Is it my imagination or are the Winters in Britain (specifically the South Wales area) becoming milder? I have a tortoise who hibernates every year in a double insulated box in the garage. His name is Zebedee (see the Magic Roundabout connection... he used to have a mate called Florence who is no longer with us). This Winter past I was watching the weather temperatures earnestly 'oh no, its not cold enough' (above 4C) 'oh no, it's too cold for him to be outside' (below 0C) – dash to the garage and bring his hibernating box into the unheated conservatory! Roll on Spring when he finally wakes up, albeit early, and take a huge sigh of relief!
The hesitation at the door, the hopeful smile, and then the inevitable question: "Do you buy books?"
Oh... if only I was witty and quick.... the answers I could give! "No, we prefer to steal them - although it's increasingly frowned on". "No, we write them". "No, they are all from the library down the road..." Oh, if only we could sometimes be like the Black Books television series!!
We are a secondhand book business. We need stock. So, of course we buy books! Secondhand bookshops come in a whole variety of shapes and sizes but all need stock if they are to survive and therefore I believe that they do all buy books! Someone please correct me if I'm wrong!
Writers have been inspired for centuries by the natural landscapes of Wales and it is easy to see why. Majestic peaks, rugged coastlines, sweeping bays, rolling hills, waterfalls, caves and lakes, magical river valleys and forests have inspired Welsh writers for centuries and in turn have helped the Welsh define how they think of their country. Pride and passion are evident in the art, music, poetry and literature.
The National Eisteddfod is the largest and oldest celebration of Welsh culture dating back to 1176 when it is believed the first one was held. There are three ceremonies during Eisteddfod week:-
Once the Christmas festivities are over and winter is well into its stride, it is a consolation to know that the days are getting longer.
Each day there is an evergrowing glimmer of daylight, a hint to the changing of the seasons. The postie arrives at 5pm every day to pick up our parcels - and this too has gone from dark to light.
The next portent of Spring are the snowdrops, only a few at first, seemingly huddling together for warmth, their delicate heads nodding in the wind. Surely too cold for them to survive? But survive they do, and soon the verges and the forest floor are wearing a mantle of white.
The time in our lives had arrived where we could be free to take a new path in life, a new adventure.
My husband and I chose to tour the UK in an old motorhome. So I left work and told the family, it seemed important to me that they gave us their blessings.
We decided on a trial period to see if we would be compatible to this lifestyle, choosing three months and Scotland as our first destination. The first night in Scotland certainly tested us, the temperature fell to minus eight degrees and when we woke in the morning having had a really good nights sleep we found that even the toothpaste was sluggish to come out of its tube. It was stunning outside with deep drifts of snow, white coated hares in abundance and highland cattle munching contentedly on hay with their collective breaths creating a misty scene. We had electric hooked-up and the site owner came out in the morning to see if we had survived the night.
Happy New Year, or I should say Blwyddyn Newydd Dda as I am in Wales. 2018 has arrived. Do you look forward to the New Year? Do you take the optimistic view and wonder what 2018 has in store for you, what opportunities lie ahead, what new adventures will you have? Or the pessimistic line and dread what the new year will bring, what difficulties will there be, will you face challenges ahead? Or perhaps you are like me, and fluctuate between the two.
January is associated with Janus, a god in ancient Roman mythology. He is the god of beginnings and transitions and is usually depicted with two faces as he looks to the future and to the past. January 1st is the first day of the year on the modern Gregorian calendar. Amongst the first places to welcome in the New Year are Tonga, Samoa and Kiritimati or Christmas Island. Whilst the last few include American Samoa and Baker Island. I assume in the UK we must be somewhere near the middle.
Having just enjoyed an annual visit to one of the UK's larger Zoos, I thought I would investigate the origins and see what books on the subject that we have in stock here at Stella & Roses Books.
On looking at some online dictionary definitions under 'Zoo', the most popular is: 'An establishment which maintains a collection of wild animals, typically in a park or gardens, for study, conservation, or display to the public'. The term 'Zoo' started to be used in the mid 19th century and is an abbreviation of Zoological Gardens, originally applied specifically to that of Regent's Park in London.
In the late Terry Pratchett's Discworld, described as both a world and mirror of worlds, the race of trolls is unique in believing that all living creatures go through life backwards:
“Alone of all the creatures in the world, trolls believe that all living things go through Time backwards. If the past is visible and the future is hidden, they say, then it means you must be facing the wrong way. Everything alive is going through life back to front. And this is a very interesting idea, considering it was invented by a race who spend most of their time hitting one another on the head with rocks.” Reaper Man
I returned from my last shopping expedition – an activity for which I typically have to work hard to summon any great enthusiasm – somewhat lighter of wallet but sporting four new neckties. I agree that these can hardly be classed as life's essentials, but I'm a sucker for a smart tie and a promotional offer. The wearing of ties may be in decline today but I still enjoy wearing a tie (almost) every day at work. But as I struggled to squeeze the new ties into the already bulging racks in the wardrobe, it struck me that I knew little about the history of neckties.
When did people start wearing ties?What did early ties look like?How has the fashion changed over the years?
One frosty November evening I was walking home with my son who was about seven years old. We were looking up into the night sky at the stars and I was trying to make out some of the constellations for him and he asked what stars were. My answer reflected both the need to keep it simple and also the fact that I had limited knowledge of the subject. I pointed out that our own sun is a star. I still remember his reaction to this news which was totally unexpected. He didn't want to hear it and he became upset because he found this too difficult to understand. He couldn't see how the sun (such a familiar thing) could be the same as the tiny twinkling dots in the night sky. Unfortunately it became very clear that I was not going to provide an explanation that could satisfy him.
I wonder if you watched and enjoyed, as I did, the recent television adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. As disturbing as the portrait was, of a future society where women have little worth beyond childbearing, I was surprised to find that many online comments focussed on the Scrabble game played between the handmaid Offred and her Commander.
Offred related, "Larynx, I spell. Valance. Quince. Zygote."To some viewers this seems beyond belief..."The least believable part of The Handmaid's Tale is their luck at Scrabble. Larynx? C'mon!!" and,"The Handmaid's Tale seriously strains credibility by having a Scrabble game end with a score of 386-383."
View all our books about Games
This summer I've started to go to a new table tennis club in our local village hall. I hadn't played table tennis since I was a child and I don't think I'd ever played on a proper table. As children we had the net with fixings at either end that you could attached to your own table but as our kitchen table was more square than oblong and was against the wall on one and a half sides it wasn't always a fair game! I'm still learning the rules and techniques but I have managed to have a reasonable game, win a few points, stretch some muscles and have lots of laughs. Table tennis started in the 1880s as a parlour game for outdoor tennis players to play during the winter months. Over 130 years later it is still popular, there are a couple of thriving clubs within a few miles of home.
Rag books (or cloth books) for babies/toddlers were the creation of Henry Samuel Dean, a director of Dean & Son. Turning to the vexing problem of 'how to produce a genuinely indestructible children's book' he and a colleague turned their thoughts to a book produced on cotton cloth with a sewn binding.
Dean's published the first rag book “The Life of A Bold AB on his Ship in the Rolling C” in 1902 which was a great success. Realising that to produce rag books on a commercial scale would mean major alterations to the existing plant and machinery they decided to open new premises and start publication under an entirely new company – The Dean's Rag Book Company.
British seaside towns might not be the draw they once were, but I love them!
From Margate to Scarborough to Pittenweem in Fife, from Weymouth to Porthmadog and on to Blackpool.
Whole companies would close in the summer and their employees would flock to the seaside, there were even special trains laid on.
It is that time of year when all is hustle and bustle in the garden, weeding, late spring planting, watering, dead-heading flowers that have lost their early Spring grandeur.
Not in my garden I hasten to add – I hate gardening!
I hate the noise - the electric whine of a mower, the whirr of hedge-trimmers, the snick, snick, snick of wood-chippers.
There is always something to do! You never really seem to see people relaxing in their gardens.
So I look out of my kitchen window and think 'maybe next weekend' and content myself with the idea that I have created a haven for wildlife.
Archery is the sport, practice or skill of being able to propel an arrow (a shaft with an arrowhead at the front end and fletchings and a nock at the other) using a bow (a string attached to elastic limbs that allow mechanical energy to be imparted by the user drawing the string), according to our font of all knowledge, Wikipedia.
We, at Stella Books, have recently acquired a collection of books about this sport. I can recall a time when I participated in target archery as a child. I went on a PGL holiday (an activity holiday for children) and archery was one of the activities I enjoyed very much. That, unfortunately, has been my only experience. It was jolly good fun and not easy to hit the target in the right place - more often than not I would miss the target completely!
When I was a teenager (many moons ago) it was considered almost a rite of passage to travel round Europe on an Interrail ticket. The furthest I had been up until then was France. I travelled with two friends – unbelievably we manged to stay friends during the month long trip and to this day. Our journey criss-crossed Europe and finally into Turkey. I had never seen landscapes or scenes like it before. The camaradarie on the trains – sharing food, sleeping wherever you could (on one occasion in the luggage rack), looking out for each other was a new experience for all of us. I still remember going to sleep in Germany and waking up to the most beautiful, stunning countryside I have ever seen. It was Croatia (Yugoslavia as it was then). I was absolutely spellbound. I have been to many countries since then, but very few have made such an impression on me. In Greece we spent an evening in a tiny bar drinking with the locals. Our only common language was footballers' names and as each name was shouted out we drank some more. As teenage girls at that time our knowledge of football was limited and so we had to keep repeating the few that we knew. I don't think it mattered much! We may have been “innocents abroad” at that time and although we had a camera and money stolen and we endured two nights of heat stroke and sickeness in Turkey we survived, and it left me with a lifelong love of train journeys and travel.
There has been a canine addition to my household recently in the form of Bertie, a Cavachon. What you may ask is one of those?! Well, I can tell you he is a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Bichon Frise. He is actually more Cavalier as his father is a pure bred Cavalier and his mother a Cavachon. He is a crossbreed which according to the Kennel Club is “a dog of mixed blood, whose parents are of two different breeds or a mixture of several breeds”. There have always been crossbreeds which until recently were usually referred to as 'mongrels'. The Oxford English Dictionary defines mongrels as dogs of 'no definable breed or type'. Today people often refer to dogs such as the Cavachon as 'designer dogs.' But what does this mean?
For many car drivers or repair enthusiasts, possibly the first 'Haynes' book we own will be the repair manual for our first car. I know that this was true for me, although I think that possibly it was used by my father more for repairs and trouble shooting, than by me!
How though did the company begin?
In 1956 John Haynes, whilst only 16, wrote and illustrated a book ('Building a 750cc Special'), which showed how he adapted an Austin Seven into a sports car. After the book's success, he went into partnership with his brother, David and they produced a few other titles. However, it wasn't until 1960 that J.H. Haynes & Co. Ltd was officially founded.
Names are wonderful things, aren't they? Just imagine how confusing life would be without them!
It is the pursuit of the names of my ancestors which has been occupying (too) many hours of my spare time recently as I try to fill in the gaps on our family tree – including the titular Drains, related by marriage to one of my great aunts.
I have been interested in tracing our family for around thirty years, but as with most hobbies the level of enthusiasm waxes and wanes, or constraints are applied by other factors, so there may be times when there is no active research. However, at present I admit that I am deeply in 'enthusiastic mode' once again and my desk is slowly disappearing beneath an unstable pile of printouts from census returns and certificates of births, marriages and deaths as I attempt to collate all the information onto the computer.