few months ago.
The only annoying thing is that it would have been better if I had read the previous books in this series first.
I must admit that I had no idea that C.S. Forester had written The African Queen (which I have seen so often I could act all the parts myself, including the leeches!) in fact quite a few of his books were made into films. I’ll probably read some more in this series, apart from anything else, it ended so abruptly that I feel I have to find out what happens next in Hornblower’s life.
This year I’ve decided to join in with the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge for the first time.
It was Judith at Reader in the Wilderness who got me interested in this challenge and the upshot of that is that we are both reading Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher, it’s a chunkster of course.
Earlier in the year I bought a couple of Christmas themed vintage crimes, saving them up to read around this time:
The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay
Crime at Christmas by C.H.B. Kitchin
I usually only read A Christmas Tree by Charles Dickens (the only thing by him I’ve ever read as it happens) in an attempt to get me into the Christmas mood and sometimes it works! You can read it here
But I know that Joan at Planet Joan reads A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas, so I intend to read that this year too. I don’t actually have a copy of that one but it can be read online here. It looks like a very quick read indeed.
I was tempted by the Christmas books on display at the library and I ended up borrowing:
Murder Under the Christmas Tree which features short stories by Ian Rankin, Dorothy L. Sayers, Margery Allingham, Arthur Conan Doyle, Val McDermid, Ellis Peters and More.
A Darcy Christmas – A holiday tribute to Jane Austen by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathen and Carolyn Eberhart. I’ve never heard of any of those authors so it’s a bit of a pig in a poke.
Otherwise I’m thinking about maybe reading a Debbie Macomber book. I’ve never read anything by her but she seems to have written a lot of Christmassy books and I know that Jo at The Book Jotter has enjoyed some Macomber books.
If that lot doesn’t get me into the Christmas spirit there’s no hope for me!
When we were on our way back home to Scotland after our recent trip to Holland and Belgium we chose to stop overnight in Nottingham. I’m not sure why we chose that place but maybe thoughts of Robin Hood and his Merry Men was at the back of my mind, and we had never been there before. By the time we got there it was dinner time and we had seen the art deco pub in the photo below.
Jack is a big fan of art deco and the pub sold food so we thought we would give their eatery a go, and it would give us a chance to see if the interior was also art deco. When we parked the car I said to Jack – I can see a huge St George’s cross flag. Then I thought – Well, why not, it’s about time the English rescued their flag from the rough elements who usually brandish them with violence in mind.
On entering the pub we saw that the entire place was festooned with St George bunting and flags (this was long before the football tournament started) and worse than that the pub was full of very rough looking men indeed. We just knew that our Scottish accents were going to be like a red rag to bulls. So we backed our way out again, all of the art deco had been stripped out of it anyway, if it had ever been there in the first place.
It was a bit of an eyeopener really, there are parts of England that are truly a foreign country, and I suspect that is so for many English people too. If David Cameron had known that communities like that existed he would never have dreamt of having that damned referendum.
We ended up in what was supposed to be a ‘posh’ bit of Nottingham but it wasn’t an awful lot better. There were ‘bouncers’ on every restaurant doorway and when we finally found somewhere to eat that didn’t look too grotty it was a bit like something out of a sitcom as we were the only people in there who looked up when the many emergency vehicles screamed past the windows, it was obviously normal life as far as the other diners were concerned.
There was proof that Nottingham had had a genteel past though as you can see below. The Zara shop is situated in a lovely art nouveau building which I think must have been a beautiful department store in its heyday.
I’m very susceptible to atmosphere in places and I really didn’t like Nottingham, it was only when I got back home and mentioned that to some people that they said – that’s hardly surprising as it has had a lot of trouble with gang warfare and shooting incidents in the recent past! Where is Robin Hood when you need him?!
Flambards in Summer by K.M.Peyton was first published in 1969 and it’s the third book in the Flambards series. You really have to read these books in order.
The second book ended in sadness. Now Christina is on her own with the death of her pilot husband Will who had joined the Royal Flying Corps to do his bit during World War 1. His elder brother who was in the army is missing presumed dead. Uncle Matthew is also dead and Flambards has been left to go to wrack and ruin. Christina is shocked by the state of the house and land, but with most of the local men away at war it’s a hard task to make improvements.
The horses have all been taken for war service and the empty stables are unbearably sad for Christina who has always lived for horses in much the same way as Will lived for flying. She sets about buying some more horses for farm work and for riding, then attempts to track down some of the people who had lived at Flambards years before to bring the place back to life and help with farming it again.
The Flambards books are aimed at children around twelve years old I suppose and they do give a good idea of how life was for those caught up in the war, whether so called peasants or gentry. This is an entertaining and informative read and as it is from my own book piles it counts towards the Reading My Own Damn Books challenge. This is the fourth book of my own that I’ve read this month but as I have bought seven books over the last three days … my book piles continue to expand. But what can I do about it? I tend to buy more unusual books rather than modern fiction, so when I see them I just have to pounce!
The 1979 TV adaptation of Flambards DVD is available. For some reason it seems never to have been on TV since then, I enjoyed watching it at the time but it might seem very old fashioned now. It’s amazing how acting styles change over the years, The Pallisers was on TV recently and I gave up on it as it seemed so stilted and stiff, but I didn’t see it when it was on originally so way back then I might have thought it was wonderful.