Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Rocked in the cradle of the deep

"He had, besides, many plans of the utmost importance to occupy his mind. There was his long-pondered invention to be perfected, the oscillating berth that was going to do away with seasickness".
- Stephen French Whitman, Children of Hope: A Novel (1916)

Monday, 23 March 2015


Further to Ticky: fine satirical fantasy (21 March 2015), I was ready to write off  "saloop" ... an old-fashioned beverage decocted from the root of the red-handed orchis. It comforted the waiters' stomachs because it was greasy and warm" as a Stella Gibbons invention. But no.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Tennyson: an educational compendium of misquotation

One of my literary pet peeves is misquotation, and particularly the misquotations that get into the educational system, often via its urge to reduce complex commentary to short easy-read soundbites suitable for sprinkling into essays, like raisins into a pudding mix. I just ran into this set of quotations about Alfred, Lord Tennyson, coming from a worksheet for teachers, on the educational resource site teachit.co.uk. Compare and contrast the worksheet quotes and the reality.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Ticky: fine satirical fantasy

I mentioned a while back (see Westwood) about the Vintage Classics reprints of Stella Gibbons novels, and just very much enjoyed reading the 2011 Vintage edition of her 1943 Ticky, a satirical fantasy about English military institutions.

Friday, 20 March 2015


Dorset war artwork is preserved (Rod Minchin, Western Morning News, March 17, 2015) reports on the successful conservation of a characterful mural painted in 1942 by Flight Sgt Sidney Beaumont of 263 Squadron. The logo is similar to one painted by Sgt Beaumont on his Westland Whirlwind aircraft.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

It ain't that kind: two-and-a-half years on

A progress report: as regular readers will be aware, two-and-a-half years ago I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of unknown primary (CUP), which is not curable, and generally very bad news. However, I had a good response to palliative chemotherapy and, it seems, it's a fairly unaggressive flavour of CUP, so I had a couple of years symptom-free. But ...

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Joe and the Jolly Gist

It's an unlikely jump from Victorian inspirational book to Cumbrian dialect stories, but J Milner Fothergill's 1888 The Will Power; Its Range in Action does exactly that. It's a bit of a curiosity, a collection of examples of will power in action, from history and literature, and described by its physician author as "not a metaphysical enquiry, but a practical book, which it is hoped will be found useful by many, especially those entering into the battle of life".

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Letts lineage: a clarification

Another loose end from previous posts. I've mentioned the long-disappeared Southview, Blackgang, several times, along with its connection with Thomas Letts (see Letts, a relic). However, a skim of commentary on the topic still finds some doubt as to whether Letts was the founder of the diary company, and a factoid or two being propagated. The trail leads also to a professor's fatal accident in Ventnor.

Monday, 9 March 2015


Still-Life with Oysters (detail)
Alexander Adriaenssen
Pursuing a loose end from our 2014 walk at Whippingham, Isle of Wight - see On the Medina - I've occasionally wondered about the origin of the local "Folly" names: Folly Lane, the Folly Works, and the Folly Inn. There are no obvious follies in the vicinity, unless you count the weird Whippingham Church. A bit of research finds the answer, with a lot of digression involving oysters.

Friday, 6 March 2015

The chapel on the tor

Video 2 of Torbay Council's renovation of Chapel Woods and the 13th century Chapel project. Other videos at barrie-james.co.uk.
An example of the many brilliant topographical views made conveniently accessible by UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) technology: Barrie James's movie commissioned by Torbay Council of the progress of woodland management work at the hitherto-obscured site of the 13th century St Michael's Chapel, at the summit of a crag of limestone above Torre Station, Torbay.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

A Slight Trick of the Mind

Further to Aged Holmes stories, I just finished Mitch Cullin's A Slight Trick of the Mind, a novel imagining Sherlock Holmes at 93, long retired to the Sussex Downs and his bee-keeping. Although it dates from 2005, I only checked it out recently after news reports mentioned it as source for the forthcoming film Mr. Holmes.

Monday, 2 March 2015

S&W stupidity savaged again

Professor Geoffrey Pullum, co-author of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002), has attacked Strunk & White's iconic The Elements of Style before (50 Years of Stupid Grammar Advice). Now, in a vigorous reprise at Language Log, Bad advice on being a good writer, he summarises the central errors in "Strunk's dreadful little book of drivel".