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Stella & Rose's Books

Specialists in Rare & collectable books


Allan Ahlberg was born 5th June 1938 in Croydon, Surrey and soon after moved to the Black Country. He had many jobs ranging from postman ('The Jolly Postman'!), plumber's mate & gravedigger before working as a Primary Teacher and eventually becoming a Head Teacher.

Janet Ahlberg (nee Hall) was born 21st October 1944 and brought up in Leicester. The couple met at Sunderland Teacher Training College in the early 1960s and married in 1969.

Plants that bite back!

I still remember the purchase of my first carnivorous plant. It was in the unlikely surroundings of Chatham Dockyard and perhaps more surprisingly it wasn't a Venus Fly Trap! Instead, I became the very proud owner of a Sarracenia flava - or a North American pitcher plant. At the time I did not even know of the existence of these plants, and had probably assumed that it was only Venus Fly Traps that actually caught and consumed insects.

Left: happy in its new home, Nepenthes veitchii x maxima produces its first mature pitcher for years!

I think that it was the unique appearance of this plant - an elegantly tapering funnel with a flared mouth and projecting lid - that fascinated me the most. The fact that the plant would happily feast upon any flies that were foolish enough to attempt to crawl around this funnel of doom seemed to be almost incidental. Whatever the initial attraction, this was the plant that 25 years ago began my love affair with this most intriguing group of plants - those that turn the tables on the animal kingdom and pursue a carnivorous diet.

Napoleon and the Series of Coincidences

It's strange how a person, object or subject can 'follow you round' sometimes, isn't it? For instance, when you have not seen someone in years and then bump into them twice in one week, or just when you learn a new, obscure fact it seems that it is suddenly everywhere and everybody is talking about it! Recently, this is what has been happening with me and Napoleon.

I have just returned from a holiday in the Charente Maritime area of France, where we go every year, and it was here that my new 'relationship' with Napoleon began. Don't get me wrong, as far as I was aware, this area had no particular significance to the life of the French military and political leader, it's just that it was here, in an amazing shop called Noz, that the series of coincidences began....


The ongoing saga of my husband's new (an extremely loose term, you will discover as you read on!) Land Rover has been a source of much speculation, disappointment, hilarity (although this may more aptly have been described as hysteria) and misery for all concerned. I have accompanied him on no less than three trips down to Devon to collect the supposedly fixed vehicle, only for two of those trips to result in breakdowns of epic proportions! For those of you brave enough to read on, I will explain...

When I met my husband Dominique in October 2003 he had only just passed his driving test and his first car was a 1952 Series 1 Land Rover which he had to start with a handle. For some reason I thought this very romantic. This did not last. As the months grew colder the shine quickly wore off this novel feature - still, at least I wasn't the one outside with my hair blown sideways and experiencing the first stages of hypothermia whilst trying to coax the thing into life! My husband's mother made me a woolly car blanket for Christmas that year.

Napoleon's Eye - Baron Dominique-Vivant Denon

The life of Dominique Vivant, Baron de Denon (1747-1825) was nothing short of remarkable. Possessing courteous manners, and a gifted conservationist, Denon became a confidant of kings, their mistresses, and emperors. He was a diplomat, author and artist and through his most important publications he would be responsible for the Egyptian Revival in European art and architecture.

Above: Denon, and illustration from the 1803 edition

Originally trained in law, Denon soon became more interested in art and literature and as a cultured gentleman he became a favourite of Madame de Pompadour and Louis XV who appointed him attaché to the French embassy at St. Petersburg. Denon would later serve in Sweden, Switzerland and then in Italy where he made a careful study of the ancient art and monuments. Denon became a highly accomplished artist, skilled in etching and mezzotinto engraving.

Adventure - 8

Mon May 20thWeather not startling so we went for a little walk along the clifftops. At least it was meant to be along the clifftops but the narrow track through the forest looked very uneven so we decided to leave Dylan parked near the road and walk through the forest to get to the clifftops. The road up was narrow and extremely ziggy and zaggy but no problems getting Dylan around the hairpin bends this time. The forest walk was pleasant but we didn’t see anything exciting today. We got to the first viewpoint and amazingly there was a bench to sit on while we looked at the view. Except Cliff said ‘stay there while I just take a look from the side’ – and sure enough, the bench was parked right on the edge of the cliff. Er, no thanks. Too close for my liking, I gingerly took a few steps backward and sat myself down on a nice stable rock! After coffee, back to Dylan and down to Le Rozier for lunch at a lovely little café overlooking the Tarn. After lunch we went across the bridge for a stroll around the village – very pretty. Back to Brian for tea. We worked out Plan A for getting off pitch on Wednesday and decided if no-one came and parked opposite us or beside us it would be a piece of cake. Of course – if they did…

Adventure - 7

Mon 13th MayCliff has found a walk which takes us up along the clifftops above the Vulture Belvedere, the theory being that we can get high enough up to be able to look down on the vultures below us. Fortunately he decides to have pity on me and my ankle and drive up to the top! Well, we turned off the main road at a little village called Le Truel and began the ascent. And what an ascent it is! Mind you, the sign at the bottom did warn of a narrow road on which caravans and motorhomes were forbidden, I suppose that might have given us a bit of a clue. If you don’t have a head for heights (as I don’t believe it or not), this is not the road for you. Narrow, yes, steep, yes. Hairpin bends so tight the truck couldn’t get around in one go. Most took two or three shuffles back and forth and when you are going backwards with a 1000 ft drop behind you, you do not want the brakes to fail! It was so scary I couldn’t even look to take photos! Phew, was I glad when we reached the top, I sincerely hoped that there would be another way down. A different land at the top of these cliffs, undulating grassland, almost flat in places. We made our way to the start of the walk and set off. Well, it wasn’t called the Sentier Des Corniches for nothing. Very soon the path narrowed and we found ourselves on the edge, literally, with drops down of about 500 or 600 ft.

Adventure - 4

A miserable, rainy, blustery day! Gary tells us that this weather (continuous rain) is most unusual but is probably making up for last year when there was no rain for 6 months! Took another load of washing to the local launderette lady (was closed previously) who spoke no Portuguese so this time we had no idea really – we think it will be ready at 4pm on Wednesday but who knows! Spent the morning doing Portuguese homework and sorting photos. Ventured out in a non-rainy period for a short walk. Saw a Griffon Vulture flying overhead, will have to keep an eye out, they are obviously around here. Saw these flowers (left) – bet you can’t guess what they are. Answer at end of page!

Adventure - 5

Mon Apr 1st

Cliff says today we “piddled and poddled…”! We went for a little drive to the Baragem (dam to you and me). Most exciting thing we saw was another roadblock – of the Equine variety this time! Then out for a stroll around the village here – San Antonio Das Areias. First thing you see on entering the village is the Bullring - not the shopping centre but a real bull ring where they fight bulls! I’m told they don’t actually kill them any longer, well not in the ring but afterwards out of sight from the public – Oh, So That’s Alright Then (not!). A little old lady lives in a little house which is part of the building, we assume she is the custodian – whenever we’ve passed she’s been on the doorstep watching us! Anyway on into the village – typical Portuguese architecture, lots of the houses have the beautiful tiled pictures on the front wall.

Adventure - 3

Moving Day. We leave the Algarve and head for the Alentejo. The Good News is we've arrived safely on a beautiful small site (10 motorhomes only) but what a start! As Cliff bumped down off the pitch quite early in the morning the trailer alarm went off, VERY loudly. Very mysterious as the trailer alarm never worked and Cliff had disconnected it! Then we found where the noise was coming from - the external fridge panel. Open Sesame ! and what's hidden there..the Tracker which we'd forgotten about! Obviously the bump down set off some sensor which fired off the alarm, fortunately we've not activated it so we didn't have the police turn up - only every bleary eyed camper for miles around.

Adventure - 2

First we hope you’re Ok, having seen all the awful weather on the TV and heard about it from Sonia and Maria - the heavy snow and now the floods. The weather here is very mild, most days we take Sammy to the beach!

Having said that last week we had a week of squally, showery weather. We’d read that January is “winter” for the Algarve. A winter in which they’ve never heard of frost or snow! The site has very nice chalets in which we can accommodate our guests. Faro airport is about an hour away and has convenient flights from Bristol so having visitors to stay is easy.

Adventure - 6

Mon Apr 29th

We heard back from the campsite at Urrugne about the damaged guttering – they have repaired it and have not charged us anything – which makes us feel doubly guilty but very relieved. We will definitely go there again if they will have us and next time will do our best not to destroy anything!! I know now that when Cliff is moving Brian I have to watch the front, the sides, the rear and the top – all at the same time! Oh well... Cliff found a lakeside walk for us to do today, the guide book says 3 hours so maybe we could do it in two. Parked up by the little café which unfortunately was closed, then set off. A few hundred yards on and we came across forestry workings – it looked as though they had driven right into the lake – they had certainly left the footpath in a great muddy mess. We plodded on and eventually came out onto grassland – hooray – mud is very difficult to walk through. Round the corner of the lake and – Aarrgghh! More mud, wider and deeper than before. Well by now it was just as far to go back as to go forward and so on we went hoping that eventually the footpath would reappear. No such luck! The footpath around the entire lake had been totally destroyed by the forestry machines. When we reached the dam we took a short cut across it, whizzed up through a farmer’s field before the bull or the dogs saw us and thankfully reached the road. Found a little seat and bench where we stopped for coffee – overlooking the lake but surrounded by farm machinery – very picturesque! Got back to the car and took Sammy down to the lake for a bath! What should have been a delightful lakeside walk turned into a literal mud bath!

The Adventure Begins

Read what Chris, Cliff & Sammy have been up to, as they take a well earned, extended break from work (Cliff retire? Never!). They sold their house and worldly possessions and set off on the biggest adventure of them all. Stella & Rose's Books will continue to strive for excellence under the watchful eye of Sonia & Maria, daughters in crime.

The First Month Where to begin? Begin at the beginning and carry on until the end.

Rabbits in reception We slept for the last time at Greenacre, our home for thirty years in Tintern, on Saturday 20th October. At that time we had not cleared the house but we needed to travel to Edinburgh to collect our new home. So the three of us - Chris, Cliff and Sammy the Vallhund - presented ourselves at Calder Leisure’s reception. We didn’t know it then but we were to spend many an hour in that reception! We knew we were dealing with the "right sort" of people immediately as Angela, a partner in the business kept her pet rabbit in reception. Our new home is a Fifth Wheel towed by a Nissan Navara Outlaw. Our new home is called Brian (Yes Brian – think Magic Roundabout – think snail), and the Navara is Dylan.

A.A. Milne

Born on the 18th January 1882, Alan Alexander Milne was the third son of J.V. Milne, headmaster of Henley House, private school for boys. At an early age he became an avid reader, even submitting stories and verse to magazines, although none were accepted. Aged 11, he won a scholarship to Westminster School, and in 1900 went to Trinity College Cambridge, to read mathematics. Here he formed a desire to make people smile and laugh, believing that to be serious was not on!

However in 1902 he became editor of the undergraduate journal Granta, and, after graduating in 1903, began to contribute regularly to Punch where, in 1906, at the age of 24, he was offered the post of Assistant Editor. He wrote witty and humorous articles and the Punch readers loved them, and indeed many other writers tried to copy his style, although never as successfully.

a day at the races

No, it's not about the great Marx Brothers film of the same name, but a look at Horses and Horseracing.

Horseracing as a sport can trace its history back to ancient Babylon, Syria and Egypt as well as the Chariot Racing of Ancient Rome.

Over the decades there have been many famous horses such as Arkle, Golden Miller, Red Rum and Desert Orchid, that have passed into legend even among non race-goers.

Red Rum won his 1st Grand National race at Aintree where he came from 30 lengths behind, to finally beat his rival Crisp by three quarters of a length in what many consider to have been the greatest Grand National in history. Red Rum went onto win an unprecedented three Grand Nationals in total.

Swans & Cygnets at Tintern - June 2006

Below are some photographs of the new cygnets accompanied by their proud parents on the River Wye outside Stella Books (June 2006):-

Miles Davis - A Short Biography

Miles Davis was born into a musical family on May 25th 1926, in Illinois, USA. Given a trumpet by his father on his 13th birthday, his talent with the instrument would lead to him becoming known as a ‘musical genius’. He would also use his talent to incorporate the flugelhorn and keyboards. A composer as well as a player, he has a reputation as one of the greatest leaders in the history of jazz.

Davis attended the prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York where he developed his talents further. Following this he started his recording career by joining Charlie 'Bird' Parker, with whom he had previously played in the Billy Eckstine Band. During 1947 Davis came top in a DownBeat poll and continued to play and record with many greats of jazz, including Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach, Illinois Jacquet and Gerry Mulligan.

Art Blakey - A Short Biography

Art Blakey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 11th 1919. He was a leading American jazz drummer and band leader and is partly credited with creating the post bop or hard bop era of jazz.

Until the age of 11 Blakey was a self-taught pianist, even playing in clubs. However, at the age of 13, during the gig he was playing, Errol Garner took over from him at piano and Blakey was told to play the drums. This was the start of a long and influential career as a jazz drummer.

As a budding drummer Blakey was tutored by the best in his field – serving as Chick Webb’s valet.

On returning to his home town Blakey formed his own band, teaming up with pianist Mary Lou Williams. From there on he played for and with the best. He spent 3 years touring with Fletcher Henderson, spent a subsequent year in Boston and then joined Billy Eckstine’s band, where he played alongside the greats of jaz, including Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.


Advertising.... It's everywhere, it surrounds us, we are pursued by it all our waking hours (and no doubt some of our sleeping hours too!) If we try to escape by fast forwarding a recorded TV programme, the images still flicker across the screen and seep into our subconcious. Who has not found themselves humming a tune with no idea of the title or composer, only the product it advertised? While some advertisements are true works of art, some being memorable and others truly forgettable, all of them have a specific objective – to persuade us to buy, or in some way participate in, the products or services being advertised.

Above: The Monet inspired Cadbury Flake advert and distinctive Volkswagon advert

Louis Armstrong - A Short Biography

aniel Louis Armstrong, better known as Louis Armstrong or Satchmo, was born on the 4th of August 1901. Armstrong was born into a poor family in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Possibly the most famous jazz musician of all time, Armstrong first learned to play the coronet and was part of various ensembles, including the Colored Waifs’ Home Band and the Kid Ory’s Orchestra. His tutor was Joseph ‘King’ Oliver and 1922 he joined Oliver in his Creole Jazz Band in Chicago. Armstrong’s first recordings were made with this ensemble the following year. It was during this time that he met and married pianist Lillian Hardin.

In 1924 Armstrong, after some persuasion from his wife, moved on, and went to New York City, where he joined the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. It was at this time that he switched instruments to the trumpet so that he would blend in more with the other musicians in his section. He is now seen as one of the most influential trumpet soloists in Jazz.