Jubilate Matteo, by Gavin Ewart

30 January 2017

From another Ewart poem.

For I rejoice in my cat Matty.
For his coat is variegated in black and brown, with white undersides.
For in every way his whiskers are marvellous.
For he resists the Devil and is completely neuter.
For he sleeps and washes himself and walks warily in the ways of Putney.
For he is at home in the whole district of SW15.
. . .
For my cat wanders in the ways of the angels of Yorkshire.
For in his soul God has shown him a remarkable vision of Putney.
For he has also trodden in the paths of the newly fashionable.
. . .
For in Clarendon Drive the British Broadcasting Corporation is rampant.
For the glory of God has deserted the simple.
For the old who gossiped in Bangalore Road are unknown to the dayspring.
For there is a shortage of the old people who adorned the novels of William Trevor.
For in the knowledge of this I cling to the old folkways of Gwalior Road and Olivette Street.
For I rejoice in my cat, who has the true spirit of Putney.

– Gavin Ewart.

The Meeting, by Gavin Ewart

28 January 2017

Second verse of this 6-verse poem.

Everything was twice repeated,
sometimes more than twice repeated,
as they worked through the agenda
(it seemed elastic, that agenda,
becoming longer, never shorter),
their utterances grew long, not shorter,
it was just like spreading butter,
words went further, like spread butter,
covering each subject thinly,
covering almost nothing thinly.

-Gavin Ewart

The Larks of Jubilee Flats (book #160)

11 January 2017

Marjorie A Sindall, 1956.

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I can’t find anything about Marjorie Sindall online. This is a short book, in the Panther series. Slight, but pleasant – everyone is very nice and everything turns out for the best. Nursing is a big part of the plot, with Jill, aged 14, planning to be a nurse. She attends a Junior Domestic and Technical School, called the Elmer Foundation, which dates back to the seventeenth century. Her family is working class, her father working at a brewery and her mother a hospital ward orderly:

‘But if I could have my time over again,’ she often said with a small sigh, ‘I’d be a nurse. Best job there is.’

Jill’s school spends two days a week on housecraft and cookery, and sends her for one morning a week to a day nursery. I was surprised that they are planning a school trip to Bruges, staying with Belgian families – cost to the children, £10 each.

There are some good details in the text and pictures. I liked Jill’s father “sprucing himself up” for Sunday visitors: “he donned his best brown suit, and the whole flat was filled with the scent of his violet hair cream”. Feather Ghyll points out the patients smoking on the hospital wards.

The illustrator is Frank Haseler. There’s a bit about him online. This post has some of his illustrations from 1972 (and his son has commented on it). There’s another 1970s image of his here. And a nude by him on eBay.

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A Girl Governess; or, Ella Dalton’s Success (book #159)

10 January 2017

AE Ward, 1894.

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16-year-old Ella has been booked to sing, for pay, at a drawing room concert She wants to do it in order to earn money for her ill sister’s treatment.

There’s a good bit about clothes, reminiscent of Polly and Fanny in An Old-Fashioned Girl:

perhaps I can borrow [a dress]; or if not, I must make my old white muslin do, though it has been washed so many times that it is getting rather thin in places. I can shorten the sleeves and put a bit of fresh lace into them, and you will see how nice it will look.

Fortunately a friend secretly gives / lends her “a beautiful new dress of white muslin, and the sweetest little cashmere mantle”. I like her brother’s phrase, “all that grand toggery”.

A mean girl, Carrie Mason, is not happy about Ella singing for money, and tries to interfere, but Ella is a success and earns two guineas. A chap in the audience then randomly (given her age and inexperience) employs her as governess to his grandchildren, spoilt Geoffry and “meek-spirited”, emotionally neglected Helen. Although at this point Ella is clearly a good girl, thoughtful and kind to her family, her mother thinks she is too self-confident about being a governess, but she, the mother, can’t do anything about this as she herself has not found God so can’t “bid [Ella] distrust herself and look to a higher strength than her own”. So on the one hand Ella’s prospects are looking good, but on the other hand she’s onviously going to be humbled before her relationship with God can be solved.

Fortunately, the rector tells her that she has to give herself to God, and she does so. Rather anti-climatic, but we’re only half-way through the book at this point, and Geoffry is still a right pain. One of the servants has been telling him he is the heir to the estate and shouldn’t have to obey anyone. Fortunately an orphan comes to live with one of the village families, and is a suitable charitable case on which Geoffers can learn unselfishness. Also Geoffry sprains his ancle and twists his back (which explains the scene on the cover) and has to stay in bed for weeks. He learns the value of his sister too. So all’s well with the world, including for Ella’s mother and ill sister, who move to a better house because of the kindness of her employer. The latter remains a bit of a randomer and cannot see that there has ever been anything wrong with Geoffry’s behaviour. All a bit by the numbers generally, I was disappointed that Carrie Mason didn’t reappear. One pleasing thing though – no love interest for Ella.

The book is nicely produced, with the standard random pictures at the start of chapters, as you can see from the first image here.

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Ella looks more than 16 in this picture:

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I think I have read AE Ward’s other book, Arthur’s Victory.

The Scribbler: a Retrospective Literary Review

9 January 2017

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Recently came across this great quarterly magazine reviewing old books (specifically, “much loved and more obscure fiction for women and girls”). The Autumn 2016 issue has a long article on nurses in books, including a review of a Josephine Elder book by Rosemary Auchmuchty. There’s another lengthy article on women factory workers, including a review of Working for Victory (Kathleen Church-Bliss and Elsie Whiteman) about which I have long been meaning to write here. Another article on what women writers did in the First World War. A literary trail around Gatehouse (not just Five Red Herrings) and a terribly difficult Christmas quiz. I recommend subscribing.

And here is as good a place as any to put a link to a lovely short fanfic about Wimsey and Antonia Forest’s Marlow books: That Still Centre, by AJHall. If you are so inclined, there’s a rabbit hole to go down, including another with the Marlows at the Chalet School: The Marlows at St Mildred’s by mrsredboots. And the Marlows in lolcat: Patrick: I HATEZ SKOOL. I HATEZ VATICAN 2.

Furry Stomach

11 November 2016

Here is the office cat, or rather his stomach.

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The Young Clementina (book #158)

16 October 2016
Cover of Young Clementina

Cover of Young Clementina

Originally published as Divorced from Reality and revised and re-published, I think in 1966 – this edition is 1970. Cover does not reflect book particularly well.

As the change in title might suggest, the book is not really about Clementina (who is a child). The (literal) divorce is treated in some detail, with a transcript of some of the evidence given – strikingly realistic for 1935 I thought. I can only recall brief mentions of divorce in other novels of the time (eg in Busman’s Honeymoon).

The comments in this review suggest that the revised version of the book has some significant differences from the earlier one.

Stevenson is good on tiredness, I think, rather like Goudge.

I liked the brief descriptions of the private geographical library Charlotte works in, though am worried it’s not financially viable.

I’d have liked things to be slightly harder for Charlotte than they are. She talks about being incompetent with the servants and how difficult things were with Clementina (who is 12 at the time Charlotte becomes her temporary guardian), but you don’t really see that. Even her imaginary friend turns out to be real.

Some DES fans seem to think this is one of her best, but it was a bit slight and without enough detail for me.

“Every woman tells a story … “

21 August 2016

Deeply in to old newspapers from 1920s, and enjoyed “All need regular meals, less worry and more sympathy”:

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(North Devon Journal, 15/04/1920)

Artists and illustrators around the New Forest and Solent (book #157)

20 August 2016

Robert Coles, 1999.

Impressively illustrated book about New Forest and Solent artists since the 17th century.

I liked this illustration by Heywood Sumner of his excavations in the New Forest (from Excavations in New Forest Pottery Sites, 1927). You can see the archaeologist / artist himself, musing or drawing.

Heywood Sumner - Excavations in New Forest Pottery Sites (1927)

Poem – Douglas Dunn – Tay Bridge

19 August 2016

(I know the Tay and its bridge well.)

A sky that tastes of rain that’s still to fall
And then of rain that falls and tastes of sky…
The colour of the country’s moist and subtle
In dusk’s expected rumour. Amplify
All you can see this evening and the broad
Water enlarges, Dundee slips by an age
Into its land before the lights come on.
Pale, mystic lamps lean on the river-road
Bleaching the city’s lunar after-image,
And there’s the moon, and there’s the setting sun.

The rail bridge melts in a dramatic haze.
Slow visibility – a long train floats
Through a stopped shower’s narrow waterways
Above rose-coloured river, dappled motes
In the eye and the narrow piers half-real
Until a cloud somewhere far in the west
Mixes its inks and draws iron and stone
In epic outlines, black and literal.
Now it is simple, weathered, plain, immodest
In waterlight and late hill-hidden sun.

High water adds freshwater-filtered salt
To the aquatic mirrors, a thin spice
That sharpens light on Middle Bank, a lilt
In the reflected moon’s analysis.
Mud’s sieved and rained from pewter into gold
Conjectural infinity’s outdone
By engineering, light and hydrous fact,
A waterfront that rises fold by fold
Into the stars beyond the last of stone,
A city’s elements, local, exact.

– Douglas Dunn