Gaskella Archive – 2011 in Miscellany posts

As I did for 2010 (see here), I’ve put together many of the snippets I posted on my old blog, but were lost in the transfer here, into one collection for 2011. Enjoy…

May-2011 – An appropriate address …

I’m still sifting through the home library and TBR searching for books I can bear to part with. Yesterday I came across more of my childhood books.

Astronomy and its companion volume Exploring the planets, both by Iain Nicholson and published in 1970, taught me all I needed to know about the universe back when I was ten.  Astronomycovered the history of the subject before moving onto the solar system and stars with the all important star charts for spotting constellations. Exploring the planets centred on the solar system, space exploration, eclipses, seasons and the like.

I loved these two books, and they were included in my play library which I previously blogged about here – both bear the scars of staple marks from the library inserts, but the thing that tickled me this time was the address I’d written inside the front cover of Astronomy …

Annabel Thorn
XX St Andrews Road
Earth (not soil)
Our Galaxy and Universe
The Solar System

Of course, I could have gone a lot further and exploited my geographical knowledge too … England, Great Britain, UK, Europe, but I rather like that I kept to astronomical locations with added ‘ax’.  The ‘not soil’ was obviously my little ho, ho joke. I didn’t do the same in the other book, it just has my earthbound address of the time, maybe once was enough!

Did you ever do that as a kid?

May-2011 – Book Nostalgia and multiple copies…

My question today, in my never-ending project to get my personal library down to manageable proportions is …

When you have multiple copies of books, how do you decide which ones to keep? Dogeared childhood copies vs shiny new ones…

Somewhere in the house, I have around three and a half sets of the Narnia books.  My dogeared and play-library adorned childhood copies; a cheap set of new paperbacks I bought for Juliet (who was showing the possibilities of becoming a book-wrecker, but now I’m not so sure); my posh Folio set; and assorted other editions we’ve been given over the years. Obviously the Folio set stays, but should I get rid of the rest?  Or keep one set – if so which one?  The Pauline Baynes covers on my childhood set are lovely, but they are falling to pieces; the modern set have boring covers. Another dilemma.

I have similar problems for Ballet ShoesThe Wind in the WillowsAlice in Wonderland, and countless others. I own a proper hardback edition, Folio or otherwise, plus one or more reading copies, mostly Puffin paperbacks, including my childhood ones.

I can’t sell my dog-eared childhood copies – they’re in no state to pass on. Many of the pictures have been coloured in. Yes, I was a book-wrecker as a child – I think I changed to the opposite persuasion once I had a decent job and could afford to buy books rather than go to the library. The upshot of this is that I’d have to recycle the oldest copies, which are mostly well-tanned too by now too, tend to have small type and are not easy to read in their state of gentle decay.

I hope all these introspective posts about dealing with the problem of having too many books aren’t boring you all to sleep, but I am genuinely interested in your experiences.

  • Can you bear to get rid of your dogeared childhood editions when you have shiny new ones available?
  • Does the argument about having reading copies so that posh ones can be preserved hold any water?
  • Why were the old Puffin covers so lovely compared with today’s versions?
  • Would a pictorial record be enough to preserve the memories for posterity?
Do let me know your thoughts …

May 2011 – DNF vs Couldn’t Get Started and Buns….

I’m not good at giving up on books, being always the eternal optimist, hoping that they’ll finally grab me.  This week, I gave up on The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obrecht – I was over halfway through, and got fed up with it all – not enough plot for me.  I skimmed briefly towards the end, but nothing seemed to change, so I put it to one side. It was an impressive first novel though, so it’ll be interesting to see what this young author does next.

It was also a week where I couldn’t get started on a book.  I’ve been meaning to read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami for ages, but couldn’t get past the first few pages without falling asleep. No reflection on the book I’m sure, but I’m going to save it for a while and try again.

There is a centuries-long tradition in Abingdon of Bun Throwing off the roof of the County Hall to celebrate big Royal and Civic occasions.

The marriage of Wills and Kate was big and royal enough, so daughter and I joined the hordes in the Marketplace on Friday evening to see the bun throwing. It being our first one, we loitered towards the back out of projectile range, (well, I don’t like currant buns anyway). According to friends closer to the front, it was fairly well-behaved and not rugby-scrumlike, so next year for the Queen’s diamond jubilee, we’ll venture closer I hope.

Yes, the beautiful County Hall is shrouded in scaffolding!  It normally houses the town Museum, but is undergoing a multi-million pound upgrade.  The buns are to be thrown from the slit you can see in the cladding towards the top.

If you look carefully, you can see some blobs against the cladding which are buns in flight.  Those doing the launching include the Mayor, various Council bigwigs and raffle-winners.

There was such an air of goodwill in the town that evening and the showers held off too. A perfect end to a near perfect day.

June 2011 – Page 60

One of the tests of whether a book might be for you or not is to open it up a few chapters in and read a page.  It could be a page at random, or it could be page 60 which is the page I know Simon T always chooses, and since he told me this, I’ve found myself gravitating towards that particular page too when browsing. Sorting out a pile of my late Mum’s books this afternoon I came across an old Penguin copy of The Age of Reason by Jean-Paul Sartre (trans Eric Sutton).  Most of the page was perfectly readable and I think I could get on with the book, but this little section was mighty perplexing.

To set the scene, Ivich, a female student is discussing her exams with Mathieu…

‘Anyway, I know what you’re thinking.’
‘Then why ask? You don’t need to be very clever to guess: I was thinking of the examination.’
‘You’re afraid of being ploughed, is that it?’
‘Of course I’m afraid of being ploughed. Or rather – no, I’m not afraid, I know I’m ploughed.’
Mathieu again sensed the savour of catastrophe in his mouth: ‘If she is ploughed, I shan’t see her again.’ She would certainly be ploughed: that was plain enough.
‘I won’t go back to Laon,’ said Ivich desperately. ‘If I go back to Laon after having been ploughed, I’ll never get away again. They told me it was my last chance.’

So, reading this page 60 on it’s own, would you think that being ploughed is failing one’s exams, or a euphenism for something else!

June 2011 – Never mind the quality, feel the width?

Whilst I’m in the middle of getting this month’s volumes in two readalongs finished, (Stephen King’s Dark Tower books at Shelf Love and Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake at Farm Lane Books since you ask), I’ve a little poser for you today. Let me introduce an old book to you…

Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens. I do love the sub-title ‘A tale of the Riots of ‘Eighty’.

This edition isn’t dated – but a sticker on the inside cover tells me that my Mum bought it for 4/- in a secondhand book shop in Streatham, which places it as 1950s at latest, and it’s probably considerably older.

The binding is deep red leather with blocked gold on the spine and it has marbled-effect endpapers. It’s in the ‘Oxford India Paper Dickens’ series, and is complete with 76 illustrations.

Lastly, onto the dimensions of said tome, which are not large – 110 x 175 mm (just a tad smaller than a standard small paperback), and just 18mm thick including the covers.

So my question to you is … from the information above:

How many pages do you think this volume holds between its covers?

I’ll append the answer tomorrow!   … and here it is…

786 pages (including the illustrations, and all blanks and frontispieces etc), so you were all very close with your estimates!

What surprised me is that although that’s an awful lot of pages to cram into about 16mm, it’s nice quality.  Thin for sure, and you can just see the shadow of the text through the paper, but it’s by no means like tissue – being smooth and very white.

What I didn’t mention before, is that I haven’t actually read this book – but as this edition will take up half the shelf space of a modern paperback, I’ll probably hang on to this one!

July 2011 – Dorset Holiday

I spent last week on holiday in Dorset, based at West Bay – the harbour of Bridport, a little town ten miles east of Lyme Regis.  (Ed- Recognise it?  At this time, West Bay was yet to be immortalised as ‘Broadchurch’)

Juliet and I walked the famous Cobb at Lyme (left) – immortalised in Austen’s Persuasion and Fowles’s The French Lieutenant’s Woman. We also went fossil hunting at Charmouth, remembering the Victorian pioneer Mary Anning who featured in Tracy Chevalier’s Remarkable Creatures.

Notably missing from my Dorset literary canon was Thomas Hardy of course, and on our last day on the way back from sandcastle-building at Weymouth, I saw a sign to the ‘Hardy Monument’.

A couple of miles up the winding country road to the hilltop, and we reached this…  It was shrouded in scaffolding and the site was completely closed – a shame as the view from the top would have been marvellous.

When we got home, I looked it up on Wikipedia – and discovered that I’d got the wrong Hardy!  The Hardy Monument was erected in memory of Vice Admiral Sir Thomas Hardy – he of ‘Kiss me Hardy,’ reputedly said by Nelson as he lay dying at the Battle of Trafalgar.  Oh Well…

Late July – A Fab Album Cover

Spotted a review of the new Fountains of Wayne album (out on Monday) in the newspaper and had to share the fabulous album cover with you.I must admit I don’t know their music, but I loved this cover … Sad to see a library in disrepair, but great to see nature reasserting itself. Get the album at Amazon UK: Sky Full Of Holes

Dec-2011 – Reunited with a childhood treasure …

Yesterday was a meeting of the Thorn clan: – My daughter & I,  my Dad, my ‘little bro’ and his brood, my two half-siblings and their kids, plus associated partners. One thing that came up in conversation was a book that has now passed through a number of hands and across generations, but has been loved by all…

Amazingly, the actual book still exists and current custodians are my brother’s girls – they went to retrieve it.  What arrived was a volume with a faded and scribbled on lilac cover, no spine, and delaminating boards – it looked even worse more loved than this copy on the right. Originally it would have looked more like the copy below with it’s gaily coloured dust-jacket.

366 Goodnight Stories, illustrated by Esme Eve et al, was published by Paul Hamlyn in 1963 (reprinted ’64).  Our ‘family’ copy was given to me for my birthday in May 1965.Inside is an anthology of little stories and poems, for each day of the year.  Some are no more than a single verse, other stories are a page long, afew of the poems are old classics from Lear, R L Stevenson et al.

There are two particularly charming features of this collection I want to tell you about though …

Firstly the illustrations – each day has a picture or two. The spreads alternate between four illustrators, all with different styles – sadly I couldn’t tell you which is which.  To the left is one of my favourites – bright and cheerful.

Secondly – the seasonality of the book is lovely.  It is arranged starting with spring, so the first story is for March 21st.  Many of the stories and poems relate to the seasons in the countryside, the weather, flora and fauna.  See right for a typical late spring page, featuring more of my favourite illustrations.

In between the nature stories are many more – about toys, trains and cars, dolls and teddies, parties and celebrations. Interestingly, the story for the 29th of December was a cautionary tale  ‘Warning’ about excess guzzling – pity the poor child who had that one on their birthday!

I hope the big pictures didn’t take too long to load for you, but I had to share some of this wonderful book with you. It has been read by three of one generation to four of the next, and so far two of the following one. I wish I’d known it was still in the family when my daughter was a toddler – she’d have loved it too.  I’ve vowed to return it to my nieces who, although they’re now teenagers, are rather loath to let it go – they can guard it for me, or pass it on to the next young uns in the family perhaps, but I think I’ll have to scan in a few more pages before handing it back!

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