As a child (too long ago now) I remember being so happy to receive book tokens at Christmas time. I would save them until the New Year and then use them to buy as many annuals as I possibly could in the sales. Usually one or two of the girls annuals (such as Bunty for Girls or June for Girls) and of course a copy of the most popular annual of all – The Beano Annual.
What springs to your mind when you hear the word steam? The kettle boiling, ready for a steaming hot cuppa? A steaming hot bath? Or sauna maybe? Or, like me, do you think of the magnificent steam locomotives that used to be a regular sight on our railways?
My earliest memories of steam trains are those of going on holiday to far away climes, well, actually it was to the south coast of England but in those days that was an epic journey by train from where we lived. We would wait eagerly on the station platform, listening out for the chuff, chuff, chuff which told us the train was approaching. Then the smell of the engine, then finally the sight of this great noisy beast that was going to whisk us away for our annual holiday.
The books published by the Folio Society include just about every subject imaginable. They are beautifully covered and bound exceptionally well. The Folio Society was founded in 1947 and has been publishing carefully crafted editions for over 70 years.
Much thought, care and attention is taken in designing the books so that each one is a unique entity. Features of the books include:Decorative head and tail bands and gilded or coloured top edges where appropriate. Bindings which are all sewn in 16-page sections to the highest standard so that they not only look good on the shelf but are also easy to read. The slipcase which is a distinctive feature of Folio Society books and is also the traditional protective covering keeping the books in pristine condition.
The main design feature is the cover of the book. Different mediums are used such as silk which combined with lavish illustrations make a beautiful binding. The variety of designs of the books and covers is virtually innumerable.
Honor C. Appleton, or Honor Charlotte Appleton in full, was born to parents Georgina and John Hoblyn Appleton, in Brighton on the south coast of England, on 4th February 1879. Appleton grew up with two older sisters, Rachel and Alice Mary (nicknamed 'Sissy') and one younger brother named John. Although not a great deal is known about her early childhood, it seems that her mother, Georgina, encouraged Honor and her sisters to take up the creative arts and painting.
Appleton was a student at various art schools. Firstly she attended South Kensington School, after which, on scholarship, she attended Frank Calderdon's School of Animal Painting. After a short time at the Studio of Sir Arthur Cope, RA, in January 1901 she and her sister Sissy registered at the Royal Academy School. It appears that Appleton loved learning and made good use of the opportunities afforded to her to develop her skills in different mediums, including sketching and watercolours. Many of her sketchbooks and original watercolours still survive, in which the development and progression of her work can be seen.
A couple of weeks ago we sold a copy of "Lucky Jim" by Kingsley Amis. This is one of my favourite books. My brother had recommended it and I first read it years ago amid tears of laughter. It is so unusual to laugh like this while reading and it is pure joy when it happens. The main character Jim Dixon is trying so hard at his new academic post but it is so obviously the wrong environment for him and the constant sneering and disapproval that he encounters are seriously funny.
We can all find things less worrying or concerning if we can laugh at them and Jim’s hapless attempts at fitting in were probably striking a chord with me as I was starting out in a new job and in a new city with new people. I have recommended this book to other people with mixed reviews. Some have loved it and some have been unable to find anything funny in it at all. It is a gift if, as an author, you can make people laugh. Humour is subjective and often needs to be in context and it is possible that my sense of humour is not very sophisticated. I confess that not long ago I watched ten minutes of a YouTube compilation of people trying to stay upright on an icy pavement and I laughed so much it hurt!
I haven't always lived and worked in the Forest of Dean and The Wye Valley, but it is a place I have grown to love. It is is quite simply a beautiful area at any time of the year but especially so in my two favourite seasons - spring and autumn.
In early spring we see the trees tinged with green as they begin to shake off the austerity of winter. As the spring progresses the forest floor is covered with a blue misty haze as the bluebells come into bloom. In autumn the trees put on a last hurrah before winter arrives, as the leaves turn from green, to gold to orange and to deepest red – a riot of colour – it is stunning.
What a pleasure it is to work here at Stella & Rose's Books and in such beautiful surroundings. I can look out of the window and see the tallest part of the ruins of Tintern Abbey with the magnificent backdrop of trees and cliffs. I can watch the River Wye flow, ripple, rise and fall with the tide, which is the second highest in the world. I have seen otter, little egret, ducks, geese and swans. Swallows dipping skilfully to drink. I have even seen a seal coming in to hunt on the highest tides. I can see the clouds drifting or hurrying and the changing colours of the seasons. Unavoidably I can also hear and see the low flying training flights of the helicopter pilots alarming the birds making them rise all along its winding path following the river's course.
Butterflies of the night? But butterflies don’t fly at night I hear you say. True, they do not, but in France the moth is aptly named Papillon De Nuit - Butterfly Of The Night. Having said that butterflies don’t fly at night, there are one or two exceptions and although we think of moths as night-time creatures there are in fact many day flying moths which we may mistake for butterflies.
I would imagine that a lot of people are like myself. I describe myself as an amateur bird-watcher. I love to watch birds from the comfort of my chair or, if out and about, on a nice country walk then if a bird happens to pass I will try and work out what it was and make a mental note of it.
We have all sorts of beautiful birds here in the UK. My favourite is the long-tailed tit – beautiful little birds that flutter around our gardens and woodlands in small flocks, their shrill chirping easily identified but doesn't become their beauty. One of our most popular garden birds is our little Robin Redbreast, always featuring in winter scenes for Christmas cards and always around when you are in the garden digging soil, hoping to be there when the big fat worm is uncovered.
Did you know that…
It takes worker bees 10 million trips to gather enough nectar to make 0.5kg (1lb) of honey?
Bees from a single hive may make four and a half million visits to flowers in the course of one day’s work?
More than one thousand workers will die every day in the summer from sheer exhaustion?
And the life expectancy of the bee is a mere six weeks during this time!
Bees are very important to the environment and there is strong circumstancial evidence that the first bees appeared during the Cretaceous period (146 to 76 million years ago). It is widely believed that during this period, the first true mammals and the first true flowering plants appeared.
Is it just me? Or is it true, that when you live in a beautiful area, that you sometimes don't always truly see it for what it is, or take full advantage of all that is on offer?
Having lived in and around the Chepstow area all my life, and having parents that have lived here most of their lives, sometimes this is the case with me. However, when in Chepstow and its surrounding areas, there are always coachloads of tourists that have travelled great distances to absorb and marvel at the history and beauty of this place that many of us call home.
A while ago, it made me stop and think, I should be making more of an effort to enjoy and utilise these attractions on my doorstep. So that’s what I've endeavoured to do. As my husband isn't from the immediate area we've tried to visit places that, in the 13 years that he's lived here, he's never seen before.
One of the most popular sections within Stella Books is the one that contains our collection of Folio Society editions, and when you look at the rows of handsome slipcased volumes it is not hard to see why this is the case.
The London based publishing company was founded by Charles Ede in 1947 with the aim to produce “editions of the world's great literature, in a format worthy of the content, at a price within the reach of everyman.” When you hold a Folio Society edition in your hands there can surely be little doubt that they have successfully fulfilled their ambition “to create books that are unique in their aesthetic and in their quality.”
We recently purchased a large collection of books about Robin Hood. Who would have thought there would be so many?? We purchased over 140 titles in this little collection!
The collection included factual books about the legend of Robin Hood as well as Children's story books. Many films have also been made about Robin Hood. He has been portrayed by a multitude of stars including Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Michael Praed, Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner... and many, many more! And of course there is the 1973 film by Walt Disney in which Robin Hood is portrayed as an animated anthropomorphic fox!
Noddy is 70 years old this year. And, I think you would all agree, he does not look a day older than when he was first created! He probably needs no introduction but nevertheless...
Noddy is the creation of Enid Blyton. He enters the scene as a little wooden man who has a collision with Big-Ears the brownie. The story unfolds in the very first numbered Noddy book 'Noddy Goes to Toyland'. Big-Ears is perplexed by the peculiar appearance of a little wooden man with a nodding head and no clothes. The conversation that ensues is mildly amusing:
I have long harboured a dream that I could sell up and live on a canal boat. My family are far less enthusiastic but from time to time I head off to the Monmouthshire and Brecon and wander along its banks with the dog whilst I imagine how it would be to wake up in the morning on this particularly beautiful canal. It seems that this dream is doomed to meet with extensive doses of reality provided by my ever doubtful family. “You won't like it on a frosty winter morning”. “How are you going to manage when you have run out of supplies miles from anywhere?” “Who is going to help with all the heavy work like changing gas bottles?”. I know they are right and so I forget about it for a while, but many people do live on the canal and in fact the numbers are growing.
There are so many things to celebrate throughout the year, but here are a few from the past 150 years that might have slipped your mind.
First of all let's look at those events that are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year.
1969 saw the year in which Robin Knox Johnston sailed solo around the world without stopping, and The Clangers, one of the many beloved characters created by Oliver Postgate, was first shown on television. 1969 also saw the maiden flight of Concorde.
Let's go back another 50 years to 1919, when the character 'William' created by Richmal Crompton made his first appearance in 'Home' magazine, this was the same year that saw the founding of 'Bentley' cars.
Oh my goodness, what an adventure!
Back in January 2001 (so long ago already) I decided, for my annual holiday, to become part of a working crew on board the Stavros S. Niarchos, a British Brig square rigged Tall Ship. A twelve day voyage away from the stresses of running a restaurant. She has since been re-named Sunset but then she was operated by Tall Ships Youth Trust.
Their mission is: "to enable young people aged 12-25 to fulfil their life potential through genuinely life changing adventures at sea. What's more, our extensive Adult Voyage programme, for ages 18-80, helps fund our youth development work."
Being a novice traveller this was going to be quite an adventure, no support from husband or children, just me to fit in with the crew on board a Tall Ship.
Have you ever wondered where some of our everyday phrases come from? I know I've used 'happy as a sandboy' when I'm particularly pleased with something but I've never really thought about its origins. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens featured an Inn called The Jolly Sandboys which had a sign outside showing three inebriated sandboys. Many years ago, in the Bristol area, a sandboy was a youngster employed to bring sand to an inn from the nearby caves, this sand would be spread on the floor to absorb spillages. The boys were paid partly in alcohol so it is not surprising they were often drunk. The phrase became popular after the publication of the book although I notice that we now use happy rather than jolly.
A what? Say again.... What is that?
These are the most common questions and responses I get, when I relate to friends and family a recent animal encounter that my husband and I participated in!
To prepare for our encounter, we had to be briefed and were given protective goggles and overcoats. It was made very clear to us that we would be entering the Binturong's enclosure and any interaction would be on their terms, with their (and our) safety and welfare being of paramount importance. This all being done and being suitably togged up, in we went. Here is some of what we learned.
What is a Binturong?
It is part of the Viverridae family, its scientific name being Arctictis binturong. They are native to South and South East Asia and prefer tall forest, or places with good tree coverage. Sometimes the Binturong is also known as a bearcat, but it is neither a cat nor a bear, but rather is related to the palm civets of Asia. However, you can understand this name when you see one; with their face and whiskers looking like a cat, but stout and stocky bodies and limbs, that look more like a bear, together with thick coarse hair and long prehensile tails. These tails can be almost as long as the head and body put together and can act like another limb.
Stella & Rose's Books wish to thank Mr. John Gough for his kind submission of this article
Do you remember Pookie?
Author-illustrator Ivy L. Wallace’s Pookie was first published in 1946, when she was thirty-one. This and subsequent volumes in the series remained in print until I was working in a bookshop around 1970. Then they fell into an abyss. The original publishers, William Collins, decided not to reprint any of the Pooki” books, or Wallace’s other Animal Shelf series.Despite nearly thirty years of publishing success, Pookie and his creator have never been discussed in any children’s literature books or journals. Not treated seriously in their time, and no longer in print – when I first started researching Ivy L. Wallace and Pookie, around 1990 - things were looking pretty grim!